Domaine Bernard Regnaudot Maranges 1er Cru 'Clos des Loyeres' 2021
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.
Nothing abides. Just as we Burgundy purists begrudgingly acknowledged the vitality and variety of the three previous hot-weather vintages, along came 2021, classic Burgundy with its frost, damp and low yields.
Way back when, in pre-climate-change conditions, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would struggle, year after year, to come to maturity in what was this, the northernmost spot in Europe where grapes could ripen enough to make still wine. That struggle was, in fact, the very definition of viticulture in Burgundy (chaptalization notwithstanding).
But then weather patterns started to change, not drastically, but gradually: milder winters and earlier springs; hotter summers and earlier autumns. By the time we got to 2018, then 2019 and then 2020, those mild winters were breeding grounds for mildew, the early springs were prone to killer frosts, those hot summers forced ripeness onto reticent grapes varieties, and early autumns left little time to the winemaker to sort it all out.
If this all sounds like an accident waiting to happen, hang on to your hat; it’s all perspective.
2018 was wet, wet, wet through winter and up to mid-April. Then an explosive bud-burst sent the winemakers scurrying to control the vegetation. But then it got hot, hot, south-of-Spain hot, and mildew never stood a chance. Early harvest, no health issues. Big crop. Great vintage.
2019 was wet through the winter. Early bud burst, then frost took part of the crop. A warm set up flowering, but cold weather set in, taking another part of the crop. Then it got hot and very dry. Well-tend vines and, especially, old vines did well because there was last winter’s water in the water table, and good vines can go deep for water. Hot, healthy harvest. Great really ripe vintage.
2020 was precocious. Mild wet winter. Bud burst in mid-April. From that point on, there is not much to report weatherwise. It was hot and dry from June through to the end. Harvest started in August. Indeed, there was more stress on the winemakers than there was on the vines. When to pick? Overall, great vintage both white and red.
See a pattern?
And 2021…well in 2021 things returned to ‘normal’ (if such a thing is possible in Burgundy!) First came devastating frosts in the early part of April, which were followed by a cool May, leading to a damp summer with the ever-present threat of hail.
Chardonnay was more affected than Pinot Noir in that the red grapes come into leaf later. What all this means for the Burgundy harvest is that it will be a story of low yields (miniscule in places) and a late harvest.
When the older winemakers talk about what to expect this year, words such as ‘historic’ are used and comparisons are drawn with the harvest of 1970.
Some say we could be down 30% on 2020s already low yields. But it isn’t all bad news. Winemakers are nothing if not hardy, and their optimism cannot be shaken that easily. Fewer grapes on the vine means that those which have survived should have an intensity of flavor which sets them apart and may mark this harvest out as extraordinary. There may be other upsides, too: because the harvest is later, the grapes have had more ‘hang time’ which could mean good phenolic maturity.
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