Once in a while, life presents us with a pleasant surprise. It may come in the form of a windfall, an unforeseen visit, an unexpected inheritance, or even as a minor miracle. Finding and choosing wines of quality and unequivocal value from one of the planet's most expensive wine regions at a time when the dollar is at an all-time low against European currency certainly fits the abovementioned criteria and constitutes a most pleasant surprise, especially if that famous and often overpriced wine region were named Burgundy. Yet, life is full of unexpected delights and minor miracles, especially if we take the time to savor each day and are willing loose ourselves from pre-conceived notions.
A small growers' cooperative in Buxy on the Côte Chalonnaise of southern Burgundy has turned out to be one of life's pleasant surprises. Well, if the truth be known, we were initially less than euphoric about tasting yet another Bourgogne Blanc at what we figured would be a stratospheric price, but we were willing to at least try to keep an open mind and adhere to the adage that "one can never drink a label or a price tag." And are we glad we did! Vignerons Réunis de Buxy has fashioned a beautiful Bourgogne Blanc and quite a few other charming red and white Burgundies as well. In fact, this group of thirty small growers has shamed some of the big names in Burgundy with their exemplary 2006 Côte Chalonnaise offerings, most notably the cooperative's superlative Bourgogne Blanc, which comes from vineyards surrounding the tiny village of Buxy.
Côte Chalonnaise: A Source of Unexpected Pleasures
The Côte Chalonnaise is perhaps the least known of Burgundy's wine regions, but this sequestered set of low hills and tiny villages is not likely to remain unnoticed for much longer. Increasingly, the Côte Chalonnaise is becoming the source of many unexpected pleasures and a veritable treasure trove of beautiful wines at affordable prices. Situated to the east of the sleepy little town of Chalon-sur-Saône from which the region inherits its name, the Côte Chalonnaise is for all intents and purposes a continuation of the fabled Côte de Beaune to the north.
As in all of Burgundy, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir comprise the predominant grape varieties on the Côte Chalonnaise, with allowance made for small amounts of Pinot Blanc for white wines and Pinot Liebault and Pinot Beurot for reds. The latter two Pinots are nearly identical to Pinot Noir. Four important communes dominate the region: Givry, Mercurey, Montagny, and Rully – all bona fide Burgundy appellations. In Givry and Mercurey, the emphasis is on the production of excellent red wines, as Pinot Noir reigns supreme in their vineyards. Meanwhile, Rully and Montagny specialize in fashioning from Chardonnay white Burgundies that are both flavorful and easy to drink. The tiny town of Buxy is part of the Montagny appellation, which in recent years is fashioning wines that can compete with many of the more renowned names of the Côte de Beaune, where comparable wines cost two and three times the price. The wines of the Côte Chalonnaise that are grown just outside the boundaries of the four major communes or exceed the legal production for their respective communes are sold as Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Rouge, and they constitute some of the region's best values and unexpected pleasures, so enjoy!