There are places in this world so perfectly suited to winemaking that we often can’t help but rave about them... that is, when we’re not silent with awe. Burgundy’s regal and mystical Corton-Charlemagne is decidedly one region whose wines take our breath away. Every. Single. Time. Surrounding the hill of Corton just north of Beaune, red wines are prevalent, but for good reason, Corton-Charlemagne has become the premiere vineyard for white wine in the sub-region. In fact, it’s the only white Grand Cru to be found until about 20 miles to the south in the cluster of Montrachet parcels.
|The Corton hill in Burgundy, France|
The hill of Corton is a monolithic defining feature of the landscape, rising above the town of Aloxe-Corton, its slopes draped with neat rows of vines, while the crest – looking like it has grown a healthy head of hair – is capped in forest. On the southwest side of the hill is a piece of land gifted by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne to the Abbey of Saulieu in 775 AD. As legend has it, Old King Charlemagne was a big fan of wine, but his wife didn't care for the way red wine stained his beard. So, they compromised, and Corton-Charlemagne would become known as the birthplace of some of the finest Chardonnays the world has ever tasted.
The Chardonnay vines are planted on the upper reaches of the slope where the soil is predominantly limestone. At this elevation, the vines are less at risk of damaging spring frost and benefit from nearly unobstructed southern exposure. Down the slope where the soil is heavier with clay, Pinot Noir is more likely to be found, where it would also fall under a different appellation name.
Already respected for centuries for producing some of the most expressive, full-bodied and extremely age-worthy white wines on earth, the Corton-Charlemagne appellation was officially codified in 1937.
The experts at Bourgogne-wines.com note that young Corton Chuck exhibits pale gold color that deepens with age to yellow and even amber. They can exude a delicate bouquet but also feature buttery notes of baked apple, citrus fruits, pineapple, lime, juniper, cinnamon, and flint. Filled with powerful exhilarations, “Corton-Charlemagne is an astonishing demonstration of what the Chardonnay grape is capable of ... Rarely do we see such a perfect synthesis between grape variety and terroir.” We couldn't have said it better ourselves.