The Côte de Beaune area is the southern part of the Côte d'Or, the limestone ridge that is home to the great names of Burgundy wine. The Côte de Beaune starts between Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune, and extends southwards for about 25 km to the River Dheune. The trend of producing red wines continues from the Côte de Nuits to the north, down through Beaune, although the wines become lighter and more perfumed.
Further south lie the great names of white Burgundy such as Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet. The far south of the district sees a return to red wines in Santenay that continues across the Dheune into the Côte Chalonnaise. This mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes reflects geology in the southern Côte d'Or that is more variable than in the north.
The Burgundy wine article explains the local classifications in more detail. Above the basic AOC Bourgogne lies Côte de Beaune Villages, a general appellation for wines from one or more of 16 villages in the district excluding Aloxe-Corton, Pommard, Volnay and Beaune. Four vineyards on a hill above Beaune get the confusing designation of Côte de Beaune. The Hautes-Côtes de Beaune are a separate appellation for the hills to the west of Beaune.
The "Cortons" in Aloxe-Corton are the only Grand Cru red wines in the district. The same commume has one of the great white wines in the Grand Cru of Corton-Charlemagne (which extends into Pernand and Ladoix), whilst the Montrachet family of Grand Crus are further south, split between Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet.