Côte de Beaune Wine
Originally founded as a military base by Julius Caesar, the pretty and prosperous market town of Beaune became the stronghold of the Ducs de Bourgogne until the 13th century but has remained the epicentre of the Burgundian wine industry thereafter. Home to numerous négociants, lots of independent vignerons and some aspirational restaurants and independent shops, it makes a great base for exploring wine country.
The 2019 vintage was perhaps even more impressive in quality in the Côte de Beaune than in the Côte de Nuits. Small berries, high in concentration and acidity, were harvested with a noticeable 'amplification of flavour', 'depth without heaviness' and offering both 'freshness and richness' (Neil Martin, vinous.com). It is without a doubt a vintage at least on a par with the superb 2014 and 2017; the only down side being its scarcity.
On a fact-finding mission in 2012 we were fortunate to make the acquaintance of (and taste the wines made by) Pascal Gay (the current patron of Domaine François Gay), based in the village of Choreylés-Beaune and boasting 8 hectares of vines in various plots in the vicinity. We were immediately impressed by the honest and un-showy character of both the wines and winemaker and were delighted to discover that he did not then have an importer in the U.K. His white Pernand-Vergelesses - made from pure Chardonnay at the extreme north of the escarpment - has inviting orchard fruit scents and flavours offset by nervy mineral notes. It is a great gastronomic wine for pairing with snails in garlic butter or poulet de Bresse. Taking a short hop to the south at Aloxe-Corton, Pascal produces a magnificent Pinot Noir that is made from hand-harvested fruit raised in oak barrels of varying ages. With attractive forest floor aromas and a mid-weight palate of hedgerow fruit backed by supple tannins that will support 5-10 years bottle age, it represents good value. Completing a commendable line-up is Pascal's 'Premier Cru' bottling of Beaune from the central 'Les Teurons' climat. With a limpid garnet robe, a bouquet of game, leather and dark plums and a core of autumnal fruit with fine-grained tannins and peppery notes, it merits decanting and will cellar well for a decade or more.
Welcome additions here are new listings from respected Chassagne-Montrachet-based grower Bruno Colin, who has just under 9 hectares of vines spread across an impressive 22 different appéllations. His classic Chassagne-Montrachet is grown over 9 plots on clay and limestone soils and aged in oak barrels for 10 months before bottling. The finished wine has attractive white peach and mirabelle aromas and well-delineated stone fruit flavours offset by fresh acidity. A 'Premier Cru' sibling – from 'Les Chaumées' (bordering Saint-Aubin) - has an aromatic floral bouquet but more tension and concentration on the palate with a racy citrus streak and 5-10 years ageing potential. We have also managed to secure a precious and tiny allocation of Bruno's Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. Supremely concentrated and complex, this is built to last and will display it's full majesty from 2025 onwards.
Bruno also makes an excellent red Santenay - from pure Pinot Noir planted in 1959 - just below the famous 'Clos de Tavannes' lieu-dit. With a bouquet of raspberries and blackcurrants and a smooth red fruit palate with pepper and spice notes and pitchy undertones, it is very accessible for a young red Burgundy. Not to be overlooked, is Bruno's Premier Cru bottling from 'La Fussière' in Maranges that is raised in oak for a year. With intense wild red berry aromas and a wealth of stewed dark fruit preceding a flinty finish, it will benefit from 3-5 years bottle age. From 45 year-old vines, the rarer rouge Chassagne-Montrachet 'Vieilles Vignes' should not be missed as it's crammed full of blackcurrant and cherry fruit with hints of forest floor. Ripe, supple and gamey, it is approachable young but should also reward 5-10 years cellaring.
Stéphane Brocard – who run a successful négociant business in Longvic – co-owns a half hectare vineyard in Pommard from which he makes his popular 'La rue au Port' Pinot Noir. With a violet and blackcurrant bouquet preceding a sensuous dark berry and cherry palate supported by ripe tannins and hints of spice, it makes a fine foil for woodcock, pheasant or grouse.
An impressive Corton 'Les Grandes Lolières' Grand Cru from Domaine Bertagna completes the range; intense and spicy, with chocolate and forest fruits coming to the fore, it will reward cellaring in the medium term.