Sébastien Gay at Domaine Michel Gay in Chorey-lès-Beaune.

horey-lès-Beaune is just a five-minute drive from Beaune. Still, it has taken the village quite some time to create an identity of its own. It wasn’t until 1970 that Chorey-lès-Beaune got its own appellation. But even after that much wine from the village was labelled and sold as Côte de Beaune-Villages.

– In the past it was easier to sell Côte de Beaune-Villages than Chorey-lès-Beaune, explains Sébastien Gay at Domaine Michel Gay in Chorey-lès-Beaune. The Côte de Beaune-Villages was something people recognised, while Chorey-lès-Beaune wasn’t. But that has changed now. Chorey-lès-Beaune has its own identity.

Corton Renardes, Aloxe-Corton.When Dr Lavalle published his famous ”Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne et des Grands Vins de la Côte d’Or” in 1855 he did not mention Chorey-lès-Beaune. 24 years prior to that Denis Morelot did mention Chorey-lès-Beaune in his ”La Vigne et le Vin en Côte d’Or”, but only as a very good place for passetoutgrain.

– If well-made, Chorey-lès-Beaune is easy to sell, says Sébastien Gay. In a Chorey-lès-Beaune you don’t have the volume of an Aloxe-Corton or the elegance of a Volnay. But it has a good price/quality ratio. It’s a good entry level Burgundy.

Unlike the majority of the appellations on the Côte d’Or the vast part of Chorey-lès-Beaune is located east of the route nationale. Most of the vineyards are flat or very little inclination. This part of the Côte, explains Sébastien Gay, is sensitive to rot and mildew.

Domaine Michel Gay, Chorey-lès-Beaune.Domaine Michel Gay only goes back to 1992, but winemaking in the Gay family goes way back. In 1992 Domaine Gay Père et Fils was split in two by the brothers Michel and François.

– My father did the 1993 vintage all by himself, says Sébastien Gay. The following year I decided to continue the tradition and went to wine school.

– My grandfather made wine, but he also had cows. The family wasn’t specialised in wine yet then, but we have been making wine in the Gay family for five generations, for more than 100 years.

In 1992, after the split, the domaine only covered five and a half hectares. The vineyards were located in Chorey-lès-Beaune and the surrounding villages – Savigny-lès-Beaune, Aloxe-Corton and Beaune. The focus on these villages has remained, but today the domaine covers close to 15 hectares – from regional appellations such as Bourgogne Aligoté up to grand cru on the Corton hill, a small parcel of Corton Renardes.

Domaine Michel Gay, Chorey-lès-Beaune.– I started working at the domaine in 2000, says Sébastien Gay. In 2001 my father retired, so I took on the domaine. This year my brother Laurent, who is an oenologist, joined me. I haven’t made that many changes. It’s more about keeping up the good work and keeping down the yields. We have started using 30-litre cases for the grapes when we harvest and we use two sorting tables when the grapes arrive at the winery. I would say the wines have more finesse now, because with modern equipment it is easier to control the different steps in the winemaking process.

Domaine Michel Gay makes two Aloxe-Corton cuvées, one standard cuvée and one old vines, and three Chorey-lès-Beaune cuvées, standard and old vines in red and one white.

– Next year we will have some vines in Les Crais here in Chorey-lès-Beaune, says Sébastien Gay. Then we will have six different parcels – Confrelin, Les Pertuisotes, La Maladérotte, Les Beaumonts and Les Champs Longs.

– All are vinfied separately and then blended before bottling. The vieilles vignes cuvée has more power and concentration. The other cuvée comes from vines that are quite old as well, between 30 and 40 years. In that one the tannins are a bit more robust.

Aligoté vine at Domaine Michel Gay in Chorey-lès-Beaune.– To blend all parcels into one single cuvée wouldn’t necessarily produce the best wine. What we get now is two different types of wine. The vieilles vignes is made from Confrelin, Les Beaumonts and Les Champs Long. The other cuvée consists of Les Pertuisotes and La Maladérotte, with a little bit of Les Beaumonts thrown in.

– Les Beaumonts is more concentrated and structured, while Confrelin is more fresh and delicate with more finesse. Les Champs Longs is like a mini Aloxe-Corton, with more structure. Les Pertuisotes and La Maladérotte have the body, but not necessarily the finesse.

Sébastien Gay explains that he works Aloxe-Corton in a similar manner. The difference is that the vieilles vignes cuvée comes from specific parcels from each of the four climats where Domaine Michel Gay owns vines – Les Crapousuets, Les Cailettes, Boulmeau and Les Boutières. He describes the soil in Chorey-lès-Beaune as more homogenous than the one in Aloxe-Corton, where there is a bigger difference between the climats.

– Village level wines benefit from being blended, he says. With different climats at hand you can tweak the final blend. A bit more of this, a bit less of that. It gives you more possibilities.

Domaine Michel Gay owns a small parcel of Corton Renardes, just 0.21 ha. Corton Renardes is facing southeast, mid-slope on the Corton hill, overlooking Ladoix-Serrigny.

– It is just above Corton Bressandes, says Sébastien Gay. We are at the bottom of Renardes. The vines were planted in 1946 and 1956. The soil contains much shale. Red, rich in iron. At the bottom of Renardes the soil is deep. Just above us, where Bouchard Père & Fils have their vines is a layer of white shale. So there are two types of soil in Corton Renardes. The bottom part produces a Corton Renardes which is more expressive, which is more about fruit and elegance. The upper part produces a Corton Renardes which is more musky in character. The colour is darker. At the top the soil is not very deep, you are more or less on the rock.

© 2012 Ola Bergman