This single-vineyard Pinot Noir with about four years of age is what drinking great Burgundy is all about.
If a handful of Côte d’Or villages, like Volnay, Meursault, and Gevrey-Chambertin, have been consistently prestigious for centuries, Marsannay lies at the other end of the spectrum. Despite having been preferred by the dukes of Bourgogne as far back as the fourteenth century, it has largely been overlooked throughout the last couple of centuries, and its reputation has been on the rise only in the past few decades with the accumulation of talented vignerons such as Régis Bouvier. Why did Burgundy’s northernmost appellation languish in obscurity and misunderstanding while its neighbors prospered? The recent history begins in the nineteenth century, when Marsannay producers broke from the rest of the Côte and generally ripped out their Pinot Noir vines in favor of Gamay to satisfy the market of neighboring Dijon. After phylloxera completed the damage to Marsannay’s Pinot Noir production, Joseph Clair replanted the grape and, in 1919, made a Pinot Noir rosé, launching Marsannay’s legacy as Burgundy’s leading source of serious and delicious pink wine. Nearly five decades later, in 1965, wines from this commune were finally allowed to bear labels stating “Bourgogne Rouge de Marsannay” and “Bourgogne Rosé de Marsannay.” In 1987, Marsannay was granted AOC status, placing it in the same hierarchy as village-level Gevrey-Chambertin and Volnay. Since then, ambitious Marsannay producers have bottled their wines by lieu-dit, highlighting notable parcels. Today, many Burgundians believe that conferral of premier cru status to the best sites is imminent. If this happens, the sloping vineyard Les Longeroies will be among the first to be officially elevated. Arguably Régis’s most over-delivering wine—and coming from his oldest vines—the Longeroies rouge showcases notes of black cherries, black tea, and baking spices. It stands among our most versatile red Burgundies, regardless of price.
Régis Bouvier in Marsannay achieves a rare hat trick in Burgundy, the mastering of all three colors–red, white and rosé, through reasonable yields and high quality terroirs. Bouvier makes the best Burgundian rosé that we have ever tasted, his whites are delicious, with their own particular character completely unlike other Chardonnays from Burgundy, and his reds are his crowning achievement, managing to be wild and exciting while refined and elegant at the same time.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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