Domaine Bernard Regnaudot Maranges 1er Cru 'Clos des Loyeres' 2020
This much-awarded wine, from an appellation you have probably never heard of, is the standard-bearer for the Maranges. When we first arrived in Burgundy, neighboring Santenay was considered rustic and undrinkable. All that has changed. And now it’s the turn of Maranges to come into the fold. Producers like the Regnaudots have been making it happen for a decade now.
The ‘Clos des Loyeres’ has pronounced elegant earthy notes of underbush and bramble. This Premier Cru displays Black cherry as the dominant fruit, also red plum and dried cranberry. Medium tannins and the high acidity results in good complexity with some spices including cocoa lingering into a long finish. A classy example of what Maranges can be. You have to try this.
BERNARD AND FLORIAN REGNAUDOT
Bernard Regnaudot arrived in Dezizes-les Maranges in 1996, but he is a third-generation vigneron. Soft-spoken and discreet, he works just under 16 acres of vineyards with his son, Florian. He is considered one of the ‘locomotives’ of the appellation Maranges, a tiny strip of vineyards stretching out to the west of Santenay in the direction of the Couchois.
Maranges was an ‘untouchable’ when we first arrived in burgundy 30 years ago. Back then, Santenay was considered rustic. And no one spoke of the Maranges. But all that has changed!
A modern, forward thinking generation has applied quality standards to the production of these once peripheral appellations. Yield limits, plantation of quality clones, good vineyard technique, all play in the final product. Everyone always knew that it was possible to make great wine here. It just took the right winemaker to make it happen.
The Regnaudots are meticulous in their vineyard work. Long winter preparation is not the most glamorous part of winemaking, but it is essential. And literally nipping the yields in the bud come springtime is also critical. At the height of the growing season, their vines look like textbook versions of ‘cordon de royat’ pruning: perfectly aligned grapes, evenly spaced, with just enough leaf cover to protect the fruit but not so much as to risk rot.
Harvest is done by hand, of course. And spirits are high because the quality is there.
Vinification is 100% destemmed. 5-7 days of pre-fermentation, then 2 weeks of slow fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Very little pushing down because the aim is to keep the wine supple, fresh and fruity. Then 12 months in French oak, with 25% new oak. Bottling is usually done in December of the following year.
With so many winemakers finishing their 2020 harvest before the end of August, everyone here in Burgundy expected that this hot, sunny vintage would produce atypical wines, overripe, fat and flabby. Why it did not is a mystery to this day.
In fact, 2020 Burgundy, both red and white, is being lauded by the Press and professionals alike as an exceptional vintage, brilliantly fresh, pure, elegant and focused. Yes, the wines are ripe and concentrated, but there is good acidity that more than brings things into balance. This, in fact, defines the Burgundy 2020 style: high acidity and high concentration.
So let’s look, as we do every year, at how the growing season developed, to try to get some idea of what shaped these unexpectedly energetic wines.
In a word, from start to finish, 2020 was precocious. After a mild and humid winter, the vegetative cycle started a month early under sunny skies, with bud burst in mid-April and the first Chardonnay flowers in early May. Then the weather deteriorated. Pinot Noir flowered in cool, damp conditions, and was less successful than Chardonnay, explaining the smaller Pinot crop.
From that point on, there is not much to report weatherwise. It was hot and dry from June through to the end, the driest year since 1945. The grapes started to change color in mid-July, and harvest in August seemed likely.
Now you may think that an August harvest lets everyone get their jobs done and go home early. But remember that there is a big difference between the heat and luminosity of an August afternoon and the cooler, shorter days of September. When maturity comes galloping at you in August, you have to react quickly; a day or two can mean considerable differences in acid and sugar levels.
Indeed, there may have been more stress on the winemakers than there was on the vines. 2020 was in fact an easy growing season, dry, with little risk of fungal problems. The tough part was deciding when to harvest. Do you put off harvesting to try to get to phenolic maturity, or do you pick sooner to keep acid levels up and to avoid higher alcohol levels?
Many opted to pick early. And for the most part, it proved to be the right decision…though we still do not understand why!
Many 2020 wines have alcohol levels of 13%-14%, but many are higher. Delaying picking increased the potential alcohol levels by as much as a degree a week.
At the same time, good levels of phenolic maturity gave ripe, but not overripe tannins. Some call the 2020s ‘crunchy’, which is a tannin level riper than ‘green’ but less than ‘fine’.
Total acidity was generally high, but most of that was tartaric acid. Malic acid, which would normally make up a big percentage of the total acidity, was low. In fact, the wines changed very little during malolactic fermentation, as there was little malic acid to transform into lactic acid.
So, again, we have a vintage that is characterized by high acidity and concentrated fruit. Some are saying that there has never before been a vintage where ripeness and acidity combined to give such brilliant wines with great aging potential. And this is true for both red and white. Freshness, balance, moderate alcohol.
The whites are rich and ripe, but with a crystalline, almost razor-sharp edge. That little touch of lactic acid makes them complex without adding weight.
The reds might bear a resemblance to past vintages. 2005, maybe. But they made wine differently in 2005. Back then, extraction was the goal: get as much out of the ripeness as you could. Today, Pinot is not so much ‘extracted’ as ‘infused’, like tea. This gives wines that are fresher and more energetic, with no less intensity and maybe more spice.
Drink them now, both red and white. There is astounding vitality in the youthful 2020s. But stick to the regional appellations for now because this is above all a vintage for aging, again both red and white. Keep the premier and grand crus for 10-15 years; longer for the best wines. They have the balance to age, and will reveal little by little the complexity that we just get hints of today. These are wines that may shut down for a few years in a few years, that’s to be expected. But be patient; you will be overjoyed to pull 2020 Burgundy from your cellar down the line.
But even just that little touch of lactic acid made the complexity of the whites.
COTE DE BEAUNE
The Maranges area, which grows mainly Pinot Noir plus some Chardonnay, forms a link between the Côte-d’Or and the Saône-et-Loire. Its vineyards are interlocked with those of neighbouring Santenay, with which it shares some well-thought-of Premiers Crus. Maranges was granted its own AOC Village in 1988 covering the three villages of Cheilly-lès-Maranges, Dezize-lès-Maranges and Sampigny-lès-Maranges. The surrounding countryside has a character of its own - gentle and warm-hearted - which has been lovingly described by the Burgundian writer Henri Vincenot. The charmingly old-fashioned homes of the winemakers provide perfect subjects for a painter’s brush.
Maranges reds are a brilliant raspberry red. Its fruit notes are blackcurrant and spicy. The wines are warm juicy, with a tannic structure that has become delicate and subtle, as producers have learned to produce softer tannins. Licorice and pepper are the foundations that this otherwise fruity Pinot are based upon. Generally for early drinking, but with a good acidic balance to keep them fresh for years.
As with nearly every village in this zone, the plantation of Chardonnay is on the rise. These whites are gold and full of white floral notes prevalent in the zone. Flinty minerality adds depth and length. These are wines that are rounded and subtle with many of the refined aspects of their more famous neighbors.
Though the hill-slopes are differently oriented to those of the Côte de Beaune, their nature and origins are geologically the same, making up a varied patchwork of hills and valleys. The vineyards mostly have a South/South-westerly exposure and lie at altitudes of 240-400 metres. Cheilly, in the valley of the Cozanne, has rather light pebbly soils. Sampigny and Dezize share the Climats which lie to the South of Santenay on brown limestone soils and limey marls.
Reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 156.5 ha (including 79 ha premier cru)
Whites : 10.6 ha (including 4.5 ha premier cru)
The reds of Maranges can be velvety but quite firm, with tannins that need roasted meats with a crunchiness: roast fowl (dark or white meat), roast lamb, or rabbit. These wines also go well with country pâtés. For cheese, go for creaminess Brillat-Savarin, Brie or Reblochon.
On the label, the appellations 'Maranges’' and 'Maranges 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos de la Boutière
Clos de la Fussière
Le Clos des Loyères
Le Clos des Rois
Le Croix Moines
Les Clos Roussots
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
A la Croix de Bois
La Tête de Fer
Le Bas des Loyères
Le Bas du Clos
Les Regains Nord
Les Regains Sud
Sous les Roseaux
Sur la Rigole
Sur la Rue des Pierres
Sur la Verpillère
Sur le Bois Nord
Sur le Bois Sud
Sur le Chêne