These three winegrowing areas share a similar geological base that dates back to the Jurassic era. Several million years ago, geological shifts on the earth’s crust created the Alps mountain range and made the Bressan rift collapse, which led to the creation of a unique landscape with outcrops of different layers. These layers of rock are the legacy of different eras and are at the origin of the unrivalled wines of the Bourgogne region.
The subsoil of the Côte de Nuits, the Côte de Beaune and the Côte Chalonnaise is a series of folded geological layers that have been deformed and broken up over millennia. They feed into the sumptuousness, complexity and diversity of the great wines of Bourgogne.
The Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne vineyard was a gift from the Emperor Charlemagne
This vineyard on the hill of Corton was a given as a gift in 775 by Charlemagne to the Collegiate of Saint-Andoche in the town of Saulieu. Its marly clay-rich soil produces a wine with rare finesse, which was granted an AOC Grand Cru in 1937.
Thrown up during the tectonic shifts that created the Alps range, the many different strata from the Jurassic period were laid bare by a fault rupture during the Tertiary era. Created from the distortion of a shared geological base, very different subsoils lie in very close layers. Clay-limestone in nature, they are the legacy of some very different eras. From alluvial plains to the tops of hills, each plot produces a wine with a unique history and unique qualities.
In the Côte de Nuits, formed some 175 million years ago, as in the Côte de Beaune, which is a little younger by some 25 million years, an agglomerate of scree created rendzina (shallow soil formed by the weathering of the bedrock) and brown limestone soils.
A vine’s roots can reach down as far as 10 yards into the soil to draw their energy, which is why there is so much character in the wines they produce.
Farther south, the Côte Chalonnaise and the Couchois sit on a rocky limestone foundation from which sand, flinty clay and more marly soils emerge. These geological formations, legacies of the Jurassic era and before, are part of the northernmost tip of the Massif central. The white wines produced here come from vines grown on clay-limestone soils, but the reds express themselves better where there is less clay.
To find out about all the different nuances of these winegrowing areas, follow the Route des Grands Crus between the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits. Or take the Grande Route des Vins to explore the Couchois and the Côte Chalonnaise.
For more than 2,000 years, the grape varietals of Bourgogne have flourished on these unique soils.
The Pinot Noir grape particularly enjoys the gentle slopes of the limestone hills with good drainage thanks to a high stone content.
• On the Côte de Nuits and the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, this famous varietal makes for some remarkable, profound and subtle red wines.
• On the Côte Chalonnaise and in the Couchois, the Pinot Noir grape enjoys a south-facing location to bring vigor and character to the wines of Mercurey, Givry and Rully.