The Cistercian monastic order was founded at Cîteaux in what is now the Côte de Beaune and the monks continued the winemaking tradition that the Romans had started. Over the centuries, and under the powerful patronage of the Dukes of Burgundy, the wines achieved an excellence and a reputation that even the depradations of the French Revolution could not destroy. They are still thriving today.
Vines and Styles
Though Pinot Noir makes all the red wines of the Côte de Beaune they can vary enormously in style from the powerful to the elegant and everything in between. Individual appellations will often have their own distinctive character.
Chardonnay is the only white grape, and once again the style can vary from village to village and vineyard to vineyard. Where some, such as Corton-Charlemagne, have a mineral crispness, others, such as Meursault, are known for their butteriness. This variety ensures that the Côte de Beaune is never dull.
The Appellation System
As with the Côte de Nuits to the north, there are four basic levels of ascending quality: Bourgogne AOC; village AOC (i.e. Savigny-lès-Beaunes); Premier Cru (where village and vineyard are both labelled); and Grand Cru (i.e. Corton or Montrachet). Côte de Beaune Villages and Hautes Côte de Beaune are more minor appellations that are regarded as lesser than the village AOC. The ultimate indication of quality will, as elsewhere in Burgundy, really be revealed in the name of the producer.
Climate and Terroir
Limestone dominates the soil of the Côte de Beaune, but a layer of marl runs through it, and whereas Chardonnay thrives in the former it is the latter that brings out the best of the Pinot Noir. This is why both red and white burgundy of exceptional quality are produced here. Also important are a good slope and exposure, the combination of which should allow maximum access to the sun, good drainage and sufficient shelter from the hail and frost that can level a vineyard.
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