turn of the new millennium was a special time for many reasons, but in
particular it marked an important event in the Couchois region, just to the
south of Maranges in Burgundy. For here it was that a new Appellation was born
– the Bourgogne Côte du Couchois.
in the land surrounding the town of Couches is ancient and, as is often the
case here in Burgundy, was introduced by monks, as far back as the year 731.
Blueprints for vat-houses and presses still exist which show the industry was
present in the sixteenth century. Interestingly, Couches was also situated near
an important iron ore works which sprang up in later years, and due to the heat
created by the smelting activities, lucky workers were entitled to generous
quantities of wine each day (though of an alcohol level of around 4%, well
below today’s wines.) It nestles on the left flank of the Côte Chalonnaise, 14
kilometers west of Mercurey, the largest town and the best-known appellation of
the Côte Chalonnaise.
communes produce Couchois wines which, although not as well-known as some of
their neighbors, surely should be famous: Couches (the eponymous village with
its fascinating castle); Dracy-lès-Couches; Saint-Jean-de-Trézy;
St-Maurice-lès-Couches; Saint-Pierre-de-Varennes; and Saint-Sernin-du-Plain,
all produce red wines in appellation Bourgogne Cotes de Couchois from the Pinot
Noir grape. (White wines remain appellation Bourgogne, but an application for
the Cotes de Couchois status is ongoing).
on the slopes near the banks of the River Dheune, producers here have some of
the best views in France to enjoy as backdrops to their farming. The climate
here is continental, meaning fairly late ripening. This is strikingly similar
to the southern Côte de Beaune; the village of Santenay lies only 10 kilometers
to the north.
primary soil types here are clay-sandstone and limestone, with granite coming
into play as you go further west towards the Morvan. This subsoil, along with
the climate, produces wines of great power, clarity and nuance. Bright cherry
red with ruby hues, they offer a panoply of summer fruits on the nose –
cherries and blueberries, with some spicy leatheriness, and even a little whiff
the wines, there is lots to do in the locale too; the excellent Galerie D’Art
of the acclaimed mosaic artist Elaine M Goodwin is located in Couches; and of
course the Château de Couches is a very popular tourist destination. There are
good reasons for this; built in the 11th
century, and sometimes known as the Château of Margaret of Burgundy (and wife
of Louis X), it has recently been restored and serves as an excellent example
of the famous glazed Burgundy roof tiles. Visitors can see underground
passages, medieval gardens and romantic park lands, before retiring to discover
the local Couchois wines.