outh of Nuits-Saint-Georges, at the very top of the slope, you'll find the result of 20 years work. It is the lieu-dit of Les Vallerots, not used for vines for a long, long time, then cleared and replanted by Bertrand Machard de Gramont at the domaine of the same name.
– There were vines planted here before the phylloxera, explains his daughter Axelle Machard de Gramont. Between the two wars people tried to replant, but then it was completely abandoned. It took my father a very long time to buy all these different small parcels in order to get one single parcel.
But it didn't stop there. Before it could be replanted with vines it had to be cleared from bushes and small trees, often several metres high. This part of the slope is steep and from up here, just below the forest, you have a lovely view over the Nuits-Saint-Georges vineyards.
– Today two and a half hectares are planted, but we have another two hectares left to clear and plant, continues Axelle Machard de Gramont. It is very close to Comblanchien so the soil is very calcareous. It gives a very fresh character to the wine.
Les Vallerots is directly above the premier cru of Les Vaucrains. To the north there is also a tiny plot (0.87 ha) of Les Vallerots premier cru. The replanting was done in 2000 by Bertrand Machard de Gramont. Since the land hadn't been used for a long time the soil was in good condition; no chemicals had been used here. Two cuvées are produced from these vines today - the Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Vallerots and from young vines the Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Terrasses des Vallerots.
– Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont is a domaine my father created in 1984, says Axelle Machard de Gramont. Before that he was working with two of his brothers. One of them was married to Chantal Lescure and she owned a lot of vines and houses. They all created a domaine together. It was a 32 hectare domaine, with vines from Vosne-Romanée to Pommard, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet.
– My uncle and my aunt divorced. My grandmother died, so in 1984 they decided to go separate ways. This big domaine became three domaines – Domaine Chantal Lescure in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Domaine Machard de Gramont in Prémeaux-Prissey and my father's Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont.
– Before working with his family he worked in Chambolle-Musigny at Domaine Comte de Vogüé. That's where he got his training. He started out as a trainee but stayed for four years.
At Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont there is a strong focus on Nuits-Saint-Georges, even if their winery nowadays is located in Curtil-Vergy, a small village up in the Hautes-Côtes with 85 inhabitants. Of the domaine's six hectares close to 80 per cent of the vines are located within the Nuits-Saint-Georges' boundaries. Even the Bourgogne rouge is a Nuits-Saints-Georges wine, coming from Les Chaliots just on the other side of the RN74 road opposite of Les Poirets.
Apart from the two wines from Les Vallerots there are another two Nuits-Saint-Georges village wines – Les Hauts-Pruliers and Aux Allots. You'll find the former south of the village, just above the two premier crus Roncière and Les Pruliers. The latter is on the other side of the village where the slope is gentler and the soil contains more clay. The vines in Aux Allots are the oldest of the domaine, 50 years old.
– There is a big difference between Les Hauts-Pruliers and Les Vallerots, says Axelle Machard de Gramont. Because in Les Hauts-Pruliers the soil is very thin. The vines are very close to the rock. In books you always read that vines must suffer to produce a good wine. I think Les Hauts-Pruliers is a very good example of that.
The domaine's Vosne-Romanée is a blend of four different parcels – Aux Ormes, Champs Goudins, Basses Maizières and Les Barreaux. The first three are located down by the Beaune-Dijon road, whereas Les Barreaux is at the top of the slope, surrounded by three premier crus and one grand cru – Cros Parentoux, Les Petits Monts, Aux Brulées and Richebourg.
– I would love to vinify them separately, says Axelle Machard de Gramont. But there is so much work with the harvest anyway. If you decide to make mini-cuvées it means more vats and a different organisation. Maybe I will do so later on.
From the age of 20 and 15 years on Axelle Machard de Gramont lived in Paris. Then in 2004 she decided to return to her native Burgundy. Since then the domaine has moved towards organic wine growing, with the goal of becoming certified in another two or three years.
– I think my answer to why I chose to move in this direction is a bit different to other people's, she says. I really became a city girl. I loved living there. Living in Paris made me more aware of ecology. I'm sure it wouldn't have been the same if I hadn't lived there.
– I read a lot about it. I tasted a lot since I was in Paris when the organic wines became popular in the wine bars. People talked a lot about it.
– Two years go I was determined to become certified. Then I became less sure, because it has become a sort fashion here in France and I don't want my old clients to think I'm an opportunist. Our old clients know how we work anyway, they know we have moved towards organic. But internationally it is important in certain markets, so eventually we will go for certification.
© 2011 Ola Bergman