Or how about a Cammuffle of Côtes (In the absence of other collective nouns…)
Burgundian appellations are, occasionally, not always the easiest to follow; how about this for a selection of labels: Côte de Beaune, Côte de Beaune-Villages, Côte de Nuits-Villages and then there’s Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits and even Bourgogne Côtes Auxerre. Something of a ‘Côtes Overkill’ one might think.
Let’s take a stroll through each of these labels to find not just the worthy, but the down-right tasty too – as for notes, I stuck to reds in order to (try to) reduce complexity!
1. Côte de Beaune
The label Côte de Beaune, the BIVB tells us, “Must not be confused with Côte de Beaune-Villages” – I think that they are already too late for that! Yet, as seems logical, this tiny (34 hectare) appellation covers only those villages wines made from vineyards above the town of Beaune itself, sandwiched between the last rows of the Beaune 1er Crus and trees of the Montage de Beaune. Two-thirds of this appellation is red wine, but in my opinion, the best wine is often white. The most convincing that I know of are made by Joseph Drouhin – both colours; Drouhin like it so much, that their label is almost the same as that of their Beaune Clos des Mouches. If I read the AOC description, it seems rather specific, yet for some reason, Drouhin still declassify younger vines (or cuvées) from their Clos des Mouches into these cuvées. Because there is so little of this produced, very little gets exported. The Drouhin’s are very easy to find – if you are in Beaune! – in either the new Drouhin shop or the shop of Denis Perret. Whilst not super cheap at a little less than 20 Euros, the Drouhin wines are about 1/3rd of the price of their Clos des Mouches…
2011 Joseph Drouhin, Côte de Beaune
Lovely Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose shouts toasty oak for a moment – until you realise that’s it’s really reduction – it needs about 30 minutes to clear from the bottle. The wine – minus reduction – has a pretty, fresh red fruit note of really good transparency, backed by herbs and eventually, possibly, a faint toffee note. The palate reinforces the messages from the nose – pretty red fruits that are more raspberry, recurrant or cherry than strawberry – the acidity is to the fore, clearly not a super-ripe vintage! But the flavours are detailed and moreish. Maybe more an aperitif wine given the acidity, but this is tasty, and shows super clarity and detail.
Interesting – this nose also starts with a little toasty reduction, but it is faster to leave the glass – the fruit aroma is also quite fresh, but more direct and intense – a little darker too – slowly adding depth and density – super! Almost as fresh in the mouth as the 2011 version but with much more stuffing – i.e. more intensity and concentration, and even a little tannin here – none was obvious from the 2011. Nicer length – clearly a more complete and interesting wine. One to save or savour – excellent!
2. Côte de Beaune Villages
From the southern half of Burgundy, the Côtes be Beaune Villages appellation/label may only be red. But it’s not possible to say how many hectares are in production, because all the Villages-level pinot can take this label instead of the ‘home’ village label, or be a blend of other villages. But why so?
It wasn’t always easy to sell Santenay, Maranges, Auxey or even Pernand – come to think of it, it still isn’t! The name Beaune, however, is easily recognised, even when co-joined as Côte de Beaune villages, so was often easier to market. I’ve two superb wines to recommend here, and they are fine examples of the ‘Côte de Beaune Villages’ art – one that is basically Santenay and another that is a blend of Chorey-lès-Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune and Pernand-Vergelesses. There are 14 different villages allowed to blend in this way.
Medium-plus colour that’s purple-tinged. The nose is fresh and delicate but below, bubbles dark and concentrated fruit. In the mouth this is intense and direct, though there’s a faint carbon dioxide spritz. Muscular fruit here that’s finely focused. Wait an hour and the CO2 is gone, the palate is rounder and much more voluptuous. Very tasty wine now – and hard to resist.
Medium-plus colour, with a little purple tinge. The nose is a vista of pure, dark-red cherry-fruit – it’s very attractive. Rather silkier than you expect for the label and with super mid-palate concentration where there’s lots of dark fruit too. Excellent wine, one that really underlines the quality of Côte de Beaune fruit in 2012.
2012 Albert Bichot, Côtes de Beaune Villages
The first thing that I notice, is that the bottles for the ‘villages’ designated wines are heavier and with darker glass than this producer’s Bourgognes. They also use DIAM 5 versus another producer’s synthetic cork amalgum in the Bourgognes. Powdery dark fruit – neither offensive, nor exciting. Lovely sweetness and volume in the mouth. There’s a little texture from (probably) CO2 and a faintly astringent backgound tannin. That astringency is noted in the finish as a coating around the essentially sweet fruit and this wine shows an accomplished additional dimension of flavour in the finish too. A wine to wait 6-12 months for.
2012 Joseph Drouhin, Côte de Beaune Villages
A modest width of red fruit backed by herb notes. Also plenty of freshness but a more dirtect line of flavour versus the width and density of the Côte de Beaune. Although the acidity is no more intense than their Côte de Beaune, I find the leading edge occasionally a little tart. A pretty enough wine, but from a pleasure perspective, and despite fine detail, a little behind those 2012 wines of Champy or David Moreau, and certainly behind Joseph Drouhin’s own ‘2012 Côte de Beaune’.
3. Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune
From the southern half of Burgundy the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes be Beaunes may be red, rosé or white – and from over 800 hectares of vines – but red has significantly the largest production. There may be 800+ hectares, plus produce from the vines in the Saône-et-Loire, but that’s no guarantee of quality; these wines only receive their label if they pass taste tests. Taste-tests or not, it is easy to find many anonymous wines with this label. A brilliant wine of the moment, however, is that from the Franco-Swiss, husband and wife team of Jean-Yves and Isabelle Vantey at Domine des Rouges-Queues in Maranges – miss it at your peril!
2012 Bouchard Père et Fils, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is wide and reasonably fresh, but to begin with, has a slightly savoury main note. There seems plenty of volume in the mouth and there’s reasonable intensity and length too. The tannin is just a little bitter but finally there’s a nice note of finishing flavour. An okay wine, but not worth searching for.
2012 Albert Bichot, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune
Aromatically, this bears a resemblance to the Bouchard Père et Fils – with a slightly sprizy, powdery impression, but without the Bouchard’s savoury profile. It’s better, but initially not by a large-enough margin for me to like it – 2 hours later it’s prettier. In the mouth there’s volume and a reasonably silky texture – perhaps a hint of CO2 too. Decently intense without too much acidity. A wine that’s much, much better with aeration.
Wow – what gorgeous red fruit on the nose – comforting and inviting. Good concentration with fine-grained tannin. Really lovely flavour – I find this really super!
Okay – that was the Côte de Beaune – but now there is the Côte de Nuits!
4. Côte de Nuits Villages
Generally of very high quality is the label of Côte de Nuits Villages. Many well-known producers make wines with this label, from grapes sourced from the villages of Fixin, Brochon, Premeaux, Comblanchien and Corgoloin, or blends thereof – almost 150 hectares of vines, of-which just 10 produce white wine. The appellation was created in 1964. It’s safe to think of the best bottles with this label being red. Hardly the cheapest, but one of the best known is the wine of Denis Bachelet, whose vines lie in Brochon, close to Gevrey-Chambertin – in most years it will put many Gevrey’s to shame! Other well-priced but tasty bottles can be found from the domaines Frederic Esmonin and Daniel Rion, though a couple of personal favourites from 2012 is Domaine de Bellene’s old vines (vieilles vignes) bottling and the Marchand-Tawse version. If I were to try to encapsulate the main characteristics of the Côte de Nuits-Villages, versus the Côte de Beaune-Villages; the former is more structured with darker fruit – serious if you like – the latter normally rounder with redder fruit, an easier wine to appreciate young.
Deeper nose that’s more concentrated and shows very dark-red cherry fruit. The palate is also more concentrated – plenty of tannin but it’s grippy, rather than grainy. Very lovely, mouth-watering dark fruits. Yum!
2012 Albert Bichot, Côtes de Nuits Villages
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is darker shaded – almost, but not quite, reduced – this dark fruit has a nice, clean freshness to it – slowly but surely the nose becomes redder and redder. Fresh flavoured without acid-emphasis. The fruit is relatively bright and intense. The ripest tannin of any of the Bichots, indeed it’s quite silky-textured after you swallow – the flavours being stones and herbs in the finish. Good wine.
2012 Joseph Drouhin, Côte de Nuits Villages
Deeper colour again. Here I find real excitement – the nose really pulls me in – depth, faint musk, some spicy, almost Vosne references and powdery fruit – lovely! There’s also a fine acid-red fruit aroma to the last drops in the glass. Width and depth of flavour, with good freshness and a modest undertow of tannin. Here is a wine that has a lovely aroma – really lovely – a palate that is rather more modest, but a finish that I find compelling.
Medium, medium-plus colour. Ouf – real wine here! – the nose is red-shaded, half-textured, faint whole-cluster references and eventually a beautiful red-currant and red cherry aroma grows in the glass. This is, aromatically, excellent. In the mouth there’s a good intensity of fresh fruit and a faint padding that offsets and brightness of acidity. It’s a modest fnish in comparison to the rest of the wine. First-class CdNV!
5. Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits
As the name suggest, these wines are made with grapes that largely sit above the Côte d’Or hillside. An appellation since 1961, this label covers 16 communes of the Hautes Côtes district in the department of Côte-d’Or, plus the more elevated areas of 4 communes in the Côte de Nuits, covering 657 hectares of vines – 120 of-which are chardonnay. This label can be red, rosé or white. The dividing line between the Hautes Côtes de Nuits and the Hautes Côtes de Beaune runs through the village of Magny-Lès-Villers. Again they must be taste-tested to get their labels. We have a wealth of great producers at our disposal: Herve Murat, Digioia-Royer, Henri et Gilles Remoriquet and David Duband are just a small selection. Under this label, whites can also offer a great glass and I would suggest producers such as Faiveley, JC Boisset, Jayer-Gilles and Méo-Camuzet’s Clos Saint Philibert. The small selection of large négoce wreds that follow, left me rather unmoved.
2012 Albert Bichot, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits
This wine is proudly labelled as coming from ‘Agriculture Biologique.’ The colour is a tad paler than this producer’s BHCdB. The nose starts with just a little reduction and is modestly suggestive of dark red fruit. The reduction comes through in the flavour too. The general balance concentration are very good, but it’s hard to recomend the slightly rubbery rhubarb fruit flavour – even decanting and waiting 2 hours doesn’t shit the reductive aroma and flavour.
2012 Albert Bichot, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Les Dammes Huguettes
A deeper shade of red. The nose is much the tightest of these Bourgognes from Bichot, but in the background it is clearly the prettiest and even tries to deliver something floral – this opens out well with air, showing pretty fruit and flowers. Hmm, sweeter profile with a faint tannic bitterness: this is more serious and more tasty. The intensity is quite good. The finish is stony and a little phenolic. This wine would benefit from a little aging – I think it will be much prettier in another 6 months-plus. Very decent base material here.
2012 Bouchard Père et Fils, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits
Here the nose has a good deal more depth than its brother, the HCdB, again it’s a little savoury but with a background of darker fruit. A little fuller, certainly silkier with much more sophisticated tannins than that latter wine too. In the end I find this quite tasty, but aromatically I’m not a fan – same as the Côte de Beaune.
6. Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre
Here we leave the neighbourhood of the Côte d’Or to take in a label that can be red, rosé or white, made from 117 hectares of pinot and 76 of chardonnay grapes in the communes of Augy, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Auxerre, Vaux, Quenne, Vincelottes, Champs-sur-Yonne – all in the communes of Chablis and ‘Grande Auxerois.’ I’m no great expert in this label, but I have a great respect for the wines of Goisot (Domaine reviewed in this issue ) which knock spots of the large négoce Hautes Côtes wine which we’ve already encountered – but they cost more too!
To finish, as far as this short article is concerned, and for today at least, a Côteaux isn’t a Côte 😉