Red Burgundy – Cote du Nuits

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Burgundy can be thought of as a well-bred family of children; each child possessing different appearances, different styles, and different behaviors.  Within this regal family is an undoubtedly salient set of fraternal twins, both dashing in looks and rivaling only each other in superior quality, none other than the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune.  These regions represent the teenage dream of being that set of all-star athlete fraternal twins that can’t help but excel in just about everything.  Every girl wants to date them.  Every guy wants to be them.  But just like any fraternal twins, even the nearly flawless ones, alongside the uncanny similarities come distinct differences.  James Beard award-winning author Jordan Mackay paid another visit to the San Francisco Wine Center to guide a class full of students who caught the Burgundy bug and help them uncover the deep side of Côte de Nuits.  Feasting their eyes on the impeccable wine list, the class fervently tasted a few Premier Cru wines followed by an impressive lineup of delightful Grand Cru wines from Clos Vougeot and plenty of Charmes Chambertin.  The students were more than pleased to end the class with a glass of 1985 Camus Pere & Fils Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru.  Here is a taste of what we learned.

Although both regions produce the two key Burgundian grape varietals, many would refer to the Côte de Nuits as the ‘Holy land of Pinot Noir’ while Côte de Beaune is dubbed as the ‘King of Chardonnay’.  Having been granted 24 of the 33 Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy, Côte de Nuits is highly dominated by Pinot Noir at about 95%.  It is a well-known fact that Pinot Noir from this region tends to be unmistakably deeper colored, heftier, and firmer than those of Côte de Beaune.  But why is that?  Well to be fair, attempting to fully comprehend the mosaic of soils that underlie Côte de Nuits, or Burgundy in general for that matter, is not for the geologically inept.  But looking at the overall picture it can be noted that the region’s soils are composed of a limestone base topped with mixtures of chalk, marl and red clay with rich alluvial soils found in the lower altitudes.  The Côte de Nuits bears a continental climate with little to no influences from the Atlantic; receiving long cool winters, short warm summers, and an unfortunate tendency for hail storms.  Apart from general climatic similarities, this region conspicuously differs from the wet and windier conditions of Côte de Beaune.  Another perceivable difference between the regions is the much narrower size and sharply sloped terrain of Côte de Nuits in contrast to the soft rolling hills of Côte de Beaune.  All aspects combined, Côte de Nuits ends up producing significantly less amounts of wine than Côte de Beaune.  Now, that sure was a mouthful of comparing and contrasting.  But as mentioned earlier, life is such for such high-profile fraternal twins.  The bottom line, could you resist dating either?  If you even tried to answer with a ‘yes’, Burgundy drinkers would argue otherwise.

-Julie Albin

Wine List

  1. Domaine Dujac  Morey St-Denis AC 2010
  2. Domaine Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2009
  3. Clos de Tart La Forge 1er Cru 2008
  4. Dominique Laurent Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Vaucrains 1er  Cru 2001
  5. Domaine Philippe Charlopin-Parizot Clos Vougeot Grand Gru 2000
  6. Domaine Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2003
  7. Domaine Ponsot Chapelle Chambertin Grand Cru 2001
  8. Domaine Federic Magnien Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 1998
  9. Louis Jadot Le Chambertin Grand Cru 1988
  10. Camus Pere and Fils Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 1985

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