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Côte de Nuits

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The northerly end of the Côte d'Or limestone escarpment, the Côte de Nuits, is Pinot Noir's exclusive domain. Nowhere else in the world is Pinot as legendary as it is in the Côte de Nuits. In contrast to the Côte de Beaune, the northern part of the Côte d'Or really only grows one grape, although the village of Marsannay is more diverse. As such, Pinot Noir's flavors can rarely be found in such purity or concentration as in the Côte de Nuits, despite erstwhile rivals from the Côte de Beaune Grands Crus and Premiers Crus and up-and-coming wines from California, Oregon, and New Zealand.

As for comparison to the southerly part of the Côte d'Or, which is called the Côte de Beaune, the Côte de Nuits has only nine winemaking villages versus the Côte de Beaune's 18. As such, there are fewer selections of village-level and Premier Cru wine. But the northern end has the last laugh with a whopping 24 Grands Crus to trump the Côte de Beaune's eight. As a result, the Côte de Nuits is home to more of the world's most prestigious wine. For the many Pinot Noir lovers that come here time and time again, it can't be outdone anywhere in the world.


The Côte de Nuits has a more intriguing wine history than the Côte de Beaune, although there are many parallels. In the 400s B.C., winemaking was introduced to the area, and when the French government developed, many royalty and papacy members took a liking to the red wines that were being produced here.

As winemaking technology was brought to France, exports began to increase, and a market for the Côte de Nuits reds, already world-class at the time, developed. This was in part due to Louis XIV's physician recommending Côte de Nuits wines for their healthful aspects, an angle which had yet to be discovered in other winemaking regions of France. This was an outstanding boon for the winemakers, as royal demand and the associated pedigree of the wine brought prices into the realm of the exclusive.

The royalty of France fell apart, but the limited production and the outstanding flavors and depth of Côte de Nuits wines kept the prices high. AOC regulations cemented the reputation of the wines, and Premiers Crus and Grands Crus were protected from competitors unfairly utilizing their names. The Côte de Nuits' prices have always been more exclusive than those of the Côte de Beaune and they were unaffected by the 1976 Judgement of Paris, as no red Burgundies were judged. Pleasantly for Côte de Nuits growers and their high-priced wines, the area remains the unquestioned best place for Pinot Noir in the world.

Climate and Viticulture

The limestone escarpment known as the Côte d'Or divides into two parts, the Côte de Nuits being the northerly part. Although Pinot Noir fares excellently in the Côte de Beaune, the fact is that the appellation is a bit too warm for it to reach its deepest and most pure flavors. Pommard, Volnay, and Aloxe-Corton, the primary villages for Côte de Beaune red wine, lie in the north of the slope.

Clearly, then, the slightly cooler Côte de Nuits is a more optimized location for Pinot Noir wine. The limestone is excellently concentrated, in combination with dozens of other soil types, and in addition the weather conditions are perfect enough to give the majority of Côte de Nuits vintages potential for greatness.

But another factor is important: in the Côte de Nuits the viticultural concept of terroir matters more than anywhere else in the world. Vineyards right next to each other and even owned by the same producer (take the Grands Crus of La Tâche and Romanée-Conti) can taste completely different, and the only explanation for this is the miniscule differences within soil.

Grape Varieties

Pinot Noir is the king here, and there are no appellations in the Côte de Nuits that do not produce at least a majority of Pinot Noir. All but one of the Grands Crus here makes red wine from Pinot only, and that one (Musigny) makes only a small amount of white. Pinot Noir's fruit flavors reach new levels of depth and sophistication in the Côte de Nuits, although occasionally competitors from other parts of the world will spring up and level with the best Côte de Nuits cuvées, but this happens rarely enough for these Grand Cru vineyards to still be the unquestioned leaders. In addition, Pinot from here can age longer than anywhere else, with the stunning Romanée-Conti vineyard's wines needing 20 years just to reach maturity and lasting for 35+.

Major Producers

The usual Burgundian négociants have their Côte de Nuits properties. A few, such as Faiveley, clearly concentrate on the Côte de Nuits more than the Côte de Beaune.

Appellations have all the power in the Côte de Nuits, and a Grand Cru is almost guaranteed to be good from whatever producer you purchase it from. However, several "boutique" producers are greatly famous in the Côte de Nuits, and as such we list a few of them here.


Unlike the Côte de Beaune, the Côte de Nuits is not itself an AOC. The "generic" appellations for wine produced here are Bourgogne Hautes-Côte de Nuits and Côte de Nuits-Villages. Neither is very common, but the Côte de Nuits-Villages is the better of the two on average.

But the best wines here unquestionedly come from within one of the nine villages that comprise the Côte de Nuits.