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The vineyard-patchwork which extends for 30-odd miles south out of Dijon – the Cote d’Or – is endlessly fascinating. The hillsides which sit behind the villages, following the ribbon of La Cote, have been divided and sub-divided over the years. This is perhaps the most valuable agricultural land on Earth. Like so many of the world’s great wine regions, the origins of the Cote d’Or lie beneath the waves of a prehistoric sea. Sediments, rich in the calcium of the sea creatures who lived in its waters were laid down over the millennia and as the primeval sea retreated, exposing the limestone hillsides, the elements carved the south-east facing seabed ridge into the complex curves of hills and narrow valleys (known locally as ‘combes’) which make up the Cote d’Or today.
The current average size of a Cote d’Or domaine is a mere 7.5 hectares
The Cote has two halves, the northern Cote de Nuits and the southern Cote de Beaune. The Cote de Nuits is primarily a red wine district, home to the most magical Pinot Noir on the planet. All the major villages which hug the base of the hillside have distinguished vineyards and read like a roll-call of greatness: Gevrey Chambertin, Morey St Denis, Chambolle Musigny, Vosne Romanee and Nuits St Georges. The sweet-spot here is a consistent 250 metres altitude and is home to the very finest sites: the grands crus. Here Pinot Noir transcends its varietal to become a mirror for the land upon which it’s grown.
Burgundy is home to the greatest white wine produced anywhere
The Cote de Nuits dwindles after the final Nuits St Georges vineyard, before rising again at the gorgeous hill of Corton, which marks the start of the southerly Cote de Beaune. Red wine is the majority in this sector too but Chardonnay plays more than just a supporting role. The epicentre of white wine is in the grands crus, which straddle the boundary between Puligny and Chassagne – both of whom appended their village name with the most famous vineyard in their village: Montrachet. Meursault too, like Nuits St Georges to the north, has no grands crus but can produce thrilling Chardonnay from its string of highly regarded premier cru sites.
Pierre-Yves Colin and Jean-Marie Fourrier were both in their 20s when we started working together
Our focus in Burgundy, over the last 20 years has been to try to spot talent early and build a market over the long term. We tend not to chase stars – 120 bottles from a famous name may make our list look impressive but no one really benefits. Instead we follow the land, looking for up and coming growers with fabulous vineyards and connections, even in the less famous villages (Charlopin-Tissier’s Marsannay and Guillemot’s Savigny-Serpentiers, immediately spring to mind) where hard work and skill can often combine to magical results.
Outside finance and an ever-growing market have altered Burgundy for sure
Egos which were once curtailed by hard-graft and uncertain markets are now caressed by a sycophantic public who are seemingly prepared to pay any price for the ‘right’ names. Thankfully pockets of vrai Bourgignon remain and we try to maintain a roster of growers whose feet remain firmly rooted to the clay-limestone terroir of their vineyards; for it’s here that the grail of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay survives. Where the connection between grape-variety, perfect terroir and ever-present vigneron can create vinous fireworks from these hills.