p in the valley behind Monthélie and Meursault is Auxey-Duresses, a village struggling against both the English-speaking world’s inability to pronounce the name and its location off the beaten track on the Cote d’Or. Through times the name has changed from Aulaciacum in 859, via Alciacum and Aucé, to Auxey. In 1928 the village followed the trend on the Cote d’Or and added the name of one the top vineyards to its name, thus becoming Auxey-Duresses.
Surrounded by the hills of Mont Melian, Montagne du Bourdon and Montagne du Tillet Auxey-Duresses is stretched out along the Beaune-Autun road, between Monthélie and Saint-Romain.
As you leave Monthélie on the D973 and drive down the long slope towards Auxey-Duresses you have a lovely view over the valley and the vines. On your right you have the premier cru “Bas des Duresses” and on your left you have Les Ecusseaux with its premier cru section right along the road. Further down the slope the road from Meursault joins the D973 as you pass “Les Grands-Champs” and enter the village.
Auxey-Duresses is a charming little village with some 350 inhabitants. The houses are tightly squeezed together along the main road. There are a total of 25 winegrowers in the village; most of them bottle themselves, but some sell their wine to négociants.
500 metres further down the road is the tiny hamlet of Petit-Auxey. Blink and you have missed it. But despite its size, this is where the origin of Auxey-Duresses is to be found. Hauxiacum, as it was called then, was one of the first Celtic settlements along the Roman roads.
North of the D973 road the vineyards are mainly planted with pinot noir, while most of the vineyards south of the road are planted with chardonnay. The chardonnay vineyards continue all the way to the Meursault border, where the Meursault village vineyards begin. On the northern side the “Les Duresses” vineyard is split between Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie. It is also at this side of the village where you find the nine premier crus grouped together – “Les Duresses”, “Clos du Val”, “Climat du Val”, “Les Bréterins”, “La Chapelle”, “Reugne”, “Bas des Duresses”, “Les Grands-Champs” and “Les Ecusseaux” – with “Clos du Val” being the one generally rated highest. There are only two domaines offering this wine – Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille and Domaine Prunier-Damy.
The vines continue past Petit-Auxey. Then there is a small gap until you come to the next hamlet, Melin, just south of Saint-Romain. Here you will find only village Auxey-Duresses, both chardonnay and pinot noir.
Before, much of what was produced in Auxey-Duresses was bottled as Cotes de Beaune – Villages. But as interest grew for moderately priced burgundies more wine was bottled as Auxey-Duresses. As with many others of the lesser known villages this is now a good hunting ground for burgundies with good price/quality ratio. With the right producer both white and red Auxey-Duresses can be a lovely drink.
There is one restaurant in Auxey-Duresses. In 2002 Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille expanded outside the wine business. They bought La Crémaillère, the restaurant across the street. Since November 2008 Daniel Maggiacono is the chef there. The cuisine is traditional with regional specialities.
© 2013 Ola Bergman