Just before the Hospices de Beaune wine auction on November 19th, the Burgundy Wine Council inaugurated a new designation for premium level Burgundy made exclusively from Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grown in Côte d’Or vineyards.
As the 14th regional Burgundy AOC, Bourgogne Côte d’Or represents the top end of the regional appellations, explained Pierre Gernelle, general manager of the union of Burgundy negociant houses and producers, who was with several producers as they poured their new wines for media at the Palais de Congrès in Beaune. “We see Burgundy regional appellation wines getting more attention in the marketplace, so we want to provide a better promise of terroir, because we are in Burgundy,” Gernelle explained.
In addition to the restriction of only using grapes from villages stretching across the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, Bourgogne Côte d’Or will have stricter plantation density requirements, Gernelle stressed, set at a minimum of 9,000 plants per hectare, as compared to a minimum of 5,000 plants per hectare for the other Bourgogne regional appellations. Production potential is estimated at 1,000 hectares, with about two-thirds red and one-third white.
Albéric Bichot of Maison Albert Bichot put it succinctly: “If you have a Bourgogne AOC that is near Pommard, it will be better than one that comes from Macon.”
To differentiate from village level wines, producers could include grapes from younger vines that would not necessarily be used in specific village appellations, said Sylvain Dussort, who poured his eponymous Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée des Ormes Bourgogne Côte d’Or.
Will consumers buy into the concept?
“I’m not sure,” said of Xenia Irwin MW, who works for Waitrose in the UK. “It depends on pricing and how they can define the quality level.”
Meanwhile, Frédéric Henry of Beaune based wine retailer Mes Bourgognes said that the initiative seems to be more glitz than substance. “It has a pretty name,” he said, “and it would amount to a higher priced regional appellation.”
Louis Fabrice Latour of Domaine Louis Latour said that on a general level the appellation probably would cost “about 20 per cent more” than the other 13 Burgundy regional wines, with a price point placed somewhere between regional and village-level wines.
Henry suggested adding specific information on back labels to indicate grape provenance for consumers, indicating specific village locations.
But Irwin countered that that could be interpreted by consumers as “declassified” village wine.
Latour said that he would not put any such information on his back labels because “village level wines are not associated with the regional appellation.”
Clearly thinking of the US wine merchants accompanying her, Burgundy negociant Jeanne-Marie de Champs said that front labels should indicate the grape Pinot Noir, so as to be clear that there would not be any Gamay in the blend, even if that is clearly part of the rules. The existing Bourgogne Rouge appellation permits the inclusion of declassified Beaujolais crus.
Several negociants said that the new wine would sell well in France, as a recognizable name, but would also be popular in international markets, from the US to Japan.
The Burgundy Wine Council is planning press tours in France to promote the new wine in September and October next year, with media events outside of France in 2019.