The Côte Chalonnaise offers some of the most reasonably-priced wines in the whole of Burgundy, not only from inexpensive ‘generic’ Côte Chalonnaise Bourgognebut also from a handful of renowned appellation contrôlée villages: Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry and Montagny. Named after the region’s county town Chalon-sur-Saône, the Côte Chalonnaise lies just south of the legendary Côte de Beaune. However, unlike the Côte de Beaune with its single continuous slope covered in vines, the rolling hills of the Côte Chalonnaise are a visual patchwork comprising orchards and meadows too. The vineyards, planted on limestone slopes like the Côte de Beaune, are situated at slightly higher altitudes. Harvest therefore tends to be later in the Côte Chalonnaise yet while its wines may be less rich, they offer something of the style of the Côte de Beaune.
The Côte Chalonnaise region produces red and white wines from several wine-making villages, from north to south Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry and Montagny. All Côte Chalonnaise villages are classified for red wine (Pinot Noir) or white wine (Chardonnay and Aligoté) production according to their terroir – soils, slopes, exposition and so forth. Depending on quality, the wines may be sold as ‘generic’ Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Rouge (white and red Burgundy) while higher quality wines are sold under the village appellation.
Côte Chalonnaise – white wines
Generic Bourgogne Blanc from the Côte Chalonnaise typically show pleasant fresh apple aromas, crisp acidities and clean textures and represent excellent value for money. The Côte Chalonnaise’s higher-quality white wines come from the appellation controlée villages of Montagny, Rully, Mercurey (small quantities) and Bouzeron. - Montagny makes perhaps the most consistently impressive of the Côte Chalonnaise whites. It is the southernmost appellation of the region, benefiting from slightly warmer conditions that give typically richer, fuller white wines. Montagny can be labelled premier cru and better wines have a similar style and intensity to minor appellations of the Côte de Beaune, without the price tag. Montagny therefore represents some of the best-value white wine in the whole of Burgundy and is a favourite with many white Burgundy lovers. - Rully is fast attaining popularity for its well-priced, often excellently-made white wines. Rully wines are lively and tonic, with green apple fruit, crisp acidities and light, creamy texture. Leaner than Montagny, Rully’s white wines are nonetheless delicious, particularly from warmer vintages and top sites such as Premier Cru Rabourcé – try Olivier Leflaive’s stunning example. - Mercurey is also worth noting for the quality of its white wines, though production is small. Its wines fall somewhere between the styles of Rully and Montagny, offering fresh and baked apple fruit and some of Montagny’s creaminess, particularly from premier cru sites. - Bouzeron is the only appellation in Burgundy dedicated to the indigenous grape Aligoté, and was classified as a Côte Chalonnaise appellation only in 1979. Oft-maligned, Aligoté is nevertheless capable of great results in the hands of meticulous, sympathetic winemakers, the Aligoté of Aubert de Villaine (proprietor of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) being a case in point.
Côte Chalonnaise – red wines
The Côte Chalonnaise’s generic Bourgogne Rouge can be very good indeed, particularly from the south of the region where slightly warmer temperatures give richer, fruitier wines. Higher quality Côte Chalonnaise red wines tend to come from village appellations, the most acclaimed being Mercurey and Givry, though Rully also makes decent red wines. All villages boast privileged sites classed as premier cru , capable of producing wines with that extra dash of class. - Mercurey is by far the most important village of the Côte Chalonnaise in volume terms, and 90% of its production is red. Mercurey’s rendition of Pinot Noir is not unlike that of a minor Côte de Beaune appellation, offering attractive red fruits and firm structure with a rustic edge softening with age. - Givry is another primarily red wine appellation, making vivacious, cherryish reds, softer than Mercurey. - Rully’s northerly position gives its red wines a lean, austere edge in cooler years, however in warmer vintages Rully Rouge shows some of the pedigree of the Côte de Beaune a few miles north.
The Côte Chalonnaise and its wines – in a nutshell
The Côte Chalonnaise’s white wines are largely made from Chardonnay, with the exception of those from the village Bouzeron, whose AOC laws decree that it must be made from the Aligoté grape.
Côte Chalonnaise red wines are made from the Pinot Noir grape.
Côte Chalonnaise finest white wines can be every bit as good as – and quite a bit cheaper than – village wines from the Côte d’Or, particularly from named villages like Rully or Montagny, and from premier cru sites.
The Côte Chalonnaise is the source of very good Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy’s sparkling white and rosé styles made in the traditional method from Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir.
Little known fact...Aligoté white wine is regularly used as the ‘mixer’ for crème de cassis in kir, the famous Burgundian aperitif.
White grape (Chardonnay or Aligote?) from Domaine A&P de Villaine