In a nutshell: Good value, reliable reds and whites.
Main grapes: Pinot Noir, Gamay (red); Chardonnay, Aligoté (white).
To the immediate south of the grand white wine vineyards of the Côte de Beaune lies the Côte Chalonnaise, named after the town of Châlon-sur-Saône (where in ancient Gaul wine shipped upriver from the south would be offloaded for overland transport northwards). Whereas vines are by far the principal crop of the Côte d'Or, this gentle landscape is much more variably agricultural with the odd vineyard punctuating rolling meadows. The wines, made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir except for the famous Aligoté specialist village of Bouzeron, generally taste like country cousins of those from the Côte d'Or, but their early drinkability and generally lower prices make them extremely useful. During the 1980s winemaking in the Côte Chalonnaise showed such a high level of consistency that in many cases it made up for the district’s lack of top-quality sites and its wines offered the best value in greater Burgundy. Inevitably, however, the market is fast correcting itself and the price of wines from Côte Chalonnaise’s four appellations are about the same as those from the Côte d’Or’s less well-known villages.
Givry (nothing to do with Gevrey-Chambertin, one of the great villages of the Côte d'Or) produces mainly red wine and is an extremely reliable appellation. The grower Joblot makes wines with far more sophistication than is usual and Domaine Thénard is based here.
Mercurey, also predominantly devoted to Pinot Noir, is the district's most important appellation by far. There are several premiers crus vineyards which are capable of making wines with lovely supple fruit. Faiveley's La Framboisière bottling is a reliable reflection of each vintage. Émile Juillot is one of the district's stars.
Montagny, dedicated to Chardonnay, is a name brought to thousands by négociant Louis Latour's longstanding purchasing arrangement with the Buxy co-operative here, one of the most dedicated and innovative in France. They also make pretty good sparkling wine in the form of Crémant de Bourgogne.
Rully, (easy to confuse with Reuilly near Sancerre) is fairly evenly balanced between growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Domaine Vincent Dureuil-Janthial is the star here. Eric de Suremain of Monthélie also brings some Côte d’Or class to the appellation.