Visiting Beaune – An Overview of the Côte de Beaune

Visiting Beaune – An Overview of the Côte de Beaune

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The Cote de Beaune, the southern half of the Côte d’Or, swings in a gentle southwesterly arc from Aloxe-Corton, four miles north of Beaune, to Saintenay, some sixteen miles away. It comprises some fine red wine growing areas, with the grand cru Corton at Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny and premiers crus of some distinction at Beaune, Pommard and Volnay, and enjoyable wines throughout the region. Here the white wine is particularly distinguished, with grands crus Corton Charlemagne at Aloxe Corton (with portions at Ladoix-Serrigny and Pernand-Vergelesses), and Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet at Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet, while fine premiers crus dot the landscape at Meursault.

The entire region could be given the once over in a morning, with plenty of time left over for a superb luncheon at the Hotel Lameloise in Chagny, and a leisurely drive back to Dijon to catch the TGV train for the hour and a half ride back to Paris. That would be better than not visiting at all, but plan to do yourself a favor. Spend some time, relax, and see the vineyards and taste the wines. That will give you the wine experience of a lifetime, providing valuable reference points for many years to come. Instead of worrying about the office, or your portfolio, or the NFL, or whether tickets will ever be available for the latest Broadway hit, you may find yourself mellowing as the tastes of extraordinary wines succeed one another.

You should discover why this region is by acclamation the home of the finest dry wines in the world. Then you may reflect, just what is so “dry” about a Montrachet, or a Corton Charlemagne? These wines have layers of complexity, a delicious taste, and elegant styles that offer delight and defy you to match them with your favorite dishes. Some are lean and elegant, while others are produced in a more sumptuous mode, depending upon the terroir, the producer, and the weather vagaries of the vintage year. They are in the end only “dry” as compared with “sweet” dessert wines, such as Sauternes or Tokay. And they are not susceptible to point scores.

Your headquarters for excursions here will surely be in the medieval city of Beaune. It is very picturesque, and seems devoted to wine, shops and displays abounding. The Hotel Dieu, a striking early Renaissance building which was devoted to care for the poor, must be seen. It is here also that wine celebrations are held each November, and auctions held in the celebrated Hospices de Beaune for charitable purposes of wine grown in vineyards that have been deeded to the Hotel Dieu over the centuries. (When the wine is bottled, you will note the special Hospices de Beaune designation on the label.)

Under the streets of the city are honeycombed cellars holding many thousands of bottles of maturing wine. Many well known firms have their offices here. Their wines are from the entire region, so you might wish to orient yourself by checking in, and then visiting a well known wine producer for an overview. When we visited with Robert Drouhin he was an informative host, and he poured wines ranging from a Chambolle-Musigny premier cru Les Boudets (located below Bonnes Mares on the way to Morey-St. Denis) to the Beaune premier cru Clos des Mouches, perhaps the best of the many red wines produced in Beaune’s vineyards. (His white Clos des Mouches is also very fine.) Drouhin told us that Clos des Mouches (“flies”) was actually something of a misnomer. It should really be Clos des Abeilles (“bees”). The wine was good, somewhat tannic, not really opened yet, although there was an emerging taste of cherries. Drouhin then took a deep breath from his empty glass, assessing his wine. “Sometimes the empty glass is an indication of the wine’s future,” he said.

They will welcome you, too, if your arrangements are made in advance of your visit to Beaune. The Maison Joseph Drouhin is at 7, rue Enfer, 21200 Beaune (telephone 03-80-24-68-88:FAX 03-80-22-43-14). (I don’t know why they are on Hell Street. You might ask when you visit the establishment.) Other wine producers in Beaune with a reach throughout the region include Bouchard Pere et Fils, Maison Louis Jadot and Louis Latour. Each has a helpful website as well, so you can get some idea of the breadth of their interests and wine cultivation. I hadn’t realized until checking the Bouchard Pere et Fils website, for example, that that concern had purchased in 1998 the William Fevre wine producing concern in Chablis.

Maison Louis Jadot has a comprehensive website, highlighting their 150 different wines, with maps and relative locations of the vineyards. This might be information to download before your trip, as it will help you locate yourself on the country roads of the Burgundy wine country, many of which seem to lack any identifying signs. The Louis Latour website has tasting notes of the last few vintages as a welcome feature.

SARL Louis Latour is at 18 rue Tonneliers, 21200 Beaune. Their telephone is 03-80-24-81-00, and their website is Maison Louis Jadot is at 21 rue Eugene Spuller, 21200 Beaune (telephone: 03-80-22-10-57: FAX 03-80-22-56-03). Their website is and their email address is [email protected] . Bouchard Pere et Fils is at 15 rue du Chateau, 21200 Beaune (telephone 03-80-24-80-24: FAX 03-80-22-55-88), and their website is You will spend a pleasant couple of hours planning your visit to Beaune.

Next, we will take a close look at some of the celebrated vineyards of the region.

Bill Shepard is Bonjour Paris’s wine editor, and the author of
Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines: Taste Is for Wine: Points Are for Ping Pong.