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The Hill of Corton lies in the midst of a cluster of famous wine-growing villages – Ladoix-Serrigny, Aloxe-Corton, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-lès-Beaune – with, to the north, the southern end of the Côte de Nuits, where vineyards mingle with stone quarries (Comblanchien limestone). The vineyards lie at heights of 250-330 metres and form a kind of amphitheatre not found elsewhere in the Côte. The Hill of Corton produces white Corton-Charlemagne and (mainly) red Corton, described by Camille Rodier as " le roi des bons-vivants " (or " the king of the bon vivants "). Corton Grand Cru received its AOC status on 31 July, 1937. A small quantity of white wine is grown but only the reds have the right to add the name of their "climat" to that of the appellation.
Exposure is south-east/south-west (not an arrangement frequently found in the Côte). The hillside offers a text-book cut-away illustration of the local geology. The Oxfordian Jurassic limestone lying between Ladoix and Meursault is younger (145 million years) here than elsewhere along the Côte. At mid-slope the gradient is gentle and the soil reddish and pebbly, derived from brown limestone and rich deposits of marl with a high potassium content. The Pinot Noir grape is pampered here. The Chardonnay grape (which gives us the Corton-Charlemagne) occupies the top of the slope.
The extensive area covered by this Grand Cru and the large number of different 'climats' (named plots) it contains explain the observable differences in character among the wines grown here.
The rare whites (grown mainly in the climats of Vergennes and Languettes) have a keeping potential of 4-10 years. Colour: pale gold with green highlights. Mineral aromas (flint) blend with butter, baked apple, bracken, cinnamon and honey. Elegant and highly-bred, supple and well rounded, this unusual Chardonnay has much in common with Corton-Charlemagne.
White: white Corton is a natural match for shellfish, fish, poultry in cream sauce, and goat's cheese.
Serving temperature: 12 to 14 °C
The Corton reds are an intense velvety crimson, darkening towards magenta. Their generous aromatic expression is of fruit notes (blueberry, gooseberry, kirsch cherry) or flowers (violet),evolving towards underbrush, animal, leather, fur, pepper and liquorice. On the palate this wine is well-built, powerful and muscular and the chewy body comes to the fore.Firm, frank and fat, it requires time (4-12 years) to reach its peak.
Red: solid and opulent, Corton is a Burgundy's iconic - highly complex, impressively mouth-filling in a way that is at once sensual and structured. For this reason, strong soft-centred cheeses and blue cheeses are needed to tame it. But, without question, its closest companions are highly-flavoured meats that match its powerful flavours and intense aromas. Indeed this wine is sublime with roast or grilled beef, or any and all game (furred or feathered) roasted, braised or - naturally - in sauce.
Serving temperature: 14 to 16 °C
Burgundy Report: Arguably the of the decade producing consistently high quality wines the breadth of the Côte de Nuits. 1988 is a more complete version of 1985. This time the wealth of sumptuous fruit was matched by a firmness of structure gave us first class wines.
Prices rose at the Hospices sale by 35%, albeit after two quiet years, and growers also increased their prices though not by as much. Tasted later in 2000, the wines seemed still very much on the young side. Those at village level were singing, the premier and grands crus still tight.
Red Burgundy 1988 - The Weather
For once Burgundy escaped the pitfalls of frost, hail and rot. Spring 1988 was warm and gentle without a disastrous cold snap, leading to good flowering conditions in June, followed by hot, dry weather throughout most of July and August.
September was mostly fine and dry; some growers began harvesting in the 3rd week of the month but those who waited until the end of September were amply rewarded and produced the best wines.
In youth the wines were deeply coloured and well structured with very prominent tannins. Over the years they have become more integrated and harmonious, with the best wines now combining a very good balance of ripe fruit, crisp acidity and svelte tannins. They are drinking well now, although many of the top wines still have not reached their peak.