This is the perfect day for looking at the changing, autumnal colours of Burgundy vineyards in the Côte d’Or. Still touches of green or lime green here or there, but more intensely yellow, gold and old gold through to orange and occasional flashes of carmine.
The Côte d’Or – literally the ‘golden slope’ – got its name from the autumn colours on the escarpment that runs for about 55 kilometres from Dijon south-west beyond Beaune, down to Maranges. Yet more than that, the name of the vineyard gave the name to the local département – equivalent to a shire or county.
Nearly all départements in France are named after geographical features – overwhelmingly rivers or mountains. A few – such as the two Savoies, are named after a historical region, but that is rare. Two, however, have a name derived from local agriculture. One is a spirit – Calvados, in Normandy, named after the apple brandy which is made there; the other is the Côte d’Or. Thus such is the renown of the wines made on it, this administrative region of 8760 km2 takes its name from a narrow, short strip of vineyard land.
You could also think that, echoing the old-gold gleam of a good aged Montrachet, the name comes from the colour of the white wines here. More prosaically it’s possible to see in the name a reflection of the value that the wines now bring to the vignerons and negociants of the region. Yet maybe, in the most recent years, it could be the value brought merely because of the ownership of the land. With the top vineyard land now selling for 10, 13 even more than 30 million euros per hectare those who sit on this soil are also sitting on gold. The impact which this will have on the future economy and social structure of the region is complex – and worth returning to in the future.