Despite having no Grand Crus to call its own, Nuits appended the name of its most important vineyard, Les St.Georges, on the 10th May 1892 to become Nuits-Saint-Georges – before that it was described as Nuits-sous-Beaune.
When the railway came in 1849 the station here was described as Nuits-sous-Beaune, to the chagrin of the locals, in order to differentiate it from Nuits-sous-Ravières further up the line.
Jasper Morris; Inside Burgundy
But at this time, there wasn’t just the main railway that connected Nuits to Lyon and Dijon, referenced by Jasper, there were small private lines too – for instance in the picture above you can see a small line (that was called Le Taco…) that ran to Arcenant in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits.
Not only did the town of Nuits (for short…) co-opt the name of its most famous vineyard, it also lends its name to the whole of the ‘Côte de Nuits’ region. Would they make a different choice today if they were naming the whole ‘Côte’? Maybe, but Côte de Vosne sounds a little too close to Côte de Beaune don’t you think…(?)
This merchant town of about 5,000 inhabitants, is a busy, often bustling place of commerce, shops, cafés and restaurants – it is also the largest town in the Côte d’Or after Beaune. During the 1800s Nuits was a centre for the négoce trade that vied with, though never quite equaled, Beaune for relative importance. Nuits remains the home of many important producers, but not to the level of those pre-phylloxera days. Many are the names that fell on hard times in the early 1900s, to be swept up by new breeds of merchant-producers in the second half of the 20th century. The old-town of Nuits has much history attached to it, for instance the archaeological excavations at Bolards, the site of a trading, crossroads town from the 1st century Gallo-Roman period (perhaps the very seeds of Nuits St.Georges). There are also the 17th century town hall, the Fermerot door (an ancient gateway in the old town’s fortifications which closed the door during the night), and the churches of St:Symphorien and St.Denis. The town is aslo criss-crossed by stone canals/channels to deal with heavy rainwater – indeed (though I haven’t found it yet!) somewhere in the Place Monge, near the square, a fish is sculpted into the wall at a height indicating floodwater levels from Nuits’ river Meuzin before the canals were built by the engineer Fleury.
Nuits sits in the opening of a valley that narrows as it heads west, up the combe in the direction of the villages of Villars and Meuilley into the Hautes Côtes. Looking down
The town completely slices through the vines – there are no contiguous areas of vines between the North and South of the town – excepting the occasional road (as for instance slicing between Chassagne and Puligny), this is the only place in the Côte d’Or where this happens. As such it is easy for us to segment the areas; North of town towards Vosne and South of town towards Premeaux-Prissy. If the geographical segmentation is easy, discussing the Premier Crus individually is not. If you want to be severe there are thirty-three Premier Crus, if you want to allow sub-divisions within those premiers, you can easily reach forty-one.
Within the appellation boundaries, Nuits has three-hundred and fifteen hectares of vines producing Regional wines (Bourgogne, etcetera), one-hundred and seventy-five hectares of vines producing Villages Nuits St.Georges and one-hundred and forty-six hectares of vines for Premier Cru Nuits. Less than four percent of production is white wine, two-thirds of it Premier Cru.
|hl: 5 year av.|
|Nuits St.Georges 1er Rouge||5,263||5,967||4,509||3,615||4,965|
|Nuits St.Georges 1er Blanc||185||360||213||294||248|
|Nuits St.Georges Rouge||6,440||7,442||5,948||6,507||6,627|
|Nuits St.Georges Blanc||143||160||131||139||144|
As you will note from the above, white wine is very ‘niche’ in Nuits. I have no hard figures to hand, but a reasonalbe proportion of that wine declared as 1er Cru blanc is made from the mutation of pinot noir that is often called ‘Pinot Gouges’ after it’s propogator. The rest is of-course chardonnay with a little pinot beurot (pinot gris) to keep it company, though rarely accounting for more than 5% of any plantings.
The lost world of terraces and old vineyards above Nuits St.Georges.
The vines to the North of Nuits
Spot the pink Premeaux limestone(?)
A clear ribbon of Premier Cru vines run from the mid-slope to quite high on the hillside – higher than their counterparts in Vosne, but the hillside is gradually changing direction from south-east facing Nuits, to east facing Vosne – this more direct sunshine making the difference. Some of this group of premiers have a certain spice and complexity that you might associate with Vosne, for the others it is more wishful thinking. The premiers that sit near the border with Vosne – despite a couple of extra kilometres to the north, generally need picking earlier than the premiers south of the village or they risk rot.
Above and below the premiers are the villages wines, higher still this is a hillside of scrubland rather than trees. Just above the 1ers you may (occasionally!) find: Les Argillats, Les Creux Fraîche Eau, Au Thorey, En la Pierre Noblot and Les Damodes. These vineyards generally have much less soil depth before you make contact with the bedrock. Below Aux Pertuis Maréchaux, La Charmotte, La Petite Charmotte, Aux Allots, Aux Lavières, Aux Barrières, Aux Bas de Combe, Aux Saint-Julien, Aux Chouillet, Aux Saint-Jacques, Aux Athées, Aux Thuyaux, Aux Croix Rouges and Aux Herbues. Not surprisingly the soils are deeper here, mixtures of clay, silt and gravels overlay the bedrock, depending on how where they sit in the ‘alluvial fan’.
Aux Champs Perdrix
‘Partridge fields’ are quite common in the Côte de Nuits, you will also find similarly named vineyards in Marsannay and Vosne-Romanée. The version in Nuits is just 0.73 ha and is mainly east, south-east facing, set quite high on the hill at roughly 280m above sea-level – there is also a little ‘villages’ rated Champs Perdrix higher on the hill. The brown limestone soil is quite thin, mixed with clay and a little gravel over a mix of white limestone and Comblanchien marble. Decent examples are offered by Alain Michelot and Chevillon-Chezeaux
En la Perrière Noblot
This modest 2.35 hectare vineyard sits just a little further round the top of the hill towards Vosne hence, is more east than south-east facing and is mainly classified as villages; a measly 0.3 ha receives a 1er Cru label – in theory – I’ve never seen one.
A relatively large vineyard of about 8.55 hectares, but almost half of this is actually classed as ‘villages’ – not surprising considering it peaks at 340 metres above sea-level – this villages half is separated from the premier Cru vines by a vineyard road. The depth of the brown, gravelly soil is variable, but in the southern part of the vineyard the roots reach the pink bedrock known as Premeaux limestone/marble than those of the more northern vines who often run into ‘sheep’s head’ limestone too. This long ribbon of vines runs all the way to the invisible line that separates Nuits from Vosne – on the other side of the line the name changes to Damaudes, but the vines in Vosne are only classified as ‘villages’. Despite largely being surrounded by villages vines (above and to the north in Vosne), Damodes produces wines that confidently wear a 1er Cru label, and I can heartily recommend bottles by Roche de Bellene, Faiveley, Lecheneaut and Vougeraie, and more recently Remoriquet too.
Boudots covers 6.3 hectares and is entirely 1er Cru. As befits its mid-slope position, bordering the Vosne 1er of Malconsorts, this is often one of the finest of Nuits’ ‘Northern’ 1ers. The soil is the typical limestone based brown colour, mixed with fine gravel, as most of its neighbours. Erosion even allows a little pink Premeaux limestone to show in places. Facing largely east, the land here is reasonably steep. The most famous owners all hail from Vosne-Romanée; Leroy, Méo-Camuzet, Grivot and others, but if you cannot justify such an outlay, the wines of JJ Confuron, Jean Tardy and Louis Jadot (Domaine Gagey) are usually splendid.
Three hectares, all premier Cru. This is a beautifully located mid-slope (250-290m) vineyard that sits between Boudots to the north, and La Richemone and Aux Murgers to the south. It’s reasonably steep and east-facing here, just like Boudots. This is another vineyard whose finest exponents all hail from Vosne-Romanée; Bruno Clavelier, François Lamarche and in-particular the 2006-onwards wines from Comte Liger-Belair.
This vineyard sits at 270-280m in the middle of the 1er Cru band – sandwiched between Damodes (above) and Murgers (below). Its 1.96 east-facing hectares are all classed as 1er Cru. Like its close neighbours it sits on a bed of pink Premeaux limestone, mainly covered with soil made up of silty clay and a little oolite-derived scree. Whilst there are occasional négoce bottlings from the likes of Camille-Giroud, Dominique Laurent and Joseph Drouhin, Perrot-Minot (cuvée ‘ultra’ from very old vines), Aurélien Verdet and Alain Michelot seem the main owners here. My experience with the first two is minimal, but that latter wine is a good one.
East-facing, set at an altitude of 250-270 metres, Aux Murgers covers 4.89 hectares, all of-which are classified as 1er Cru. The vines sit roughly halfway between the town of Nuits and the vines of Vosne, and here the slope is only half that of Cras and Boudots to the north. The vines once more sit on a bed of pink Premeaux limestone, brown limestone-based soil and just a little more gravel. Personally I would single out the wine of Hudelot-Noëllat, but those from the cellars of Méo-Camuzet, Cathiard, Cécile Tremblay and Confurun-Cotétidot are hard to ignore.
(Or Les Vignes Rondes!) adjoins Aux Murgers to the south. This 3.84 hectare vineyard shares the same relatively shallow east-facing incline as Aux Murgers. Towards the bottom of the vine yard the pink Premeaux bedrock starts to give way to lighter coloured marls containing fossilized shellfish – this more reflects the vernacular of the villages wines below, and to a certain extent the vineyards of Vosne. You will find many producers of Vignesrondes, not least Confuron-Cotétidot, Faiveley, Dr.Georges Mugneret and Leroy, but I’ve good experience of the Daniel Rion bottling – and it’s a relative bargain too. Lastly, don’t forget that the Hopsices de Nuits own about one hectare of vines too.
Is a decent sized 5.86 hectare east facing vineyard at an altitude of 260-280 metres. Here there’s more gravel and ‘alluvial wash’ in the soil, though the base remains the pink Premeaux limestone. We really do have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to producers; Faiveley, Alain Michelot, Chevillon, Gouges and Gerard Mugneret. But if I had to choose just one, I’d be very happy with the wine of Dr Georges Mugneret-Gibourg…
This is a vineyard with a few added complications. Just 5 hectares, famously turning on the corner of the combe near the village of Nuits so now south-east facing – famously? – well that is because the exposition is exactly the same as Gevrey’s Clos St.Jacques. The original cadastre was spelled ‘Torey’ not Thorey – both are allowed – though most people have now settled on the latter. For many years the most famous wine was made from a section in the centre of the vineyard called the Clos de Thorey: Quality of the ‘Clos’ was always in the eye of the beholder, because Thomas-Moillard was the main producer and they extracted all they could – the wines might be quite good at 50 years old – less certainly good at 40! Since then the vines of ‘Clos Thorey’ have changed hands a number of times and currently rest with JC Boisset following their acquisition of Antonin Rodet. For a short time Ettiene de Montille made a concentrated but rather supple version of this wine – the 09 seemed particularly good from ^barrel. You may also find bottles of ‘Aux Thorey’ from Benjamin Leroux, Sylvain Cathiard and Chauvenet-Chopin.
Is about 5 hectares of south-east facing vines set at 255-280 metres altitude and separated from the houses of Nuits by tiny plot of villages vines. The base rock is of the pink Premeaux variety, but there is also some Bajocian limestone derived from sea-shells. The fine-textured soil is brown and a little gravelly. Good examples of this wine can be found at Jean Chavenet, Robert Chevillon and latterly Remoriquet.
Finishing the ‘northern 1ers’ with this vineyard which forms the buffer between Aux Thorey and the houses of Nuits St.Georges. At an altitude of 250-260 metres there are just 3 hectares of south, south-east facing vines on a moderate slope – above sit the villages vines of Argillats. Here the light coloured limestone base is Comblanchien, not the pink Premeaux of its more northern siblings, and the soils are less gravelly, more full off small stones. There are a limited number of bottles; Méo-Camuzet Frères et Soeurs and Chavenet-Chopin – the only one I know well is the one of Jean Chauvenet which is quite fine, but I prefer most his other Crus.
To the South of Nuits
The landscape slowly changes from ‘interesting/unusual’ to ‘vaguely featureless’ to ‘I wouldn’t want to live here’ as you head south to the village of Premeaux-Prissey. As mentioned the town sits in an ever-tightening valley, so to the south of Nuits you have to wait for the north-facing hillside to once-more turn towards the east. Where this ‘turn’ begins, the vineyards are steep and often terraced – during the growing season the vines north of the Château Gris are visited almost weekly by helicopters to spray – a vigneron watching-on notes dryly “you can’t get a tractor up there – or a Porsche Cayenne!” Of-course helicopters are likely to be banned soon (it is suggested that 80% of their spray never reaches the intended target), so I guess real people with spray-equipment on their backs will be seen again.
Like the North of Nuits there then follows a long, well-defined ribbon of Premier Cru vines all the way to the village of Premeaux and all sitting at an altitude of around 240 to 280 metres. Whilst these vines run non-stop to Premeaux, for the sake of structuring this page, I’ve chosen to separate them into two sections; the southern Nuits section, and the Premeaux section – separated only by the political line on the map.
Les Crots (+ Château Gris)
Les Crots is the first of the east-facing 1er Cru vines, as the combe widens and changes direction. The altitude of the vines rises from ~265 metres up to 300, covering 4 hectares – there is an additional 1.67 hectares of villages-rated Crots. It is a steep hillside, and one of the few places in the Côte d’Or that you will see terraced vines. A famous landmark in this area is the Château Gris whose 2.9 hectares is also allowed the Château Gris 1er Cru climat name, and is the monopoly of Albert Bichot’s Clos –Lupé label. The soil is brown, with plenty of small limestone rocks and a layer of oolitic limestone that is again underpinned with pink Premeaux limestone.
There are a few ‘Crots’ labels to be found; Guy & Yvan Dufouleur, Chevillon-Chezeaux, Gachot-Monot, Latour and Bichot too to add to their Château Gris label – I don’t know any of the ‘Crots’ but the Château Gris is a good wine.
Rue de Chaux
Rue de Chaux seems a very well sited, if little discussed vineyard – stately old négoce premises face south with a commanding view of these vines. The vineyard offers a modest 2.12 hectares of gently sloping, east-facing mid-slope vines, at an altitude of 250-260 metres. The soil is relatively deep here and just a little redder in colour than the brown of the higher vines. The base-rock is a Bathonian blend of white oolite and pink Premeaux limestone. There are a few producers, of-whom I’d recommend Chauvenet and recent wines from Remoriquet.
This vineyard follows the line south from Rue de Chaux, with a similar east-facing gentle slope over an altitude range of 250-270 metres. The soil seems similar too – the only thing distinctive about the vineyard seems its small size – 1.34 hectares. Duband, Drouhin and Arnoux-Lachaux seem the main producers, and at least based on the 2010 vintage, I wouldn’t dismiss Duband’s recent offers.
Pruliers and its neighbour Roncières are often the earliest vineyards to be picked. Here is an important vineyard with just over 7 hectares of vines inclined to the east at an altitude of 250-270 metres. The soil has lots of limestone and seems very stony soil nearer the base of the slopes. There is dark brown to reddish brown silt and some gravel scree over the Bathonian limestone substrate which is a mix of white oolite and pink Premeaux. The gravel scree gets thinner and thinner as you head south through the vines towards 1er Cru ‘Roncière’. Unsurprisingly, given the larger size of this 1er Cru, there are dozens of potential producers – I will limit suggestions to the following: Robert Chevillon, Lecheneaut and recent bottles from both Grivot and Duband.
Les Hauts Pruliers
This is more ‘villages’ than 1er Cru as there are nearly four hectares of ‘Hautes Pruliers’, but only 0.4 hectares are classed as 1er Cru. Despite almost four hectares, labels are hard to find – Daniel Rion has a worthy 1er Cru version – and that’s about it. However, the ‘villages’ wine of Axelle Machard de Gramont is a beauty. The vines themselves, not surprisingly, sit above those of Pruliers – altitude 260-270 metres – so not that different to Pruliers, the essential difference is that they are canted more east, north-east, the slope is more shallow and as you might expect, the soil is thinner but over the same mix of bedrock as Pruliers.
Or ‘Roncières’ is a small vineyard, almost 1 hectare, adjoining Pruliers to the south. The slope has increased quite a bit here, moving quickly from 250 to 300 metres of elevation. The vines have also changed orientation slightly – now east, south-east – together these factors contribute to an early ripening site. The brown, light-brown soil is mainly based on eroded material with limestone fragments, gravel and occasional chert nodules – essentially light soils high in limestone. There are not many labels, but fortunately the two major producers are very good ones – Grivot and Robert Chevillon.
Les Porrets Saint-Georges (Clos des Porrets Saint-Georges)
On some maps you may also see ‘Poirets’ (used by Jayer-Gilles) or simply Les Porrets – Faively and Chanson are happy with ‘Porets’ – but the most producers seem to stick with ‘Porrets St.Georges’. Porrets is a relatively large, 7.35 hectare east-facing vineyard at the mid-position of the hill about 250-260 metres of altitude – the slope is relatively shallow here. The brown, relatively deep soil contains plenty of gravel and in common with the majority of vineyards on this hillside, white oolite over pink Premeaux limestone. Domaine Henri Gouges own nearly half the surface of Porrets, in the form of the 3.5 hectare monopoly of the vines called Clos des Porrets St.Georges – this is actually my favourite wine of both the domaine and this vineyard. Alain Michelot also makes a good Porrets, as does Jayer-Gilles though the latter needs more time for the oak to fade.
Almost any village worth its salt has a ‘Perrières’ but did they back-fill the hole after they extracted the stone or what? Regardless, Perrières is a vineyard that should be top of your list to discover if you don’t already know it – there is even some white wine made from here (which I’m yet to experience): The lieu-dit covers a modest 2.47 hectares of east, south-east facing vines at 260-275 metres of altitude. The slope here is more than that ove the vines that surround it. Whilst the soil is the ‘common’ brown colour, it is full of small chalk rocks and is rather thin before the bedrocks of white oolite and Premeaux limestone. There was a monopoly of a ‘Clos des Perrières’ by Guy & Yvan Dufouleur at one time – apparently planted by the father of Yvan – but he died this year so I can’t ask him about it. But we have an embarassment of potention bottles from Méo-Camuzet, Jean Chauvenet and, of-course, the redoubtable Domaine Chevillon. A wine not to miss…
Despite a reasonable 2.13 hectares, Les Poulettes is a far from common wine – the only one that I can remember is the wine of Jean Chauvenet, the other makers I’ve seen, historically are far from strong ‘buy’ recommendations, such as Labouré-Roi and Guy & Yvan Dufouleur. There is also a Domaine de la Poulette who makes this wine, but I’ve never tasted it. The vineyard sits high on the hillside, yet has the gentlest of slopes of any of these 1er Crus. The altitude is 270-295 metres but this wide range reflects two terraces from earlier stone-quarrying, rather than any real slope. The basic limestome bedrock here being white oolite.
Les Cailles offers 7.11 hectares of mid-slope vines at 250-260 metres altiude, facing direct east – there is not such a big slope here. The common brown soil of southern is quite deep here, a clay-limestone soil augmented with lots of small chalky rocks (as the name might imply) and sits on white oolite limestone, but the next layer is more Comblanchien limestone than the pink Premeaux version. Les Cailles has a great reputation, mainly as the most elegant of the ‘important’ Nuits – almost in the same class as Les St.Georges, but I’m often left wondering if that’s down to the quality of the main growers(?) Whatever, you will surely enjoy your Bouchard Pères, your Chevillons, your Lécheneauts your Michelots and even your Le-Moines!
Les Chaboeufs sits toward the top of the hill near a slight change of direction of the hillside towards the south – but these vines remain east-facing and have more incline than many as they vary over 255-280 metres of altitude – quite a variance for just 2.8 hectares of vines. The brown soil is quite fine here with very small chalk stones. Perhaps the most instantly ‘recomendable’ wine from here comes from JJ Confuron, but the most recent wines from Duband are worth your time, and, beleive it or not, you might even get some joy from the recent vintages from Bouchard Aïne!
Les Vallerots are simply a wonder to behold. The turn of the hillside between Chaboeufs and here has delivered largely east, north-east facing vines on mainly white oolite terraces, held together with great concrete butresses of over 30 meteres height. Most of these vines were only replanted in 1980s having been left ‘en friche’ (unplanted) since the times of Phylloxera. There are actually less than 0.9 hectares of vines that can take a 1er Cru label and Chantal Lescure has most of that – I’m yet to taste that domaine’s wine (I’ll get there, eventually!), but you may note the connection between that domaine and Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont who make an excellent villages Vallerots – note that there are potentially another 8 hectares of villages Vallerots, but it is not yet all planted.
If Cailles is the elegant wine of this hillside, Les Vaucrains is the deeply impressive and rather masculine brother – many domaines prefer to show it after their Les St.Georges – or at least those that are lucky enough to have both. The poor brown soil is relatively deep (like Cailles) and has some chalky stones but less than many vineyards nearby yet where it appears the limestone offers itself in larger chunks that resemble ‘sheeps heads’. The slope of this 6.2 hecatre vineyard is steeper than Cailles or Les St.Georges which it sits above and the orientation, like that of Vallerots is mainly east, north-east set at 260-280 metres of altitude. If you stand at the foot of vines, it seems obvious that the upper-most vines must yield something quite different to the lower lying ones. We seem to have an embarrasment of riches when it comes to possible producers: Chevillon, Gouges, Alain Michelot, Jean Chauvenet, Jerome Chezeaux and the domaine wine of Jadot. Then there fine négoce bottles to be had, including bottles from Camille-Giroud, Dominique Laurent and Lucien LeMoine.
7.52 hectares of vines sit in the mid-slope of the hill at 245-260 metres altitude, facing directly east. The slope of the brown soil is modest here, but you can’t miss how meagre the soil is, lots of small limestone debris, and considering the size of the vineyard the base-rock is a complex mix of Premeaux, Comblanchien and white oolite limestones (all Bathonian!) such that it’s hard to expect every part of the vineyard to deliver a similar wine. The best makers suggest it is an extra level of class that elevates this vineyard from the more robust Vaucrains, and of-course it is well-known that the owners of ‘LSG’ are pushinmg for its elevation to Grand Cru. Personally I am against this; the market tends to correctly price wines versus their intrinsic quality – just look at the average price of Clos St.Jacques, Les Amoureuses and Meursault Perrières – so the domaines shouldn’t be losing financially. Then there is the question of whether a single 7.5 hectare ‘island’ of Grand Cru makes sense, particularly given the complex geology of LSG. And finally aren’t all those owners of Cailles and Vaucrains also going to want their vines to be classed as Grand Crus too and try to block ‘promotion’ if they don’t get what they want? Of-course they are – this is just the largest can of worms – I see no sense in it. Anyway, if you feel the need to do your own research, let me suggest the wines of Chevillon, Chevillon-Chezeaux and Alain Michelot. Wait just a little longer for the oak to fade in Thibault Liger-Belair’s wine – it will be worth it, and finally, take a chance on a recent (09 onwards) Dufouleur Frères – it will be worth it.
Last but not least in this ‘middle section’ of vines is Chaînes Carteaux. The Syndicate of Nuits St.Georges growers use the name ‘Chaînes’, but one of their member, Domaine Henri Gouges, who also happens to be the best-known producer, prefers Chenes Carteaux for his labels. Just like Les St.Georges it follows the political line between Nuits and Premeaux but sits higher on the hill, following the line suth from Vaucrains and similarly abutting the trees above. Whilst only covering about 2 hecatres, the slope is quite steep so the vines run from 260 right up to 300 metres altitude – but they are perfectly east facing. The sil is not so deep as you expect, given the slope, and it sits on a bed of oolite blanche. If you want to look past Gouges, your choices are limited; Jadot and JC Boisset (Grégory Patriat) make useful bottles, and Bernard Serveaux also used to make a nice wine – otherwise I’m out of names…
The Nuits St.Georges vineyards of Premeaux-Prissey
Those with vines in the (previous) southern Nuits section will doubtless hold in highest regard vineyards such as Pruliers, Les Porrets, Les Cailles, Les St.Georges and Vaucrains. But here we will concentrate on the (mainly) monopoly vineyards of Premeaux – you can find more info about those monopoly wines here. From the north of Les Didiers to the south of the Clos de la Maréchale (where the appellation of Nuits St.Georges ends) it is a distance of just over two kilometres, the vines following the line of the Route Nationale (D974). At the Northern entrance of Premeaux, and opposite the Clos St.Marc, there is even a small island of Premier Cru on the other side of the road called Les Grandes Vignes. From the Clos de la Maréchale south the landscape to the west is far from inviting; the backdrop to the vines is scrubland hillsides and waste material from the stone quarries behind.
Premeaux today is made up of the following classifications:
- Côte de Nuits Villages – 22 hectares
- Nuits St.Georges Villages – 11.8 hectares
- Nuits St.Georges 1er Cru – 46.8 hectares
Les Terres Blanches
Only 0.9 hectares of vines, which are set quite high on the hill at about 280-300 metres of altitude. This was actually a wooded area until it was cleared in the mid-1980s and theoretically classed as Côte de Nuits Villages – it officially received its 1er Cru status in 1985. There is oolitic limestone here and plenty of small rocks in the relatively pale soil. There is both red and white wine made from Terres Blanches and indeed, white is the only wine I know – a punchy, interesting wine from Patrice Rion – he and Domaine Rion seem to be majority owners here.
Les Didiers (Monopoly)
Touching on Les St.Georges to the south, lies Les Didiers – 2.4 hectares of east-facing, shallow sloped vines, roughly set between 265 and 285 metres altitude. This was once split into many parcels which were eventually repurchased before coming into the hands of the Hospices de Nuits in the 1910s. The brown limestone soils are relatively deep, sitting over a mix of white oolite and Comblanchien limestone. As wines, you have three cuvées; old vines (Fagon), younger vines (planted 1981-82 – Cabet) and a blend of the two (Duret).
Clos des Forêts (Monopoly)
Called variously Clos des Fôrets, Clos des Fôrets St.Georges, Les Fôrets and some even older names without the ‘Fôrets’. This is a large 7.11 hectare vineyard which, despite its gentle slope, reaches from D974 at the bottom, almost to the top of the hill (240-270 metres altitude) – just a sliver of Terres Blanches separating it from the trees. Not surprisingly the geology is far from consistent, with three different soil-types which can be roughly split into ‘top, middle and bottom’. In Premeaux the ‘young’ Ladoix limestone is usually found at the top of vineyards as it is typically a layer above the oolitic and Premeaux limestone. In Les Fôrets there is a fracture in the middle of the vineyard, whereby the ground has slipped downwards – hence Ladoix limestone is actually found at the bottom of this vineyard. The top has more white oolite and the middle more pink Premeaux limestone. Domaine de l’Arlot (AXA-owned) have the monopoly of Clos des Forêts, their first vintage was 1987.
Aux Perdrix (Quasi-Monopoly!)
Les Forêts gives way to the vineyards of Aux Perdix and Aux Corvées to the south, Aux Perdrix sitting higher on the hill, above Aux Corvées. The slope here is steeper than in Les Fôrets, the 3.45 hectares of densely planted (13,000/ha) east-facing vines sitting at 250-270 metres of altitude. The soil has both clay and limestone scree over limestone – both white oolite and Comblanchien. Bottles have the catchy title of ‘quasi-monopole’ on the labels, the Devillard family of Domaine des Perdrix (since 1996) owning all but a sliver (0.043ha) of the vineyard. The Devillards also own properties in Mercurey in the Côte Chalonnaise. The fruit is destemmed entirely. Since 2006, an old-vine bottling, called Les 8 Ouvrées (which is one third of a hectare) from vines planted in 1922, has been offered – does this bring down the quality of the ‘basic’ cuvée? I am unconvinced by it, but think the 8 Ouvrées excellent.
Sitting below Aux Perdrix, and further to the south, a part of Les Argillières, the 7.5 hectares of Aux Corvées is a complex constellation of names and owners; its constituent parts (north to south) include the Clos des Corvées (5.22 hectare monopoly of Prieuré Roch), Clos des Corvées Pagets (1.48 hectare) and the Clos St.Marc (a 0.93 hectare monopoly of M&P Rion). The name Corvées indicates that this vineyard was owned by a landlord and had to be worked by the locals for free – to pay for their ‘protection’ by that landlord. Although the average altitude of the vines varies little (250-70 metres), as you head south through Aux Corvées the lie of the land gets steeper – the southern-most vines in the Clos St.Marc reach the highest – indeed there is a large concrete construction at the top of this Clos to keep the higher vines of Les Argillières in their place. Underpinning these subdivisions of Aux Corvées is the same oolitic and Comblanchien limestone – the main differences are the depth of the brown-red soils. For the non-monopoly of Corvées Pagets, I suggest the bottling of Arnoux-Lacheaux
Clos des Grandes Vignes (1er Cru Monopoly)
Once a monopoly of the Domaine Charles Thomas, the 2.21 hectare 1er Cru Clos des Grandes Vignes has changed hands a number of times in recent years; most recently it was sold by the Château de Puligny-Montrachet (Etienne de Montille) to Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair – I really hope that it will now stay in Louis-Michel’s hand for a consistent period so that we can see what is possible from this Nuits St.Georges anomaly. This is the only premier Cru on the east side of the main D974 road, lying below Les Corvées. A part of the vineyard owned by Domaine Daniel Rion (1.62 hectares) is rated as ‘villages’. The vines are set quite some depth below the D974 and offer a very shallow slope from 230-240 metres of altitude, east to west. The soil is rather deeper than that of the hillside wines, darker in colour too, yet there is no lack of small limestone rocks. Below is a largely Bathonian limestone. There was a little ‘over-grafted’ chardonnay here, 0.32 hectares – which Louis-Michel is keeping – 1.16 hectares of good old vines at the top of the vineyard, and a 0.7 hectare fallow area at the bottom of the slope to be replanted.
The vines here are sometimes referred to as the Clos des Argillières, and whilst there are stout walls, there are no hard borders with its northern neighbours. Here, there is a slight change in the orientation of the southern part of this 4.22 hectare vineyard, so that the vines are now east, south-east facing. The ground had the classical white oolite over pink Premeaux limestone, but interestingly, it is very easy to appreciate that the soil colour is much lighter and stonier than the Clos St.Marc which it borders. The small steep road called ‘Chemin des Argillières’ separates Les Argillières from the Clos l’Arlot to the south, following the profile (230-265 metres altitude) of the vineyard. Fine wines can be made from here – I would single out the M&P Rion version, though the wine of Ambroise may also be to your taste.
Clos St.Marc (Monopoly
See Les Corvees (above).
Clos Arlot (Monopoly)
Or Clos de l’Arlot. Clive Coates notes that “Here the Côte d’Or is at its steepest and narrowest, the distance east-west hardly 400 metres.”
Although covering about 7 hectares, the house and grounds bisect the vineyard before ending abruptly at the ‘western wall’, the high cliff that stands testament to the stone quarried for hundreds of years from here. The area under vine is actually about 4 hectares (though more is allowed); 3 ha to the north and 1 ha to the south of the house and gardens (the area called La Gerbotte) – split roughly half for red wine and half for white. There are roughly four different terroirs in Clos Arlot, three to the north of the house and the fourth being La Gerbotte, behind the house to the south: So this is a monopole, but still a blend of terroirs. La Gerbotte is a slightly cooler site because it doesn’t get the early-morning sun (like the northern Clos Arlot). The slope is less pronounced here (though the soil remains only about 30cm deep), where it is separated at its southern limit from the Clos de la Maréchale by the small Chemin de la Gerbotte – and the stone walls of each Clos! The whites in La Gerbotte were planted about 1993 and 1984 and contain roughly 4% Pinot Beurot (Pinot Gris) in the blend (yes, and pinot beurot in the Clos de l’Arlot blanc as well). The three other ‘terroirs’ are in the famous steep hills and terraces to the north of the house. Close to the road there is as much as 2 metres of brown limestone soil (mixed with block of rock) – above, the depth can be as little as 30cm – the top is where the ‘Petit Arlot is curently produced. The subsoil is the typical oolitic and Comblanchien limestone plus the rarer marles of Ostrea acuminata – fossilised shellfish. In the mid-slope are the chardonnay vines of the 1er Cru Blanc Clos Arlot. Like the Clos des Fôrets, Domaine de l’Arlot have the monopoly of the Clos Arlot – quite the most elegant red of Nuits, and perhaps the most mineral white too.
Clos de la Maréchale (Monopoly)
The last 1er Cru of Nuits, indeed the last wine of the Nuits appellation is the Clos de la Maréchale. For 54 years, up to and including 2003; in 1950 the management of this vineyard had been entrusted to the Nuits firm of Faiveley, but finally the lease came to an end and the vines were returned to the care of their owners, Domaine JF Mugnier. Recent research by Charlotte Fromont, a journalist for France Bleu Bourgogne, has potentially put a name to the evasive ‘Maréchale’: Maréchal-de-Camp (Brigadier) Guillaume-Stanislas Marey-Monge – the brother-in-law of Delphine Lemire who inherited the vineyard in 1863 – before which (and for a while after, it must be said…) it was known as the Clos des Fourches. This Clos is the largest 1er Cru monopoly in the Côte d’Or – 9.55 hectares of east, south-east facing vines. The slope is rather gentle here, rising from about 240 to 260 metres altitude. The vines are split down the middle by a straight track through the centre of the vineyard, to the columned ‘temple’ at the end – Freddy once joked with me that he might turn it into a Gite – at least I think he was joking! The topsoil has a little clay in the mix, standing on a fairly consistent platform of oolitic limestone. The domaine’s Nuits 1er Cru Blanc is made from chardonnay overgrafted (in 2004) onto existing pinot rootstocks – about 6% of the vines are now chardonnay, all located at the northern end of the vineyard.