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2010 Côte de Beaune Villages, Leroy
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
With its three musketeers of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault, alongside the imperial Corton-Charlemagne, the Côte de Beaune is home to the finest Chardonnays in the world. It hosts seven of Burgundy's eight white Grands Crus, along with a single red Grand Cru. Ironically though, much more red wine is made in this southern half of the Côte d'Or than white.
Stretching 30km south past the town of Beaune to Cheilly-lès-Maranges, the Côte de Beaune has a more expansive feel and gentler slopes than the Côte de Nuits. Its finest Chardonnays are characterised by an incomparable intensity and complexity, while its Pinot Noirs generally have softness and finesse as their calling cards. The best reds come from Beaune, Pommard and Volnay, and the powerful Grand Cru of Corton.
As in the Côte de Nuits, the fragmentation of the Côte de Beaune's vineyards brings the single biggest hurdle for any wine lover, namely the unpredictability of its wine. The human factor is paramount, and sadly too many lazy or unscrupulous growers and merchants have produced disappointing wines from some of the region's greatest names, while their more talented and quality-minded neighbours craft exquisite examples from the same terroir. Happily, quality is now higher than it has ever been here and organic and biodynamic methods are increasingly popular – especially amongst the younger generation.
Wines labeled `Beaune' come from the appellation adjoining the town while those labeled Côte de Beaune (red or white) emanate from a group of vineyards on the hill above. Côte de Beaune Villages is a red wine that can be made from a number of lesser, named villages in the region, while Hautes-Côtes de Beaune (mostly red) is produced from vineyards in the hills to the west of the appellation, divided in two by St Romain. These tend to be light yet often fine wines, especially in hot years like 2003 and 2005.