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Corton-Charlemagne


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The Grand Cru of Charlemagne is practically never used, and Corton is almost entirely used for red wine, so the hilly vineyards of the Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru AOC cover the great majority of white wine production on the Corton hill. The white wine, which is based on Chardonnay, is all that is produced, with no supplementary red wine coming under the scope of the classification. In certain areas, the Corton and Corton-Charlemagne AOCs overlap, but few producers break with the tradition: Red Pinot Noir comes from Corton, and white Chardonnay from Corton-Charlemagne.

The Grand Cru mostly covers the higher part of the Corton hill appellations. Lieux-dits or other suffixes are rarely used, so most of the wine labeled Corton-Charlemagne should be exactly as expected. It is a full-bodied, round, nutty and buttery white Burgundy, without the exceptional balance of Montrachet but with more earthy flavors and lower prices. It is rarely intense enough to be unapproachable, even early on, although it is indeed better aged.

History

Like the other hill AOCs, the Corton-Charlemagne AOC was created in 1937. About 2,500 cases of Chardonnay have been produced there annually since then.

Climate and Viticulture

Corton-Charlemagne (and this goes as well for the similar but obscure Charlemagne appellation) is located on the higher part of the Corton hill. The Corton hill is itself wonderfully optimized for wine production, with concentrated limestone soil and perfect weather and rain conditions. The soft slopes of the hill are further helpful, as flat land is always inferior to slightly--or even extremely--sloped vineyards.

The climate, worthy of Grand Cru, is helped by low yields and extremely concentrated efforts from almost all the serious producers. Viticulture in Corton-Charlemagne, like most of the good Grands Crus, is taken very seriously. Just the slightly cooler temperatures and the efforts of these growers make Corton-Charlemagne worthy of its Grand Cru status.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

Quality variance in Corton-Charlemagne is nearly nonexistent. In fact, the wines of nearly all the domaines that produce wine here, even négociants such as Drouhin and Latour, would have to be considered world-class. There are really no slackers in the small field of producers that make Chardonnay in Corton-Charlemagne.

But if only for descriptive purposes, we list eight producers that seem to be particularly reliable and widely available.

Subregions

Unlike in Corton, there are no lieux-dits in Corton-Charlemagne.