Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Corton and Musigny: Burgundy Grand Cru appellations that go both ways

In a previous post I highlighted the fact that the limestone soils of the Côte de Nuits were laid down in the Mid-Jurassic while those of the Côte de Beaune date from the Upper Jurassic period. The Côte de Nuit soils tend to have a higher limestone content and be more favorable for the growth of Pinot Noir while the calacreous (consisting of, or containing, calcium carbonate) clayey soils of the Côte de Beaune are best suited for the growth of Chardonnay. And this rule holds true for the entirety of the Côte d'Or Grands Crus vineyards with two exceptions: Corton -- which grows predominantly red wines in a white wine region -- and Musigny -- both red and white wines in a red wine region. I examine these two vineyards further in this post.

Musigny Grand Cru

The Musigny vineyard is associated with the commune of Chambolle-Musigny, a village located in the heart of the Côte de Nuit.

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The Grand Cru vineyard sits at elevations ranging between 260 and 300 meters with gradients of between 8 and 14%. The vineyard is located between two small valleys -- Chambolle and Orveau -- and is further divided into three Lieux-dits (named plots): Les Musigny (sometimes referred to as Les Grands Musigny; 5.9 ha); Les Petits Musigny (4.19 ha); and La Combe d"Orveau (0.77 ha). All of Les Petits Musigny and most of Les Grands Musigny is owned by Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé while Domaine Jacques Prieur owns the entirety of Combe d'Orveau.

Red wine production in Musigny averages 286 Hl (38,038 bottles) annually while white wine production averages 24 Hl (3,192 bottles).

Corton Grand Cru

The Hill of Corton heralds the beginning of the Côte de Beaune wine region and, one would think, a sea of white wine.

The top of the hill is covered by dense woodland which gives way to cap rock of Rauracian limestone. Vineyard-capable limestone soils begin at about 345 meters and slope gently to the valley floor through "terroirs of distinction." Limestone soils and Chardonnay flourish on the western side of the hill while Pinot Noir kicks in on the western side beginning at 330 meters elevation. Two great Grand Cru vineyards share the hill: Corton (mostly red) and Corton-Charlemagne (white).

Source: burgundyonline.com

The Corton Grand Cru appellation is associated with the famed communes of Aloxe-Corton, Ladoix-Serrigny, and Pernand-Vergelesses. The vineyard is 94.78 ha in size (4.53 ha of which is planted to Chardonnay) and sits at elevations ranging between 250 and 330 meters. The Chardonnay vines are planted in the climats of Vergennes and Languettes.

While 4.5% of the Corton Grand Cru vineyard is devoted to Chardonnay vines, 6.19% (216 Hl or 28,728 bottles) of the Grand Cru production is white wine. There are 26 Lieux-dits in the appellation and the red wines are authorized to name the Lieux-dit on the bottle following the appellation name. White wines are not so allowed.


So why, of all the Côte d'Or Grand Cru vineyards, are these two the only ones to grow both red and white grapes? In the opening paragraph of this post I mentioned the affinity of Pinot Noir for older mid-Jurassic soils and Chardonnay for younger Upper Jurassic soils. In Figure 4.5 of his book Terroirs, Wilson clearly shows the Upper Jurassic soils beginning just below the cap rock and travelling downslope past the Corton-Charlemagne/Corton boundary. In my opinion, red wines are grown on the hill due to the presence of the mid-Jurassic soils (plus the morning sunshine associated with being on the eastern side) while white wines can be grown in the Corton appellation as a result of the presence of Upper Jurassic soils in the highest portions of the vineyard.

According to bourgogne-wines.com, the soils in Musigny are enriched by red clay in the upper sections and are more clayey amd less limey than other Nuit vineyards. This clayey character could account for the Chardonnay grown in this vineyard.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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