Ahhh, Burgundy. At once the simplest and the most complicated wine region in the world. The simplest because there are, aside from the red Gamay in the region’s deep south (Beaujolais), and the rarish white variety Aligote, Burgundy is a region that has just two grapes, one white and one red, and Lord what giants they are. The white is Chardonnay and the red is Pinot Noir, and both are varieties that have been exported from their home in Burgundy to vineyards in every corner of the globe. The complexity comes with all of the names: the overarching Cote d’Or that is then subdivided into the Cote de Nuit and the Cote de Beaune, and then a level down into the names of the villages: Meursault, Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard, etc. and then into hundreds of named vineyards within these towns that are then classified into various “crus” – crus classes, premier crus, grand crus – all of which lend their peculiar terroirs to these two great grapes, but especially the ultra site-sensitive Pinot Noir.
This evening’s wine is a Pinot Noir from a region called Haute Cotes de Nuits. This section of Burgundy lies exclusively west and mostly south of the Cotes de Nuits proper, near the northern segment of the Cotes de Beaune. This sub-region contains some of the highest elevation vineyards in all of Burgundy (hence the “Haute” part of its name which means “high” in French). Haute Cotes de Nuits’ soil is composed mostly of limestone, and most of its vineyards are east-facing (which means lots of morning sun). These two factors combined with the region’s higher altitudes conspire to produce wines that are very eleganta and balanced “middle-weights”, and in a very meaningful way, they are representative of a sort of middle ground or even a distillation of all of the shockingly varied styles of wine that spring from this truly great wine region, and they come to the market at a much fairer price than many more celebrated names that often deliver poorer value, or at very least, far less consistent results in the glass, but with far more character than any basic “Bourgogne Rouge”. Bottom line for me, Haute Cotes de Nuits is the place to start when you want to start your journey into the convoluted depths of serious red Burgundy.
The menu was a triumverate of classics: Pea soup to start with herb-rubbed roasted chicken as the main course, with basic roasted potatoes to accompany – so simple but so good if I don’t say so myself.
Domaine Bertagna Haute Cotes de Nuits “Les Dames Haugettes” 2010
Pinkish brown transparent ruby color. Very pretty but still ever-so-slightly funky and minerally nose of cherry and plum fruit backed up by secondary notes of juniper berries, subtle mixed brown spices, and dried violets. In the mouth the wine has a medium weight with a beautifully balanced character overall with a fine, velvety texture, and slightly austere but still sweet tannins with flavors of wild raspberries, blackberries, ripe red currants, and strawberry preserves supported by elegant flavors of roasted chestnuts, caramel, and rose petal jam. Very clean cocoa and cranberry finish. A really solid red Burg.