In terms of wine and wonder, Beaune is the capital of Burgundy. Giving its name to the surrounding Côte de Beaune, the town traditionally represented the whole of the region.
But things have changed of late. As Burgundy’s reputation has grown, the villages of the Côte de Beaune have had ever-increasing cachet. Today it’s not the villages, but the vineyards within those villages that capture the world’s attention. The notion of ‘terroir’, that every vineyard is unique because the soil beneath it is unique, has come to define Burgundy and its wine.
The present-day map of the Côte de Beaune is definitely large-scale. From atop the Corton mountain to the north of Beaune you can see the villages of Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix down the eastern flank. Pernand-Vergelesses is round the other side. Savigny-les Beaune is in the distance. But in each of these villages there are dozens and dozens of vineyards – grand cru, premier cru, village appellations – each named and each held in greater or lesser esteem.
And so it continues as you head south through Beaune into the vineyards beyond. We speak broadly of wines from Pommard, Meursault, Volnay, from any of the villages of the Côte de Beaune. And here again it is true: the road map reads like a wine list. But the geological complexity beneath these villages pulls us even closer. Where does Pommard end and Volnay begin? That’s easy. You can taste it.
Pommard lies between Beaune and Volnay where the Côte de Beaune makes a slight turn towards the Morvan. After Beaune, it is one of the larger vineyards. There are no grands crus, though there is a perennial debate about which of the best vineyards should be promoted. As in many of the best wine villages, the appellation is split by a combe with the village lying in the mouth of the valley. So here in Pommard, we speak of the north (Beaune) side vineyards and the south (Volnay) side vineyards. And that goes someway to explaining Pommard styles. But Pommard has a quirk: its best vineyards are not necessarily all situated on slopes. In fact, many are in the flatland north of the village. In addition, Pommard boasts the largest walled-in premier cru vineyard in Burgundy, the Chateau de Pommard.
Pommard has a reputation, forged in the 19th century, of being a massive beast of a wine. But look where it sits, between the south of Beaune and Volnay. Time, terroir and oenology have combined to show us a much more subtle Pommard, a wine that is richer and at the same time more elegant than its caricature. It can be deeply colored, and its berry fruit can be supported by cherry pit and plum. And yes it can develop wild aromas and chocolaty textures, but it will never be a tannic giant, but rather a full and gutsy, mouthwateringly rich, fruit-filled nugget.
If you are looking for the real deal in Pommard, look for Domaine Michel Arcelain, the Domaine Potinet-Ampeau, Marchand-Tawse, Domaine Albert Boillot. The Hospices de Beaune also produce several remarkable Pommard cuvees.
View our collection of wines from the Côte de Beaune region