A Tour of the Côte de Beaune

Jun 9, 2006

This trip is my first impression of the 2005 red and white Burgundies. But it is an impression, and it’s important to remember that these are still unfinished wines. They have another 7 or 8 months to mature in barrel before being assembled for bottling. That period just before bottling is the end of the élévage. At that time, the wines generally show well, indicating that they are ready for the next phase, the long slow development in bottle. I will return in January 2007 for a second look at the vintage before my tasting of the wines in bottle.

Day 6, June 8: I tasted a wide range of Côte de Beaune wines and a handful from the Côte de Nuits. All wines were tasted non-blind in the cellars.

Since being purchased by Bollinger in 1999, Maison Chanson has been elevating quality under the watchful eye of managing director Gilles de Courcel and winemaker Jean-Pierre Confuron. The 2005s look to be the best range at this house to date.

The whites are focused and fresh, with clean lines and fresh acidity. I especially liked the Pernand-Vergelesses En Caradeux for its lemon custard, precision and intense mineral character. The Puligny-Montrachet Champ Gain also showed well, with a beam of acidity keeping the peach, hazelnut and honey flavors focused. Most impressive is the Corton-Charlemagne, from purchased grapes on the Pernand-Vergelesses side. It has great length and a vein of mineral.

The highlight of the company's Pinot Noirs are the reds from Chanson’s own vineyards, at the heart of which lie 10 premier cru Beaunes. I tasted 8. These offer a lesson in terroir for this large and often underrated commune.

The Clos du Roi and Teurons are round, fruity Pinots, with the latter possessing a little more density. The Champimonts, true to its sandy soil, is open and lacy, with finesse. The Grèves is rich and refined, with good concentration. A piercing note of cherry and very tight structure defines the Bressandes; the Clos des Fèves is more sauvage and minerally. The Clos des Mouches puts it all together, displaying a pure, blackcurrant flavor, density and elegance. The Clos des Marconnets, from a stony site, is darker and more brooding, with stiff tannins.

At Domaine Prince de Merode, Didier Dubois has been in charge of the vineyards since 1997. However, since he took control of the vinification in 2001, the quality of wines at this 15-acre estate has improved. Four Corton grand cru reds form the heart of the range.

The Corton Maréchaudes is the roundest of the four, with a blackberry note. The Corton Bressandes evokes wild cherry matched to a racy structure. The Corton Renardes is foxy, as the name implies, and less refined, yet tightly wound with sweet fruit. The Corton Clos du Roi offers pure cherry, combining both power and finesse.

At Domaine Joseph Voillot, Jean-Pierre Charlot cultivates 25 acres in the villages of Pommard and Volnay. These are wines of purity, full of fruit and silky textures and the structure to age well.

Tasting chez Voillot requires following Charlot around to one of the many cellars he has in the center of Volnay. The Volnay Les Champans is backward and firm, with a core of pure cherry. The Pommard Les Pezerolles is deep, dark and intense, yet with a raciness. The Pommard Les Rugiens is packed with rich cherry and mineral notes, but is very firm and needs about 10 years to really open, according to Charlot.

France Burgundy

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