Chambolle-Musigny is a small village of less than 400 people, located 19 km south of Dijon, in the centre-east of France.
It is an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in the Côte de Nuits, in the northern wine region of Burgundy. Predominantly devoted to red grape Pinot Noir, this village is renowned for producing some of its, and indeed the world’s, highest quality examples.
The ancient history of Chambolle-Musigny runs parallel to that of the Cote de Nuits and, more generally, Burgundy, up until 1882, the year when the village was named.
After the adoption of viticulture from the Celts in early ages, the province around Dijon later became a Roman settlement, which is when viticulture increased consistently from the 3rd century AD. This was during the era when a population called “Burgundians” settled in the area, whom the Romans sought help from during the invasion of several Germanic tribes.
The Dukes of Burgundy played a pivotal role in leading the transition process of the area from Medieval to early modern times. Although viticulture and winemaking was deeply influenced by Cistercians and Benedictine monks, between the 11th and 15th it was the Dukes of Burgundy that leveraged their networks and links with the Church to promote the wine, amongst other gems the area had to offer.
Particularly significant was the choice of appointing Dijon as the capital of the Duchy, one of the great European centres of art, learning and science of those times.
Wine and viticulture have always been the main business of Chambolle-Musigny and the name itself was coined, as was often the trend for the era, adding the name of the famous vineyard to the name of the village, thus “Musigny” was added to Chambolle. Le Musigny is in fact one of the two Grand Crus around the village, the other being Bonnes-Mare, the highest classification of French vineyards. Its addition to the village name, therefore, followed a precise marketing objective.
The AOC Chambolle-Musigny was created in 1936 and mandates the production of red wines only made predominantly from Pinot Noir.
Today, almost half of the vineyards planted in the area are either Grand Cru or Premier Cru. In particularly, Premier Cru wines in Chambolle-Musigny are often described as superior to those of same ranking vineyards from other villages.
Chambolle-Musigny benefits from a continental climate. As is the case for the rest of Cote de Nuits, being at the northern top of Burgundy, the village highlights a slightly cooler climate than the rest of the region. These conditions are believed to be the most suitable for Pinot Noir to express itself and reach its full potential.
The east facing slopes are at an altitude of 250-300 metres. In terms of soil, it has a thin layer of overly hard limestone rock, but fissures allow the roots to seek nourishment deeper into the ground. Finally, boulders and gravels at the bottom of the valley ensure good drainage.
Chambolle-Musigny has a surface of about 153 hectares of planted vines, the vast majority of which is actually Pinot Noir.
In 2007, 55 hectares of the total surface consisted of Premier Cru vineyards and the annual production averaged around 2,000 hectoliter per year.
The two Grands Crus, Bonnes-Mares and Musigny, have an AOC of their own. Bonnes-Mares covers about 16 hectares, while Musigny is just over 10.
Pinot Noir is the flagship grape of Chambolle-Musigny and the appellation rules mandate production of red wine only. Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are allowed for blending purposes only, however, this rarely happens.
Curiously enough, Le Musigny Grand Cru’s own AOC, separate from Chambolle-Musigny, allows white Chardonnay to be made from the vineyard, with the minuscule production renowned for its luxuriousness, something that is characterised by its price.
There are 25 vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny that are classified as Premier Cru. The wines made with grapes from them can be named “Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru” with the addition of the vineyard name at the end. If the grapes come from separate Premier Cru vineyards, the label should say “Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru” only.
The AOC mandates production of red wines only and mainly from Pinot Noir. White grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are rarely used and for blending purposes only, within a limit of 15%.
The permitted production per hectare is 40 hectolitres. In terms of alcohol, village-level wine must be of at least 10.5%, for Premier Cru it is at least 11%. Wines are usually aged in French oak barrels.
Wines from Chambolle-Musigny have been described as the most “feminine” among the Côte de Nuits’ reds. This definition relates to the typical floral notes of the wines, providing a certain element of elegance rather than power.
Pinot Noir’s flavours from the area have fluorescent tones of violet, alongside the customary fruit. Rich earthiness is not uncommon and the general feel of the wines is quite delicate.
For ageing, these wines can age well and still be enjoyable after 20 years. However, they can also be approached early.
Among the most popular producers, in Chambolle-Musigny there is Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Domaine Leroy and Domaine G. Roumier.
Domain Taupenot-Merme was founded in 1963, after the marriage of Denise Meme and Jean Taupenot. The estate owns 13 hectares of vineyards spread across 19 different AOCs, in both the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits.