When the Côte de Nuits was originally named, like the Côte de Beaune, it took the name of the town through which most business was conducted. Nuits-St-Georges was this town. At the time, and ever since, it has been very important for its role in the wine business, and for the amount of wine that passes through there. The wine grown in its vineyards is considered less important, but nonetheless this is a very underrated and interesting village for winemaking.
Nuits-St-Georges wine also uses the town of Premeaux-Prissey for its vineyards, which make up approximately 757 acres of prime Burgundian growing land. The two villages together make up about 11.5 square miles. Some of this terroir makes good white wine, but since the Nuits-St-Georges appellation is so much dominated by red wine, it is fairly rare to produce white wine under it. The red seems to add up to about 130,000 cases each year, with the whites coming in at only around 3,500.
Like Beaune on the south side of the Côte d'Or, Nuits-St-Georges is a regional center, meaning that many wineries have their headquarters there. One of them is Domaine Faiveley, which played an important part in the early development of the Nuits town and also makes some excellent wine within its borders.
Robust and woody, the darkly colored and flavored wines of Nuits-St-Georges can be some of the top reds for their pedigree--and even the village appellation almost always makes trustable wine. From most Premiers Crus it's hard to go wrong, which is why this village is considered more solid than even some of the more heralded, but less reliable, villages. Though there are no Grands Crus in Nuits, for buyers looking for solid, ageworthy red Burgundies at a price lower than any of the top villages, there's hardly a better place to look.
Nuits-St-Georges itself has a long history: from the very beginning, since its cultivation by nuns in the Middle Ages, it has played a part in Côte de Nuits wine development, and it was from this town that the escarpment took its name. The village was active for this as early as the 17th century, although at that point--and still now--Beaune was considered a bigger regional hub for Burgundy wine.
Domaine Faiveley was started in 1825 in Nuits-St-Georges, and still has its headquarters within the borders of that town. Nuits-St-Georges itself became an appellation in 1972, far later than many of the surrounding villages, and was allowed to call its wine Nuits as well as Nuits-St-Georges. No Grands Crus were designated. Whites were allowed, but the village quickly made a name for its red wine, so they have become extremely rare nowadays.
Climate and Viticulture
The villages of Nuits-St-Georges and Primeaux-Prissey lie to the south of the Côte de Nuits, especially Primeaux-Prissey, which is close to the southern end of the escarpment. As such, the climate is a tad warmer, which makes for wine of less precision and concentration--explaining why the Nuits appellation has no Grands Crus. However, its weather conditions are still very favorable for wine production, and make wines of exceptional richness rather than the precision realized in the northerly appellations.
The main differences between Nuits and the more prestigious villages are in the soil. Nuits has chalky, rocky soils underlaid by a base of limestone. From terroirs designated Premiers Crus, the soil will have more concentration and the wine a little more finesse--often these vineyards are on a slope.
- Pinot Noir: Nuits-St-Georges reds, which make up over 95% of village and Premier Cru production, are usually made from 100% Pinot, although the cheaper cuvées may have a little Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris. The Pinots are very robust, similar to Gevrey-Chambertin's, but often lack Gevreys' distinctive flavors of black cherry and smoked game. The fruit will often be a little lighter, ranging extensively from cherry to raspberry to plum, but the main emphasis will be on strong woodier notes such as fig and smoky oak. These distinctive wines will age to a richness of sweeter fruit and chocolate, but this will often not happen until at least 5 years after vintage. Some exceptional examples may need 10 years. After they have peaked, the wines are often capable of aging longer, with some village wines able to keep evolving even for up to 20. This is rare for Pinot Noir, even in many Grands Crus, and is one of the village's top selling points.
- Chardonnay: Despite the tremendous amount of wine produced in Nuits-St-Georges (almost as much as Gevrey-Chambertin) white wine plays a very small part of that. Domaine l'Arlot and Domaine Henri Gouges are the two top producers, making wine of generally high quality for under $100, but these cuvées are cultish for their unusual flavor and location.
There are so many producers in Nuits-St-Georges, and many of their wines have no expert ratings pedigree at all. Fortunately for the consumer, Nuits is a fairly reliable appellation, and most of the wines here can be counted on to provide good flavor and ageability, if they're not the final word on complexity. In fact, great but not world-class wines are the specialty of Nuits, and this village does this better than perhaps any other in Burgundy. Here are 14 good producers; all except Leroy are reasonably priced and widely available. These wines' Premier Cru offerings are discussed below.
- Bouchard Pere et Fils
- Domaine Robert Chevillon
- Bruno Clavelier
- Domaine Forey Pere et Fils
- Domaine Henri Gouges
- Domaine Jean Grivot
- Dominique Laurent
- Domaine Leroy
- Domaine Meo-Camuzet
- Lucien Le Moine
- Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg
- Domaine Jacques Frederic Mugnier
- Domaine Perrot Minot
Nuits-St-Georges has no Grands Crus, although critics have compared many wines from the Premier Cru of Les St-Georges to Grand Cru cuvées. Lieux-dits rarely offer higher quality than Premiers Crus, although Les Lavières is a particularly important one. Generally, though, Nuits's 41 Premiers Crus make up most of the quality winegrowing, and are worthy of some exploration.
- Les Argillières
- Aux Argillas: The main wine here is Domaine Méo-Camuzet's powerful cuvée, which when aged will show flavors of rich dark fruit and minerals.
- Aux Boudots: Rivaling Les St-Georges in quality, Aux Boudots has few wines that lack an outstanding pedigree. It's hard to go wrong with most producers, although the wine is usually more expensive than other Nuits Premier Crus. Domaine Jean Grivot's is austere and intense early on, but with age its dark, stylish flavors will ripen. Méo-Camuzet makes a Grand Cru level wine here with pure aromas of smoke and fruit, mixed into a rich, strongly flavorful, liqueurish wine. Leroy's style is similar, but the fruit more wild and chocolaty. Both of the latter cuvées would be intriguing early on.
- Aux Bousselots: Robert Chevillon makes a great wine here, with oaky sweetness and spiciness plus elegant red fruit and chocolate flavors.
- Aux Chaignots: There is a choice of no less than four top cuvées from this great vineyard. Domaine Henri Gouges' is the most rustic, and needs time to show its meaty, powerful flavors. Faiveley's is fresh and shows dark fruit and minerals, but little finesse at first. Chevillon's is the sweetest, but has contradictory powerful notes, and so also needs time. The most elegant comes from Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg; this ripe, flowery cuvée has plenty of depth and fruit to be either enjoyed early on or savored for several years.
- Aux Champs Perdrix
- Aux Cras: A somewhat uncommon but nonetheless highly reliable Premier Cru. Domaine Bruno Clavelier makes the top wine, which shows rich but intense black fruit and minerals freshened by an herbaceous element.
- Aux Murgers: The heavily oaked, rich wine from Méo-Camuzet is one of the best here, although its fruit and spice flavors sometimes need time to develop more complexity. Few wines from here have a poor pedigree.
- Aux Perdrix
- Aux Thorey
- Aux Vignerondes: The primary wine here comes from Domaine Leroy; although prohibitively expensive, it offers an amazing texture and pure but intense fruit. If you spend the money, make sure to age it for a decade or two. More down-to-earth wines come from Faiveley, but they're much less impressive than some of Faiveley's other cuvées.
- Les Cailles: In this leading Premier Cru, there are three top wines. Domaine Robert Chevillon's cuvée, full of intense earthy fruit, is complex enough to handle plenty of aging. Two négociants, Bouchard and Lucien Le Moine, also make good wine here, with aromatic fruit and spice that is perfectly accessible at a young age, but good enough to be worthy of aging.
- Les Chaboeufs
- Château Gris
- Chênes Carteaux: The best wine comes from Henri Gouges; a liqueur of ripe herbs and chocolate, it has darkness and depth and needs time to harmonize.
- Clos des Argillières: Main wine here seems to be Bouchard's cuvée; though backward at first, and always highly concentrated, it shows great dark fruit and flowers tinged with all kinds of earthy and herbal notes.
- Clos Arlot
- Clos des Corvées
- Clos des Corvées Pagets
- Clos des Forêts Saint-Georges
- Clos des Grandes Vignes
- Clos de la Maréchale: Nowadays the primary wine here is from Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier of Bonnes-Mares, Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses and Musigny fame; this is a similarly grand wine for a fraction of those prices. Smoky flavors of dark fruit, meat, and pepper make for a highly unusual and great wine, which is within striking distance of top Les St-Georges or Vaucrains cuvées.
- Clos des Porrets St-Georges: The main wine here comes from Domaine Henri Gouges; it starts out powerful but should age well and show great richness and flavor in its maturity. Otherwise, there are few wines here.
- Clos St-Marc: Bouchard Pere et Fils seems to have the only cuvée here, although there's no monopole label on the bottle. The rich, seamless cuvée can be accused of being simple but in the best vintages is a unique fruit bomb in this village of powerful, austere wines.
- Les Crots
- Les Damodes: A common, highly reliable Premier Cru for outstanding wine; few wines here will be disappointing. Two top négociant-bottled wines here are from Faiveley and Lucien Le Moine; the Faiveley is spicy but closed at the beginning and needs time, whereas the elegant Le Moine can be drunk young.
- Les Didiers
- En la Perrière Noblot
- Les Hauts Pruliers
- Les Perrières: The Chevillon here is rather minerally for the producer, and probably needs age to show its best.
- Les Porrets St-Georges: A great Premier Cru; although there are few cuvées here almost all of them are significant. Bouchard Pere et Fils makes one of their strongest Nuits here, with soil-powered black fruit, spice, and oak notes making a powerful perfume. Faiveley's example is similarly elegant, although fresher and drinkable early. Both of them, however, are worthy of age. Note that Faiveley labels theirs Poréts-St-Georges.
- Les Poulettes
- Les Procès
- Les Pruliers: This is a great Premier Cru with few slackers in its lineup. Two classically dry and very intense cuvées are worthy of buying and putting in the cellar for 10+ years: those from domaines Robert Chevillon and Henri Gouges. The Chevillon may become chocolaty-rich and spicy, while the Gouges can look forward to a future of smoky fruit.
- La Richemone: This Premier Cru is dominated by Domaine Perrot Minot's fabulous cuvées. La Richemone comes from 70-year-old vines and has amazing wild fruit and earth notes once aged for the proper amount of time. La Richemone Ultra, which comes from 110-year-old vines, has more power and yet more ripeness. The latter is one of the most ageworthy and certainly one of the best cuvées of Nuits-St-Georges.
- Les Roncières: Dominique Laurent's Roncières' heyday was in previous years, but it remains one of the top cuvées here. Chevillon's is amazingly pure, with Gevrey-like aromas of black fruit and smoked game spiced up by minerals. Grivot's is more smoky, and also gamy, but has more pleasant notes of raspberry and spice. Grivot's can be drunk early, but Chevillon's should also be pristine after a few years of aging.
- Rue de Chaux
- Les St-Georges: A common, outstanding Premier Cru, although the prices have been driven up far beyond bargain level. This would be Nuits-St-Georges' Grand Cru, if it had one, and the village, originally named Nuits, took its name at some point. Les St-Georges is on an approximately equal footing with other "underrated" Premiers Crus such as Volnay's Taillepieds and Clos de Chênes, Pommard's Rugiens, and Gevrey-Chambertin's Clos St-Jacques. In general, when a winery has land here, it's their best Nuits-St-Georges wine. Domaine Robert Chevillon is a prominent exception, their best cuvée coming from Les Vaucrains. Still, Chevillon's silky but amazingly powerful Les St-Georges shows tons of fruit, flowers, chocolate and earth flavors, and is one of the vineyard leaders. Faiveley's wine is a similar "iron fist in a velvet glove"; this vibrant wine can age for 20 years easily. Gouges' cuvée is similarly powerful but vibrant, but more liqueurish, its flavors running the gamut from intense fruit and game to sweet chocolate. Dominique Laurent rivals all of them with both its young-vine and old-vine Les St-Georges; with deep flavors of smoky fruit and oak spice, these powerful concoctions will be Grand Cru level after 15-20 years if not immediately.
- Les Terres Blanches
- Les Vallerots
- Les Vaucrains: Some of the top cuvées in Nuits-St-Georges come from here, and few producers are unreliable. Domaine Robert Chevillon's is good enough to overshadow his Les St-Georges, which in itself is a leader; his Vaucrains shows smooth dark fruit, game, and chocolate flavors that age into a seamlessly ripe, concentrated wine. Domaine Henri Gouges also makes great wine here; a smoky, earth-powered style, this doesn't rely on fruit and as such needs to be aged for its harmony to show. For more immediately accessible wines try Dominique Laurent's vibrant raspberry-flavored cuvée, and Lucien Le Moine's exotic but similarly energetic example—although neither would suffer from a little aging.