Domaine Bernard Regnaudot Maranges 1er Cru 'Clos des Loyeres' 2017
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. This premier cru ‘Clos des Loyeres’ is black cherry in color and black cherry in flavor, which is considered typical of the vineyard. It’s a gutsy wine, full-bodied, round and balanced. There’s a touch of cocoa on that fruit that is persistent right through to the 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.
BURGUNDY 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
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