Monday, February 16, 2015

France Unit 3 - Côte D’Or

Map courtesy of Wine Folly
If you read my previous notes on Italy or the most recent on Champagne you probably noticed that they tend to be rather lengthy and perhaps too long. In studying and writing about wine there is a great challenge in trying to be concise and to the point and yet also sufficiently thorough so as to understand various wine regions well enough to pass Advanced Sommelier exams for the Court of Master Sommeliers or the WSET Diploma exams. Another challenge to retain and be able to recall from memory all of the information. My goal in writing these notes (or papers) is to create a data base which I can read from my iPhone and from which I create flash cards. But, I have also started the WSET Level 4 Diploma so until the end of April my time is divided between two studies.

The following are my notes for studying the wines of the Côte d’Or region of France including information about the history, topography, climate, soils, important red and white grapes and the AOCs of the region. I also include notes on the wines tasted during in the French Wine Scholar class (FWS - 03a Côte D’Or).

The Viticultural History of the Cote D’Or

Understanding the viticultural history of France and most of Europe involves the complexity and intertwining of the country’s religion, politics, economics and wars.

The first to cultivate the native grape of the land we now call Bourgogne was more than likely the Celtic tribes who lived in the region prior to the arrival of the Roman Empire in 52 A.D. According to archaeological evidence the Romans then planted numerous vineyards on the flat plains near Gevrey-Chambertin, south of Dijon. The earliest written record of viticulture dates a few centuries later during the reign of Emperor Constantine in 312 A.D..[1]

During the 4th and 5th centuries the Roman Empire was in great decline as invading Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine (406 A.D.) and Rome was sacked twice (410 A.D; 455 A.D.).

After the fall of Rome the Catholic Church became an important leader in not only religious affairs but it also preserved literature and viticulture. Specifically, it was the Benedictine and the Cistercian orders that became the most influential during the Middle Ages as they forged the land building monasteries and mapping out the best vineyards.

The Benedictines

As early as the year 630 A.D., Duke Amalgaire of Lower Bourgogne gave the monks of the Abbey of Bèze the at Gevry, Vosne and Beaune and what today is the Grand Cru Chambertin-Clos de Bèze.[2]

In 910, the Benedictines built the Abbey of Cluny near Mâcon, and from there they extended their influence throughout Europe.[3] By the 11th century, it was the most influential monastery in the Europe as the Benedictine monks expanded the vineyards and wine cellars of Bourgogne. In 1131, the Benedictines planted what today is the most prestigious Pinot Noir vineyard in the world - “Clos de Cinq Journaux” which is now known as Romanée-Conti. By the 1200s the Abbey held prime vineyard land in the Côte de Nuits including “Champ Bertin” (Chambertin) as well as in the Mâconnais and Côte Chalonnaise.

The Cistercians

Following in the footsteps of Benedictines was the Cistercian Order which takes its name from the Abbey of Cîteaux, founded near Dijon in 1098.[4] The Cistercians founded the first clos vineyards as they built walls around the vineyard and the winemaking facilities in the monasteries. The Abbey of Cîteaux signature vineyard was the Clos de Vougeot which consists of a large collection of parcels acquired during the 12th through the 14th centuries. In 1114, the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny was established as the second of the four great daughter houses of Abbey of Cîteaux and it expanded viticulture in the northern area of Chablis. The Cistercian monks cultivated Musigny, Echézeaux, Richebourg, and Montrachet gaining them a reputation as land-clearers as they expanded Burgundy’s agricultural landscape and laid the foundation for the modern climats of Burgundy. In 1141, Clos de Tart (situated in the commune of Morey-Saint-Denis) was sold by Maison Dieu in Brochon to the Cistercian nuns of Notre Dame de Tart who owned it until the French Revolution.

The Dukes of Bourgogne

Philippe the Bold
From 1363-1477 the Dukes of Bourgogne ruled the Duchy of Bourgogne west of the Saône River to what is today Belgium. The Dukes wielded a great deal of political power and financial influence derived from the textile industry. There were four Dukes and although the King of France also assumed the title “Duke of Bourgogne” the Bourgogne region of France remained independent until the death of Charles le Téméraire (Charles the Bold) who lived from 10 November 1433 – 5 January 1477.

The Dukes
Philippe the Bold
1363 - 1404
John the Fearless
1404 - 1419
Philippe the Good
1419 - 1467
Charles the Bold
1467 - 1477

These Dukes were strong advocates of Burgundian wine and they helped established the region’s reputation as they supplied wine for the papacy which at the time was located in Avignon. Until the mid 1400s what was labeled as Vin de Bourgogne was produced in Chablis and the wines of the Côte d’Or were known as Vins de Beaune.

In the 1300s Gamay, a high yielding and easier to grow grape, was the dominant wine for the commoner while Pinot Noir, a finicky and difficult grape, was served to the nobility. This came to an end when Philippe the Bold outlawed Gamay and it moved to Beaujolais where it founds its lasting home on more well-suited soils. In 1416, Jean sans Peur (John the Fearless), son of Philippe the Bold, changed the zone of production from Sens to Mâcon.

The Recognition of the Terroir and Establishment of Climats in Bourgogne

The word terroir is a French term that translates loosely into “sense of place,” suggesting how the intersection of climate, soil type and topography influence the character of a wine. The identity of single vineyards was developed by the medieval monks who recognized the unique terroir of certain vineyards. This was then solidified in the 15th century under the leadership of the Valois Dukes who strove to limit plantings to the hillsides. During this time a basic sense terroir was already place and the wines from Beaune and Dijon were highly regarded cuvées blended from different parcels in and around the two towns. Yet the designation Vin de Beaune was a generic name that referred to many of the wines of the Côte d’Or throughout the Late Middle Ages.

Then the Greek word klima (κλίμα), from which we get the English word “climate,” was adopted to refer to a site’s incline and exposure to the sun. It was first used in a more general sense to denote parcels of land, but from then it became limited to the indication of specific vineyards. A climat then refers to an actual site, specifically a vineyard, which is unique because of its geographic characteristics, or terroir. In the 1500s, the association of geographic names and wine quality progressed and greater attention was given to smaller and more specific geographical areas.

The French Revolution, the Napoleonic Code and The Fragmentation of Vineyards

By the end of the 17th century the wines of Bourgogne had become the most expensive in France which only the wealthy could afford. During that time the French royalty and nobility built Château along the Loire River and began drinking Loire wines which created some competition for Bourgogne wines.

Then came the French Revolution (1789 - 1799), which had the domino effect of the global decline of theocracies and absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and democracies. During this time church lands were confiscated and redistributed to the farmers who worked the lands and the great domains were divided and sold at auction with only a few surviving monopoles.

But the fragmentation of the vineyards did not end with the sale of church and aristocratic lands to multiple bidders. The Revolutionary General Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), ended the practice of primogeniture (the right of succession belonging to the firstborn child) in France. In 1804 he established The Napoleonic Code created a new hereditary law that all male citizens would receive an equal portion of the land in their in inheritance. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that within a few generations of properties begin continually divided amongst all male heirs that the great vineyards of Bourgogne would be so fragmented that some families would end up only perhaps only a single row in a vineyard which is hardly enough to establish a winery or produce a significant amount of wine. Consequently, Clos de Vougeot, which was created by Cistercian monks of Cîteaux Abbey, today has over 100 owners even though it only consists of 50.6 hectares (125 acres) with only 47.3 hectares (116.88 acres) under vine. This splintering of estates among heirs continues today.

Modern Bourgogne

In 1847 King Louis-Philipe granted the village of Gevrey the right to add its name to the name of the vineyard so that it became Gevrey-Chambertin and many other villages likewise appended their name to their vineyards except for Volnay, Meusault, and Pommard which do not have and Grand Cru vineyards. The goal was to increase the value of other vineyards by branding the name Chambertin such that if it was associated with quality consumers might purchase other wines using the name. So, there are actually 9 Chambertin vineyards, including Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. Other villages that also append their name to vineyards include Puligny and Chassagne which share Montrachet, Chambolie which claims Musigny and Morey which claims Clos St. Denis.[5]

Here is where it gets confusing and knowing the vineyards becomes essential. With the above information one might then think that all hyphenated names on Burgundian wine labels indicate a village-vineyard relationship. But there are a number of exceptions. For example, Nuit-Saint-George is a Premier Cru (with 41 climats), Ladoix-Serrigny are two hamlets (Lieu-dits) as Serrigny is not a vineyard.

In 1859 the first wine auction was held at the Hospices de Beaune which set a precedent for wine tourism and wine charity events. Like many other regions of France, in the 1890s Bourgogne was plagued by Phyloxera so the region had to replant their vineyards on American rootstock. In doing so vignerons planted in a more orderly fashion than their predecessors who had haphazardly planted vines in the past. Many employed the Guyot system which increased the vine’s efficiency and provided a better control of production.

In the 1936 AOC legislation legally defined Bourgogne’s boundaries and legislated the regions named climats and parcels.

In 1986 60% of Bourgogne’s wine produciton was red. Then there was a dramatic shift in plantings as a greater demand for white wines increased and consequently more Chardonnay was planted such that it now accounts for 66% of wine production. However, it was not that Pinot Noir was uprooted in favor of Chardonnay, rather Chablis and the Mâconnais expanded their vineyard plantings.[6]

Geography of Bourgogne
The Côte d’Or is part of the larger French wine region Bourgogne (the British name “Burgundy” is being phased out) which runs from Auxerre in the north to Lyon in Beaujolais in the south with Mâcon in the middle. The name Côte d’Or means “hill of gold” as the word côte means ‘coast’ (from Latin costa “side”), de means “of” and Or means “gold”. The Côte d’Or is located 85 miles southeast of Chablis and is divided into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which begins south of Dijon and ends at Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges.
Topography of the Côte d’Or
The vineyards of Bourgogne are on hills and slopes for about 100 miles along the western side of the Saône Valley. The plateau of the Côte d’Or is about 500 feet above the valley which has an elevation of about 725 feet.[7] The width of the Côte d’Or’s vineyards are rarely more than 2 kilometers (1.25 miles), running from the base of the slope to the forest edge at the summit, and vines are rarely at an altitude of more than 400 meters (1,300 feet).

Most of the vineyards of Bourgogne are planted on slopes and they can become quite steep, reaching a 35% grade near the vineyards’ upper limits. The crests of the hilltops are covered with forests interspersed with vineyards designated Haute Côte de Nuit or Haute Côte de Beaune. The soil on the peaks of the slope have thin topsoil and it receives the least amount of rain. The middle and higher part of the slopes receive the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage so they are designated as the Grand Cru vineyards. The Premier Cru are below Grand Cru vineyards on the slopes while the Village wines are produced from the flat territory which has the least amount of sun exposure and poorest drainage.
Soils of the Côte d’Or
Generally, the soils of the Côte d’Or consist of Limestone and its topsoil is usually made up of a combination of limestone and clay. East of the forested plateaus above the Côte d’Or down-slope toward the Saône, there is an increase of clay in the soil. Soils in the Côte de Beaune, with the exception of Montrachet, tend to contain greater amounts of marl and less limestone than those in the Côte de Nuits.
Ages ago the limestone escarpments of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune rose upward as the plain collapsed creating a valley. The Saône River Plain then became filled with nitrogen-rich, damp cooler clay soils which are well suited for vegetal crops but not ideal for growing quality grapes.
Bourgogne has a continental climate characterized by cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rain, hail, and frost in the spring and at harvest time.
Vineyard Aspect of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune
In General, the Côte de Nuits faces due east while the Côte de Beaune’s vineyards face southeast. The Côte de Beaune has about twice as much land under vine as the Côte de Nuits  and its hillsides are generally less steep although they can reach higher elevations overall, particularly at its southern end.
The Viniculture of the Côte d’Or
The Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune produce more red wine than white. In fact, about 95% of all wine produced in the Côte de Nuits is Pinot Noir. Conversely, all of the Grands Crus authorized to produce white wine are located in the Côte de Beaune, except for the Musigny Grand Cru. So, in general the better red wines of the Côte d’Or are in the north and the better white wines are in the south as Côte de Beaune reds are generally lighter in style.
Higher quality red and white wines in the Côte d’Or are typically aged in oak. Grand Crus may be aged in 50-100% new oak while Village and Bourgogne AOP wines may see little or none. Côte de Nuits red wines will also show more new oak than those from the Côte de Beaune. The top red wines typically remain in barrel for 15-18 months, whereas the best whites wines age for at least 12 months prior being in barrel.
Whole Cluster Fermentation, Bâtonnage and Élevage
There can be a range of styles of winemaking in the Côte d'Or, some red wine makers practice whole cluster fermentation, some de-stem entirely while others do partial whole cluster/de-stemming. Most white wines and all red wines undergo Malolactic Fermentation (MLF). In white wines, MLF converts tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, to softer-tasting lactic acid. This is usually done after the end of the primary fermentation but in Bourgogne it is not done to the extent that is commonly found in California such that the wine becomes overly buttery. Ageing white wines on the lees, bâtonnage, is common and some winemakers also practice élevage - the stirring the wine’s lees during barrel ageing. In Bâtonnage dead yeast cell (lees) break down and they release all sorts of compounds such as mannoproteins, amino acids, polysaccharides and fatty acids, which interact with the fermented wine. This interaction with the wine creates complexity, aroma and flavor compounds, palate weight and texture in a wine. While the main reasons for deliberate lees aging tend to be stylistic in nature, lees absorb oxygen, thereby reducing the risk of any unwanted oxidation of the wine and helps maintain overall wine stability.
Key Grape Varieties
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris (Pinot Beurot), Aligoté
Pinot Noir
Top Vintages of Bourgogne
Knowing the best vintages of Bourgogne is crucial in making the wise purchases. The following is a list of vintage evaluation from Jancis Robinson, MW.[8] The best years are in red.

A frigid spring delayed flowering and led to uneven ripening. Producers battled with hail (particularly in the Côte de Beaune) and summer downpours, but, despite the naysaying, a drier September allowed a small crop of balanced fruit with good potential.

Blighted by rot, as a damp summer across Europe made conditions hard for vignerons, with mildew a particular problem. The weather was erratic and bizarre, with heatwaves, hail, a cold spring, thunderstorms and all manner of meteorological mischief. The net results are very low volumes of variable quality – but overall vignerons are surprised and delighted by what resulted. One hallmark of 2012 looks to be soft tannins.

Disappointing quality with widespread rot and uneven weather conditions throughout the year. The results can be surprisingly good in parts, but 2010 is a much safer bet.

A return to the high acid norm after 2009, and some very good quality - especially in the Côte de Nuits - but volumes up to a third lower than average.
Finally, the Burgundians enjoyed a comparatively dry growing season with consistent warmth and no early season hail damage. Low acidity and ripe tannins should make these reds drinkable early

An accursed vintage in Burgundy, with coulure, mildew and hail all conspiring to damage yields and quality. Late September sunshine went some way to rescue the crop, however, although high acidity remains the hallmark of this vintage. 
A dank summer led to rotten Pinot Noir grapes and the need for extremely strict selection. The vintage is unlikely to notch up record scores.
Poor summer with vine health problems produced wines which at their best are very pure and expressive and at their worst just a bit too austere for comfort.

As in Bordeaux, a quite exceptionally good vintage, although many wines may go through a prolonged stage of chewy adolescence

Large vintage of far from flashy but pretty serviceable and certainly good value wines. Relatively light and crisp, for early drinking though the best may surprise in the long run
A small proportion of monumental wines from old vines were produced this heatwave year, but generally the frail Pinot Noir grape suffered raisening and made some very unusual wines indeed, some of which provide good, luscious drinking at about five years old but dry tannins are expected to make their presence increasingly felt.
Good vintage. Summer was not especially hot, though it was reasonably dry. Sugar levels were boosted in September but some grapes were adversely affected by scattered rains then. Sugar levels were quite respectable in the end and most wines showed their charms at an early stage.

Wet summer with some heat spikes. As for red Bordeaux from this vintage, a gentle hand was needed in the winery to retain delicacy and not emphasize the already notable tannins. Quite varied quality. Wines from low-yielding grapes will provide exciting long-term drinking but others are gawky. August hail in Volnay.
A difficult vintage for growers, with rain and rot during harvest. Rather soft, easy wines that were more successful in the Côte de Nuits than in much of the Côte de Beaune. Useful early drinking but showing signs of losing fruit by 2008

Exceptional quality and quantity. Powerful, charming and well balanced with great concentration and color - particularly in the Côte de Beaune. The Côte de Nuits was hampered by a little more rain. Tannins and pigments achieved sumptuous ripeness. A vintage to drink young or old.
Thick skins made for good colors but pretty tough and stolid wines in general.
Charming, early-drinking wines – most should have been drunk by now.

Remarkably high acidity has made its presence increasingly felt over the years in bottle. Some wines just too tart for comfort; others may eventually bloom.
Reduced crop of initially rather austere wines which took on fat in bottle and can provide delicious drinking now

A year to highlight Burgundy's infamy for variability as too many let yields balloon after the rains.

Underrated. Better than average: healthy grapes and well-colored, fruity wines that have lasted and developed well.
Rain at the wrong time again. Soft, tender wines to drink young.
Grapes had ripened before it rained and some wines from the Côtes de Nuits are excellent. Not to be overlooked.

A great success: rich and fragrant. The top vineyards made majestic wines but some lesser wines lacked lusciousness.
Nearly up to 1990, if not as intense. Some real charmers.
Tough and unusually backward, most are densely concentrated and the best repaid 20 years’ wait.
Natural ripeness was a problem so many over chaptalized.
A very tricky year of rain and rot. Careful growers avoided the dilution but not a year to seek out.
A problem-free year: delicious and fragrant young, but most should have been drunk.
Poor weather and unripe grapes. One to avoid.
A torrid summer and very mixed bag. A handful are brilliant but most are tainted by rot.
Large yields of soft, pleasant wines best drunk young
Underestimated at first: balanced and scented, though most are past it now
A late but uniformly good crop. Top growers made breathtaking wines. Now very rare.

Grand Cru Vineyards of Chablis
Grand Cru
Chablis Grand Cru: White
(This designation may be followed by the name of the climat in which the wine originates such as Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir)
Grand Cru Vineyards of Côte Nuit
Grand Cru / Wine Style
Ruchottes-Chambertin: Red
Mazis-Chambertin: Red
Chambertin-Clos-de-Bèze: Red
Chapelle-Chambertin: Red
Chambertin: Red
Charmes-Chambertin: Red
Griotte-Chambertin: Red
Latricières-Chambertin: Red
Mazoyères-Chambertin: Red
Clos-de-la-Roche: Red
Clos-Saint-Denis: Red
Clos-des-Lambrays: Red
Clos-de-Tart: Red
Bonnes-Mares: Red
Bonnes-Mares: Red
Musigny: White and Red
Clos-de-Vougeot: Red
Grands Échezeaux: Red
Échezeaux: Red
Richebourg: Red
La-Romanée: Red
Romanée-Conti: Red
Romanée-Saint-Vivant: Red
La-Grande-Rue: Red
La-Tâche: Red
Grand Cru Vineyards of Côte de Beaune
Grand Cru
Charlemagne: White
Corton: White and Red
Corton-Charlemagne: White
Charlemagne: White
Corton: White and Red
Corton-Charlemagne: White
Charlemagne: White
Corton: White and Red
Corton-Charlemagne: White
Bâtard-Montrachet: White
Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet: White
Montrachet: White
Chevalier-Montrachet: White
Bâtard-Montrachet: White
Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet: White
Montrachet: White

Wines Tasted

The following are the wines that were tasted in the French Wine Scholar program:

1. 2011 Vincent Giradin St. Aubin 1er Cru “Les Murgers Des Dent De Chien

A clear white wine, straw in color with green hues and moderate viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of apple, pears, melon, lemon meringue, with minor notes of wet stone. On the palate it is dry with high acid, light in body with a medium+ length citrus driven finish. This wine sells for $40.

2. 2012 Antoine Jobard Meursault “En La Barre”

A clear white wine, golden-straw in color with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of baked apples, crème broulet with a minor hint of butter, creamed corn and toasted bread. On the palate it is dry with medium+ to high acid and yet creamy and medium bodied with a long finish. A very fine well-balanced and elegant wine. This wine sells for $94

3. 2008 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

A clear white wine, golden-straw in color with a slight green hue and medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of caramelized apples, subtle notes of butterscotch, marshmallow, lemon pie with subtle notes of pencil shavings. On the palate it is dry with medium+ acid, it is medium bodied with a long finish. This wine sells for $120.

4. 2013 Regis Bouvier Marsannay Rose

A clear pink wine with moderate viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of strawberry candy, watermelon-juice and cranberries. On the palate it is dry with medium+ acid, light body with a long finish with flavors of lingering tart strawberries. This wine sells for $23.

5. 2011 Joseph Voillot Volnay Vielle Vignes

A clear red wine, ruby in color at the core to pink at the rim with moderate viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of cranberry juice that has been stored in a rubber tire, black cherries, and minor notes of anise, herbs and spice. On the palate it is dry with moderate tannins, medium+ acid and a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $50

6. 2011 Francois Bertheau Chambolle Musigny

A clear red wine, ruby in color at the core to slight garnet at the rim with moderate viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of cherry, ripe cranberries, strawberries, with minor notes of mushrooms and herbs. On the palate it is dry with moderate- tannins, medium+ acid and a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $60

7. 2012 Regis Bouvier Morey St. Denis “En La Rue De Verge”

A clear red wine, ruby in color at the core to slight garnet at the rim with moderate viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of ripe strawberries, bacon, smoke, and mushrooms with a hint of pepper and spice. On the palate it is dry with moderate tannins, medium+ acid and a moderate length finish. Out of the line up of Pinots this is the one that has what you’re looking for in a red Bourgogne! This wine sells for $56.

8. 2012 Domaine Pierre Guillemot Corton Grand Cru “Le Rognet et Corton”

A clear red wine, ruby at the core with moderate viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of cherries, anise, spice, pepper, cinnamon red-hots, and herbs. On the palate it is dry with moderate tannins, medium

[1] André Dominé, (ed) Wine (Germany: Tandem Verlag, 2008), 180.

[2] Desmond Seward, Monks and Wine (Crown Publishers, 1979), 37.

[3] André Dominé, (ed) Wine (Germany: Tandem Verlag, 2008), 180.

[4] Paul Lukacs, Inventing Wine (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013), 70.

[5] Julien Camus, Lisa M. Airey, Celine Camus (ed), French Wine Scholar Study Manual (French Wine Society), 89.

[6] Julien Camus, Lisa M. Airey, Celine Camus (ed), French Wine Scholar Study Manual (French Wine Society), 89

[7] James E. Wilson, Terroir (University of California Press, 1998), 108

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