Domaine Regnaudot Maranges 1er Cru 'Clos des Loyeres' 2016
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 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
Remember, this was a tough one for Burgundy. For some producers, it was the fourth consecutive year that their vineyards were damaged and their yields were low. There had not been a ‘normal’ crop since 2009, so their cellars were empty. And when we talk of 50% crop loss, that’s an average across the region. Some areas had zero crop.
So when we get excited about the quality of the 2016s, we need a little restraint as well. Not everyone did the meticulous vineyard work that was necessary to get through the horrible start. As always, if you want to find the best wines, you need to know the best producers. Another important consideration in a low-yield vintage is the shortage of grapes, which means that the big negociant houses can have trouble sourcing fruit. Be careful with negociant wines in 2016. Buy from tried-and-true producers.
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