Domaine Etienne Delarche, Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne
Domaine Etienne Delarche, Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne

Domaine Etienne Delarche, Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne

Burgundy, France 2021 (750mL)
Regular price$150.00
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Domaine Etienne Delarche, Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne

We didn’t expect it this early. Nobody did. In fact, we were quite literally the first people in America to taste Delarche’s new release, and while the buzz behind 2021 Burgundy is deafening, I must admit today’s Grand Cru cuvée still transcended the hype. So, consider this your first and final notice for Delarche’s resplendent and majestic Corton-Charlemagne because when it comes to Grand Cru Chardonnay in the illustrious Côte de Beaune, you’re staring at the undisputed value champion.


Aside from its consistent excellence and luxuriousness, one cannot ignore the prime positioning of raw material: Domaine Etienne Delarche’s choice parcels in this legendary site are adjacent to producers who charge several hundreds for their own bottles. It should also be mentioned that 2021 Burgundies are being priced through the roof and allocations are woefully limited, and still, Delarche’s exquisitely opulent Charlemagne easily remains the “best buy.” Truly, I cannot think of another Grand Cru Côte de Beaune bottling with this price-quality ratio. Up to six bottles per person, free shipping on two.


No Corton-Charlemagne offer is complete without a recounting of the vineyard’s epic history. It takes its name from a former Holy Roman Emperor, who gifted the vineyard to the religious community of Saint-Andoche de Saulieu in the year 775. According to legend, it was once an all-Pinot Noir vineyard, from which the hard-partying Charlemagne (Charles the Great) enjoyed many a bottle—staining his white beard in the process. Seeking to clean up his beard, if not his act, the emperor’s wife had the vineyard re-planted to Chardonnay. Even without the fascinating folklore, it still ranks among the greatest Chardonnay sites in the world.


Delarche, for my money, has one of the strongest top-to-bottom value lineups in all of Burgundy. Located in Pernand-Vergelesses and helmed by Etienne Delarche since 2008, they produce an assortment of reference-point whites and reds from Pernand’s best crus while also owning a few precious rows of vines in the “En Charlemagne” (western facing) and “Le Corton” (eastern facing) sections of Corton-Charlemagne. The soils are a grayish limestone marl and Delarche’s old-vine parcels reliably deliver Chardonnay of incredible power, energy, and longevity.


Delarche’s 2021 is crafted from hand-harvested, de-stemmed Chardonnay grapes that ferment on ambient yeasts in new French oak casks. After 14 months of maturation, it is bottled unfined and unfiltered. While I generally say drinking current-release Corton-Charlemagne is wine’s equivalent of infanticide, this vintage is the exception to that rule. It is just so wonderfully charming and well-integrated. 


Omitting an excited expletive, the first thing I exclaimed when tasting this 2021 was, “The acid’s back!” For anyone who doesn’t follow Burgundy vintages closely, the 2018-2020 vintages were warm and abundant growing seasons that produced ripe, fleshy wines. This is a return to “classic” form. Delarche’s wine is overflowing with freshness and tension, and that combination of higher-altitude fruit and 100% new oak worked luxurious wonders in 2021. Rare is the chance you get to enjoy such a complete bottle of Grand Cru Chardonnay in its infancy. This is that opportunity. Enjoy.

Domaine Etienne Delarche, Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne
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France

Bourgogne

Beaujolais

Enjoying the greatest wines of Beaujolais starts, as it usually does, with the lay of the land. In Beaujolais, 10 localities have been given their own AOC (Appellation of Controlled Origin) designation. They are: Saint Amour; Juliénas; Chénas; Moulin-à Vent; Fleurie; Chiroubles; Morgon; Régnié; Côte de Brouilly; and Brouilly.

Southwestern France

Bordeaux

Bordeaux surrounds two rivers, the Dordogne and Garonne, which intersect north of the city of Bordeaux to form the Gironde Estuary, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The region is at the 45th parallel (California’s Napa Valley is at the38th), with a mild, Atlantic-influenced climate enabling the maturation of late-ripening varieties.

Central France

Loire Valley

The Loire is France’s longest river (634 miles), originating in the southerly Cévennes Mountains, flowing north towards Paris, then curving westward and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes. The Loire and its tributaries cover a huge swath of central France, with most of the wine appellations on an east-west stretch at47 degrees north (the same latitude as Burgundy).

Northeastern France

Alsace

Alsace, in Northeastern France, is one of the most geologically diverse wine regions in the world, with vineyards running from the foothills of theVosges Mountains down to the Rhine River Valley below.

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