Domaine Jean Marechal Mercurey 1er Cru Clos l'Eveque 2020
Delicate pinot color, rich fresh strawberry fruit with hints of undergrowth. Fine tannins show a silky texture, and the balanced acidity brings the red fruit notes high on the palate. Elegant finish.
DOMAINE JEAN MARECHAL
Despite the fact that the Domaine Jean Marechal has been making wine in Mercurey from father to son since 1570, they are not so widely known as some of the other producers in the appellation. Which suits us here at Elden selections just fine. Whatever reason for the domain remaining undiscovered in this generation, we are here to report that this is one of the shining stars in Mercurey. Following in the footsteps of the current appellation locomotive, Bruno Lorenzon, the Domaine Jean Marechal is producing top flight wines that are fine and elegant.
The domain works 8 ha (a little over 19 acres) of vines in appellation Bourgogne, Mercurey and Mercurey 1er Cru. The premiers cru are in some of the best parcels in the appellation: Clos l’Eveque, Champs Martin, Les Nauges, Les Byots and the Clos Barraults (both red and white)
Vineyard work is mainly manual and ever meticulous, in the belief that there is no such thing as good wine without good fruit. Plowing is systematic, using interceps to force roots to dig deep and to maximize rain absorption.
Yields are intentionally limited by severe suckering, insuring concentration and aromatic complexity.
At harvest, the grapes are destemmed, with a long temperature-controlled fermentation. The cap is punched down twice a day to get good extraction. Aging is in oak, with the percentage of new wood judged each vintage.
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.
Mercurey, situated in the heart of the Côte Chalonnaise (12 kilometres from Chalon-sur-Saône) is one the foremost appellations of Bourgogne. Protected from moisture-bearing winds, tucked away in its hillsides or stretched along the aptly named Val d’Or (Golden Valley) the vineyards stretch as far as the neighboring village of Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu. The AOC status was instituted in 1923.Reunited by means of fellowship of the Chanteflûte, created in 1971, the local winemakers are dedicated to enjoying the wines of Mercurey and promoting them to the world.
Mercurey red is a deep, profound ruby. This crisp wine evokes strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. Age brings in notes of underbrush, spicy tobacco notes and cocoa beans. The palate is rich, full-bodied, and chewy. In its youth, the tannins of this wine lend it a mineral firmness. When aged, it is attractively rounded.
Mercurey is a typical Chardonnay gold, it varies in its degree of paleness and is flecked with green. It has floral aromas mayflower and acacia, with, hazelnut, almond, and cinnamon and pepper spice). A touch of flint is a trademark of this wine.
The vines grow at heights of 230 to 320 metres. They spread over marls and marly calcic soils of Oxfordian limestone. On the eastern side, they grow in calcic and marly soils. In the west crystalline Jurassic rocks are overlain by gravels. Part of the vineyards belong to the Bathonien. On these white limey soils and red clays, the vines are truly at home.
White Wines – Chardonnay
Red Wines – Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds: 548.68 ha (including 153.80 ha Premier Cru)
Whites: 84.59 ha (including 14.71 ha Premier Cru)
Red: rich, meaty and solidly put together, Mercurey brings out the best from beef rib steaks, or joints of beef or lamb, braised or in sauce. Roast pork is well suited to its rich aromas, as are poultry-based stews. Exotic dishes likewise are good partners for this wine. As for the cheeseboard, this wine harmonizes equally well with either mild, soft cheeses or aged versions
White: its spicy and floral bouquet and juicy appeal let it partner grilled fish or fish in sauce, cooked seafood, asian cuisine, and hard cheeses. White Mercurey can also make a excellent aperitif.
Clos de Paradis
Clos des Barraults
Clos des grands Voyens
Clos des Myglands
Grand Clos Fortoul
Le Clos du Roy
Le Clos l'Evêque
Les Champs Martin
Clos Château de Montaigu
Clos des Hayes
Creu de Montelons
En Pierre Milley
La Croix Rousse
La Plante Chassey
Le Bois Cassien
Le Clos la Marche
Le Clos Laurent
Le Clos Rond
Le Meix de la Guinarde
Le Meix Foulot
Le Meix Frappé
Le Puits Brintet
Le Saut Muchiau
Les Bois de Lalier
Les Vignes Blanches
Les Vignes d'Orge
Les Vignes de la Bouthière
Les Vignes des Chazeaux
Vigne de Maillonge
Vignes du Chapître