Picture the top reds of the Côte de Beaune, and you will doubtlessly envision crimson-hued pours of sensuously silky Volnay and chiseled, muscular Pommard. But with wines from such elite villages becoming harder to find and even harder to afford, the time has come for other appellations to deservedly step into the spotlight. Maranges, the southernmost appellation of the Côte de Beaune, was long overshadowed by its northerly neighbors despite its impressive terroir. Known for opaque reds with big tannins and significant aging potential, the village is not to be overlooked as a source of quality full-blooded Pinot Noir. Add meticulous vineyard management and old vines in top sites to the equation, and it is no surprise why Maranges is home to some of the best values in all of Burgundy. Didier Regnaudot is one of the appellation’s staunch traditionalists. He relies on his very old vines to produce richly concentrated fruit, opts for long macerations without adding cultured yeast, and eschews fining and filtration to protect the pulpous flesh that coats his wines’ chewy tannins. His top vineyard, Les Clos Roussots, is a mid-slope premier cru that yields a thick, dense Pinot Noir with the guts to age like the Maranges of old, but enough voluptuous fruit to provide pleasure in the near term. You may well visualize deep, dark splashes of sturdy Maranges upon contemplating Côte de Beaune reds after sipping this delightfully soulful nectar.
Didier Regnaudot is the type of vigneron we always dream of finding in the Côte d’Or. Alas, there aren’t many like him left. Didier is the fourth generation to manage his family’s property in the beautiful little town of Dézize-les-Maranges, which is on the southernmost edge of the Côte d’Or.
Didier works old Pinot Noir vines mostly planted right after World War II (some before!) on the steep hillsides just to the east of Dézize. The vines are cordon trained, and planted in the middle saddle of the hillside in deep clay and fossilized limestone. His formula is pretty simple: expertly managed vineyards, manual harvest, fermentation in concrete tank, long cuvaison, twelve months in oak, bottling without fining or filtration.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
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