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.

Burgundy Vintage Report 2007/2008

It’s never too late to report on a vintage. In most times its best to report after the wines have been bottled, rather than earlier, when the wines are in the barrel. Pronouncements about the 2007 and 2008 vintages of Burgundy during spring or summer had to be modified since the weather and climate changed and shaped the quality and quantity of the fruit during the growing season and harvest. Here is a selection of tasting notes on the most memorable wines that I tasted in November 2009 when I attended the Beaune wine auction and in March 2010 at the Grands Jours Exhibition.

They demonstrate that 2007 is a lovely vintage. Reds are approachable and if tannins are not hefty, the wines are sophisticated and textured and make for delicious drinking. Whites are pure, exquisitely balanced and are starting to drink very well indeed.

As for the 2008 vintage, it has been said to be one the best vintages for Chablis of the last 25 years – wines have all the qualities of intensity, minerality, balance, and liveliness. For Burgundy as a whole, excellent reds and whites mark the 2008 vintage.

The 2007 Vintage
It began with a mild winter. Next, some unusual warmth in March and what followed was more heat in April. The result of a little too much warmth and sunshine accelerated all things natural. Buds burst out and flowering got under way. Growers were sure they were heading for a hot year, maybe a heatwave like in 2003. Everything pointed towards an early harvest in mid-August, and it was likely that New Worldly fruit driven wines would be made. Then unexpectedly, came some cooler months, with rain. Ironically, growers started worrying again, this time about ripening. But in the end, came some warmer days in August and September. Growers breathed a sigh of relief, reciting the oft bandied phrase, “Dieu est un Bourguignon” (God is indeed a Burgundian). Growers that sorted their grapes ended up with a good normal sized harvest of Pinot Noirs with good aromas and Chardonnays with a nice acid backbone. Some of the best reds are multidimensional. Whites have been admired for their precise presentation with good tension.

Dujac, Morey St. Denis, 1er Cru – Truffles, prunes and red fruit, elegantly presented. Fine and silky tannins, a light and approachable wine that will continue to improve.

Comte Armand, Pommard, 1er Cru, “Clos des Epeneaux” – Red fruit, hint of raspberries and spice, sticky tannins and lovely finish.

Camille Giroud, Vosne-Romanée, 1er Cru – Lots of tannins and good acid structure, still quite closed but with some spicy notes revealed. A keeper.

Frédéric Magnien, Charmes-Chambertin, Grand Cru – Perfumed nose, full broad in the mouth with soft silky tannin.

Jacques Prieur Meursault, 1er Cru “Les Perrieres”– Stone fruits, minerals, honey, butter, soft yet with supporting acids. Rich and fruity yet floral also. Long.

Pierre Morey, Meursault – Vanilla, white fruits and incredibly balanced. Elegant, soft, round and hint of honey.

Sebastien Magnien, Meursault, 1er Cru, “Les Meix Chavaux” – White fruits, generous, round, fresh and sprightly acidity, silky finish.

Bret Brothers, La Soufrandière, Pouilly-Vinzelles, Climat les Quarts – Smooth rich yet elegant wine with tasty acids and a very long tail.

Vincent Dureuil-Janthial, Rully Blanc, ‘Maizieres’ – Lovely crisp presentation with minerals and citrus.

The 2008 Vintage
Spring came off with a good start. It was warm and by mid May, vines were producing leaves. But a summer with lots of rain meant a cold and wet season. Vignerons even experienced hail in their vineyards. The result – rot mildew and oidium and ultimately reduced crop. Everyone was lamenting the state of the vintage. Then came the miracle. Autumn brought with it the sun and bright skies. Not only that, windy days were just the thing to dry out the vines and vineyards, bringing a halt to the rot. And with good weather all the way through, the vintage was saved. If vignerons ended up with fewer and smaller grapes, the resulting juice turned out to be quite concentrated. At the end, wines, from the basic Bourgogne right up to the Grand Cru turned out to be quite elegant, with good acids (thanks to the cool temperatures throughout the year) and considerable elegance. Reds were pure whilst whites were delicious.

Ponsot Clos St. Denis ‘Tres veilles vignes’, Grand Cru (in barrel) – Red and black fruit, herbs pepper spice. Developing every few minutes. Beginning with yellow fruit then white fruit then flower petals, then mixed spice. Balanced, silky soft yet every present tannins. Very long.

Dujac, Bonne Mares, Grand Cru – Subtle aromas of florals with rich red fruit, silky tannins, broad and elegant presentation.

Sorine et Fils, Maranges 1er Cru “Clos Roussot” – Red fruits, light yet present acids, and soft as fleece. Delicious.

Georges Chicotot, Nuits St.-Georges 1er Cru “Les Vaucrains” – Red fruits, white pepper, hint of jam and minerals.

Didier-Montchovet, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune – Silky soft, full on flavour balanced with a sweet note.

Genot-Boulanger, Pommard 1er Cru, “Clos Blanc” – Red fruits, hint of strawberry, spicy and with tasty acids.

Domaine Romanee Conti, Romanee Conti, Grand Cru (in barrel) – Sweet fruit and spice, yet understated. Big structure with lacy tannins, yet elegant. Long, sensual and unforgettable.

Stephane Brocard, Corton-Renardes, Grand Cru – Intense with lots of layers, spicy and silky with good structure.

Bouchard Aine & Fils, Charmes Chambertin, Grand Cru – Smoky with woody overtones but balanced by fruit; broad in the mouth.

Albert Bichot, Echezeaux, Grand Cru – Perfumed and quite feminine with good structure and a long finish.

Henri de Villamont, Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru – Lots of fruit and balance, complex and complete.

Joseph Drouhin, Chablis Bougros, Grand Cru – Lots of different aromas mingling together – herbs, flowers, nuts and marmalade, lively.

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru – Minerals, almonds, good structure and ample in the mouth

Rous Pere & Fils Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru – Pears, ripe fruit, tasty acids and round.

Seguin Manuel Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru – Mineral oil, balanced, luscious in the mouth and long.

Domaine des Perdrix, Nuits-Saint Georges, Blanc, 1er Cru, “Les Terres Blanches”– Brimming with pear, grapefruit and green apples made for a memorable and unexpected white wine from a mostly red wine appellation.

Denis Bouchacourt, Macon-Solutré – White fruits and florals, beautiful mid palate, complete in every sense with a lovely long finish.

Domaine de la Saraziniere, Bourgogne Aligoté – Floral, round lively with a touch of tangy acid and a finish of peach and pear. Very tasty.

Ninot Rully 1er Cru Gresigny – Scintillating acidity yet elegant with citrus white and yellow fruits, a hint of minerals and nuts with a long finish.

Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay – Nose of white flowers, flavours of white fruits, round and sweet, soft effervescent acids, beautifully presented.

The Cellars of DRC