Cote Chalonnaise: Bourgogne Most Underrated Wines 1: Inroduction

Me standing in a vineyard just behind my father’s home in Givry!

For long wines from the Cote Chalonnaise have been ignored because they were “wampirized” by the big Bourgogne “negociants/dealers” who found very practical to mix them with other wines and sell them as better-quality straight Bourgogne appellation bottles.

But times have changed and especially the new generation of wine growers have rebelled and gone their own way, proving that quality for quality their wines were better value than their “cousins” up north. The term “cousins” is what the the so-called specialists often call Cote Chalonnaise wines when comparing them to the celebrated nectars which have made Bourgogne known all the World. I certainly beg to differ. Cote Chalonnaise wines have simply matured into a variety of their own.

Côte Chalonnaise is a subregion of the Burgundy/Bourgogne wine region of France. Côte Chalonnaise lies to the south of the Côte d’Or continuing the same geology southward. It is still in the main area of Burgundy wine production but it includes no Grand cru vineyards. Like the Côte d’Or, it is at the western edge of the broad valley of the river Saône, on the rising ground overlooking the town of Chalon-sur-Saône which is about six kilometers out into the plain. To the north, across the River Dheune, lies the Côte de Beaune. To the south is the Mâconnais. The grapes of the region are predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with some Aligoté and Gamay also grown in vineyards spread over a stretch of 25 kilometers long and 7 kilometers wide of undulating land in which vineyards are interspersed with orchards and other forms of farming.

The wine-producing communes of the Côte Chalonnaise are, from the north: Bouzeron, the only communal AOC for Aligoté still wine; Rully, which has 23 premier cru vineyards and is known for its white wines as well as being a center for Crémant sparkling wines production; Mercurey, which with 30 premier cru vineyards is the largest volume producer of the region, its wines being nearly all red; Givry, with 17 premier cru vineyards producing mostly red wines; and Montagny, which produces only white wines in its 49 premier cru vineyards.

Visiting La Maison Des Vins in Chalon sur Saone

La Maison Des Vins in Chalon sur Saone has done invaluable work since 1982 to make the wines of the region better known to the general public and connoisseurs alike.
It offers their own selection twice a year, choosing the best 122 wines of Cote Chalonnaise in one single Wine shop with the help of a blind tasting jury.
The chosen wines will be sold there at the producers’ prices (lower than anywhere else!) for the following 6 months!
The Restaurant de La Maison des Vins on the second floor (equiped with elevator and physically-impaired people facilities) will introduce you to the regional gastronomy served with the wines of the Cote Chalonnaise in a very quiet part of the city near the very wide Saone River.
Both are a must-visit before you venture through the hilly country in search for your unknown nectar!

La Maison Des Vins
Promenade Sainte Marie
711OO Chalon sur Saône
Téléphone : (33)03-85-41-64-00
Fax: (33)03-85-41-99-83

The Restaurant de la Maison des Vins
Tel : (33)03-85-41-66-66
Fax : (33)03-85-43-82-25

Amphorae found in the region

The Côte Chalonnaise is named after the town of Chalon-sur-Saône, located on the Saône. Its location made the town an important trading center of the Celts in Gaul and was known as Cabilonum. The region was later used by the Ancient Romans with wine being one of the commodities traded up and down the river. More than 20,000 amphorae stamped with Roman emblems have been found in graves in this area, and 1,000 were discovered at the bottom of the Saone River apparently thrown overboard by a Roman trader who discovered the practicality of Celtic oak casks!

South of the village of Santenay in the Côte de Beaune region is the city of Chagny which begins the Côte Chalonnaise, although the city itself does not produce wine. On the other hand Maranges, although lying in Saone et Loire is not part of Cote Chalonnaise yet. The climate and vineyard soils of the Côte Chalonnaise are very similar to those of the Côte d’Or, though the rainfall is slightly less. However, unlike the Côte d’Or, the vineyards of the Côte Chalonnaise do not run along the slopes of a single escarpment but rather are three isolated on patches of limestone. The first patch of vineyards located northwest of Chalon-sur-Saône includes the villages of Bouzeron, Rully and Mercurey which is separated by only a few kilometers from the second patch of vineyards around the village of Givry. Located due west from Saint-Rémy and southwest of Chalon-sur-Saône this patch is nearly 5 kilometers from the third patch of vineyards that make up the Montagny region.

Cote Chalonnaise Country

The landscape of the region is much more agrarian than other parts of Burgundy with pastures and orchards interspersed among vineyards. The soft rolling hills of the area reach altitudes between 750-1,050 feet (230-320 meters). These hills provide some protection from frost and hail damage. The soil is predominately limestone mixed with sand and clay and the occasional iron deposit. Around the city of Mercurey, the soil has a high concentration of iron-enriched marl. The diversity in slopes and soils creates a myriad of microclimates that can greatly influence the varying quality of wine from the Côte Chalonnaise, even among vineyards labeled as premier cru.

All wine produced in the Côte Chalonnaise qualifies for the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise though it is more often declassified to the generic Bourgogne AOC because of the higher name recognition of the later. Sparkling wine made from the region is usually labeled as Crémant de Bourgogne. The Côte Chalonnaise has five village-level AOCs. They are, from north to south: Bouzeron, the only communal AOC for Aligoté still wine; Rully, which has 23 premier cru vineyards and is known for its white wines as well as being a center for Crémant sparkling wines production; Mercurey, which with 30 premier cru vineyards is the largest volume producer of the region, its production being nearly all red; Givry, whose 17 premier cru vineyards also produce mostly red wines; and Montagny which produces only white wines and has 49 premier cru vineyards. There is currently no Grand Cru classed vineyards in the Côte Chalonnaise.

I will start introducing the wines of each appelation from the next article with the qualified help of my friends at La Maison des Vins!

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Jefferson’s Table, Wheeling Gourmet, 5 Star Foodie, Frank Fariello, Oyster Culture, Comestilblog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
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