At the Grands Jours de Bourgogne wine exhibition that is held every two years in Burgundy, vignerons and producers gather and pour out delicious tasting portions of wine all day at their booths. Many wine professionals can be found tasting Cote d’Or where many of Burgundy’s Grand Cru wines come from.
Whilst Grand Crus represent the best, their prices are also commensurate. In a quest to seek out good value Burgundy, I turned to the lesser-known appellations. And this was how I came to discover the Maranges.
Domaine Sorine et Fils is best known for Santennay wines, from most southerly wine-producing commune of the Cote de Beaune (within Cote d’Or) and the wines are noted for good fruit flavours and good tannic structure. It was after tasting the domaine’s Santennay 1er Cru Beaurepaire that I was asked by Mr. Sorine, “Do you know Maranges?” A shake of my head resulted in a pouring of a wine called Maranges 1er Cru ‘Clos Roussot’. It had a soft silky texture, tasty light acids and was quite delicious. I wondered why I had not heard of this wine. Mr. Sorine explained that the Maranges that lies next to the Cote d’Or, is the youngest appellation in Burgundy and only had received its appellation status in 1989.
At the next booth, I met Mr Pablo Chevrot of Domaine Chevrot who must have overheard my questions and he shared a bit more. ‘Did you know that before Marange became an appellation, negociants had used Marange wines to add depth and complexity to their blends of Cote de Beaune-villages? It’s because the Maranges wines offer a miscellany of tastes.” Three Chevrot wines lay in front of me. The first, a Maranges 2008 ‘Sol de Chene’ was delightful with bright raspberry fruit and soft acidity. The next wine I lifted to my lips was a Marange 1er Cru, ‘Les Clos Roussots’ 2008. It proved to be elegant with mixed red fruits, herbs, mocha and mint overtones. Finally, a Maranges 1er Cru, ‘Le Croix Moins’ turned out to be complex with star anise, cinnamon, mixed spices, herbs and sweet fruit. I never expected to encounter so many different versions of a wine. Mr. Chevrot explained that the 170 hectares of Maranges vines are planted on various soils and it is these soils that contribute to varied tastes – call it terroir. Chevrot’s three wines certainly attest to this. I learned that the first wine was made from grapes grown on gravel soils; the second wine came from fruit grown on limestone soils and third wine’s spicy character is due to deep soils containing silica.
At the booth of Domaine Maurice Charleux et Fils, I was revelling in wines from old vines and this confirmed rumours that another secret of the Maranges – many vines still contain old vines. Domaine Maurice Charleux et Fils’ Vieilles Vignes (old vine) Maranges was showing a complex mix of red fruits, spice and soft acids. The big surprise was a white Marange 2008 – with white stone fruit aromas and soft acids. According to the producer, less than 5% of the wines of the Maranges are white. Then I got to taste a 1er Cru Marange called ‘Fussieres’ – This white wine, made from only 3 year old vines was so rich full and complex with sweet ginger and nutmeg overtones that it could have passed off for a Grand Cru wine.
Intrigued, I took a drive to the Maranges.
As I headed west from Santenay, the ‘Golden Slope’ or Cote d’Or seemed to end just as I went around the hill. The traffic thinned out and the landscape changed quite dramatically. A medieval castle, the Chateau de Couches came to view. Vines were not to be seen for a stretch of road; instead small groups of cows were spotted grazing here and there on green swathes of land. The road gradually became hilly and then as we turned another corner, I spotted quaint villages dotted on the crests of small hills. Incredibly, the sun emerged from behind the clouds and illuminated vineyards yonder.
And then it occurred to me, the Maranges is not only one of the most pretty of vineyards in Burgundy – there are lovely, affordable wines to be had here.
More about the Maranges
The Maranges lies between Burgundy’s two major sub regions – the Cote d’Or and the Cote Chalonnaise.
Until the appellation came about the wine producing villages were called Cheilly-les-Maranges, Dezize-les-Maranges and Sampigny-les-Maranges. Dezize-lès-Maranges is the one located highest up on the slope. Today, the whole area is simply known as the Maranges.
There are nine premier crus, of which some are shared between the villages. They are
Les Clos Roussots, La Fussière, and Clos de la Boutière, La Fussière in the Cheilly-les-Maranges village; La Fussière, Clos de la Fussière, and La Croix aux Moines in the Dezize-les-Maranges village; and Les Clos Roussots, Le Clos des Rois, and Le Clos des Loyères in the Sampigny-les-Maranges village.
About 33 produces make Maranges wines. Many of the Maranges best wines are made from grapes grown on soils containing a relatively high content of limestone and clay not too much different from the Cote d’Or escarpment. Hence the Maranges wines at times are reminiscent of the Cote d’Or wines but prices mean they reflect excellent value.
In Maranges, expect to find rich, full-bodied wines brimming with red fruit; dark and robust chewy wines with black and red fruit as well as complex and elegant wines. There are also citrus fruity soft whites with a hint of tangy acidity as well as the textured, complex and full white wines.