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New Burgundy ‘appellation’ met with caution

A new level of Burgundy wines is coming, sitting roughly between the regional and village levels of the region's hierarchy.

As most media focused on the record-breaking Hospices de Beaune wine auction last week, journalists also tasted a brand new regional appellation, ‘Bourgogne Côte d’Or’, inaugurated in Beaune just two days previously.

Integrated as a Bourgogne Régionale AOC, it is not a new appellation per se, but rather the 14th regional Burgundy AOC.

However, it should be seen as the top of the regional pyramid, just below village level, said Cécile Mathiaud of the Burgundy Wine Council (BIVB).

Top Côte de Beaune red wines from our expert panel tasting – for Decanter Premium members

One key difference in quality is that Burgundy Côte d’Or vine planting density is set at a minimum of 9,000 plants per hectare, compared to a minimum of 5,000 plants per hectare for the other Bourgogne regional appellations.

Plus, only Pinot Noir grapes can be used for the reds, from vines grown across all villages of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, from south of Dijon to Maranges.

It’s estimated that 1,000 hectares of vineyard will be put towards the first Côte d’Or level wines, with about two-thirds red and one-third white.

Producers will be able to include grapes from young vines that would not necessarily be used in village level wines, said Frédéric Drouhin, president of the Union des Maisons de Vins de Bourgogne.

Louis Fabrice Latour, of Domaine Louis Latour, said that the new level of wines would probably cost ‘about 20 per cent more’ than for other regional level Burgundy wines, but they will be cheaper than village-level wines.

Merchants attending the Hospices de Beaune auction from outside of Burgundy appeared intrigued but cautious.

‘It would provide a certain cache, although I am not sure everyone would understand that Bourgogne Cote d’Or would be clear at that price level,’ said Xenia Irwin MW, of Waitrose.

One French retailer suggested adding specific village information on back labels to tell consumers about the provenance of the grapes used, but Irwin said that could backfire as being interpreted as ‘declassified village wine’.

US merchant William Friedberg, of AP Wine Imports, said that the front label should indicate the grape Pinot Noir, so as to be clear that there would not be any Gamay in the blend for the reds.

The BIVB is planning press tours in France to promote the new wine in the autumn of 2018 with media events outside of France in 2019, said the BIVB’s Cécile Mathiaud.

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