Named after its principal village Nuits St Georges, the Côte de Nuits forms the northern half of Burgundy’s legendary Côte d’Or (‘golden slope’).It is a compact 20km strip running south from Dijon to Nuits St Georges with the best vineyards (Premiers Crus and Grands Crus) situated halfway up its slopes where the drainage, exposure and soils are at their best.
With 22 of the region’s 23 red Grand Crus, this is Pinot Noir country; most of Burgundy’s (and indeed the world’s) great Pinot Noirs are made here, along with a small number of high quality Chardonnays, including one tiny Grand Cru (Musigny). Quantities are minute, certainly compared with Bordeaux, and prices for the very best wines are thus high. Quantitatively however, the wines account for less than five percent of the region’s production.
It is the most northerly region in Europe making great red wines, and for that reason getting the Pinot Noir grape to ripen before the wet autumn sets in is always a challenge. In addition, the region is often hit by vicious hail and heavy rain during the growing season that can cause dilution and rot.
Along with the Côte de Beaune
, it is the most elaborate classification in the world, where the influence of terroir is most keenly felt. It is also the most fragmented: Clos de Vougeot’s 50ha, for example, is split between more than 90 growers.
The wines express many different styles but in general are weightier, firmer and more deeply-coloured than their Côte de Beaune counterparts. Gevrey-Chambertin, Vougeot and Nuits St Georges tend to produce more robust, masculine wines, while Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée are all finesse and elegance.
Côte de Nuit Villages wines can be made from a small number of villages, mostly in the far north and south of the Côte. They are usually red in colour, and are often good value. Hautes Côtes de Nuits is also mostly red and produced in the hinterland to the southwest of Nuits St Georges.