Best Values in Burgundy
“So close is the north of the Cote Chalonnaise to the southern tip of the Cote d’Or that it is surprising that most of its wines taste so perceptibly different, like slightly undernourished country cousins.”
Named for its proximity to the Chalon-sur-Saone to the east, a modern reappraisal may render the above assessment a little harsh. The hilly landscape of the Cote Chalonnaise is not as linear as the Cote de Beaune; the monoculture to the north is now replaced with vineyards dispersed on limestone outcrops among other form of agriculture. This is still the land of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir (with one curious exception), yet the higher altitude means a later harvest and more problematically a not-fully-ensured ripening of the crop. These set of circumstances do go towards explaining the differences between the Cote Chalonnaise and its more celebrated northern neighbor, yet the undercurrent of inferiority implied is not a straightforward sentiment. The wines of the Cote Chalonnaise are different indeed, but also often the best values in Burgundy.
In a wine sense, the Cote Chalonnaise is composed of five major communes that run along its central strip, and which give their names to the respective appellations.
In the north is Rully, where more white than red is produced. These are generally fresh, brisk wines where achieving ripeness is an annual concern. Of note is the Cremant de Bourgogne produced here when the vintage is judged too lean for worthy still wines.
South of Rully is Mercurey, inarguably the best-known appellation in the Cote Chalonnaise. The Pinot Noir here accounts for two in every three bottles of the region’s reds. These are generally firm wines, perhaps a touch rough around the edges but with the ability to age with grace. A Mercurey Premier Cru red from a decent producer is one of Burgundy’s true bargains. While this is solidly red wine country there are also very good Mercurey Blanc bottles that can be found.
Mercurey’s neighbor Givry is the smallest of the four and dominated by Pinot Noir. The reds here are generally lighter and more approachable than the ones to its north.
To the south lies Montagny, which confines itself to Chardonnay only. The fullest whites of the Cote Chalonnaise are produced here, and predictably can be fantastic value.
Finally, another commune of note circles us back around to the northwest of Rully, where the Bouzeron appellation is devoted to the other white of Burgundy – Aligote (and thus the curious exception mentioned above). This historically scorned grape gets center stage here, and the results can be quite pleasing.
In practical terms these are wines that will most often be mixed in together with the rest of the Burgundy reds & whites, so keep in mind the communes mentioned above to help you distinguish the Cote Chalonnaise. Of course, simply shopping by price point in your general Burgundy section will make these wines come off the page as well.
Click each wine for more info:
LOUIS LATOUR Rully Rouge 2014
Green’s Cash Sale Price - $25.99
CHATEAU DU BOURGNEUF Mercurey 1erCru En Sazenay 2015
Green’s Cash Sale Price - $29.99
LOUIS LATOUR Montagny 1er Cru Grand Roche 2017
Green’s Cash Sale Price - $19.99