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Cote d’Or – The Home of Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir has been grown on Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, or “Slope of Gold,” for nearly 2,000 years. Although countless studies have been carried to objectively distinguish what gives these wines such personality, there is something magical and unexplained about the greatness of the Cote d’Or. That said, there are some discernable factors that influence the style of different Pinots from the region.

The Cote d’Or is a southeast facing slope that has a wide range of microclimates and soil types. Several faultlines run through the region which have uplifted and exposed different layers of soil.

In general, the soil is less fertile and the climate more severe as the elevation increases. On the more elevated sites, grapes can struggle to fully ripen and harvest is typically a couple of week later. Pinot from these parts of the Cote d’Or has a lighter color and less body than it does further down the slope.

Lower elevations have richer, more alluvial soils and a less severe climate. Grapes have much less distress ripening in this more sheltered environment. Pinot Noir produced from lower elevations is usually quite dense, but may lack the finesse that the top properties are well-known for.

The best vineyards are found along the middle of the slope at about 800 feet above sea level. A marlstone outcrop known as the Argovien runs through this part of the Cote. This soil is quite fertile, but vine vigor is kept in check by the presence of eroded limestone from higher up on the slope. The result is Pinot Noir with exquisite depth and the all-vital finesse that has made this wine region one of the most well-known in the world.

The Cote d’Or is broken into two smaller regions: the Cote de Nuits in the north and the Cote de Beaune in the south. Although Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown in both regions, the Cote de Nuits produces the best, most age-worthy Pinots while the Cote de Beaune really has no parallel in the world in terms of Chardonnay.

Some of the most well-known Grand Cru properties in the Cote de Nuits are La Romanee-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, Les Musigny, Clos St-Denis, and Chambertin. Of all of these vineyards, Chambertin produces Pinot Noir with the most depth or “stuffing” which is often used to describe these wines’ incredible complexity.

Ben Bicais is the founder of calwineries.com/ Calwineries and is an avid calwineries.com/explore/varietals/pinot-noir Pinot Noir fan.

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