arsannay, at the top of the Côte de Nuits, was a bit late to the party. 50 years late to be precise. While the other villages picked up their village appellations in the 1930s Marsannay waited until 1987. Since then the growers have been working to show the world what the wines of the appellations have to offer.
– I think it will be more difficult to change the image of Marsannay within Burgundy than internationally, says Cyril Audoin. People outside France know that Marsannay is in the Côte de Nuits and that we have applied for a premier cru classification. We have become the best value for money in the Côte de Nuits.
Cyril Audoin runs Domaine Charles Audoin in Marsannay. He is the fifth generation here, at a domaine which today covers 14 hectares. Twenty years ago, when his parents were running the domaine, he thinks the situation was more challenging. The previous generation had to work harder in order to prove what could be done in Marsannay.
– One problem is that Marsannay has been well-known since the 1930s for its rosé, continues Cyril Audoin. That was part of the reason why Marsannay didn’t obtain its village appellation back when the other villages did. When you are producing rosé you are not considered to be as serious as when you produce red or white.
– But the rosé is part of our history. It is important to continue making it. In the world today there is more and more rosé produced, but here in Marsannay there is less and less made. Many producers have stopped making Marsannay rosé because it’s difficult to sell a rosé in the Côtes de Provence at the price of a Bourgogne rouge.
That said, at Domaine Charles Audoin the main thing is red Marsannay. There is a total of seven different cuvées in red, backed up by four in white. Even the Bourgogne rouge is a Marsannay in disguise.
– I don’t have any Bourgogne vineyards, says Cyril Audoin. My Bourgogne rouge is declassified Marsannay. I have a cuvée of red Marsannay called Marie Ragonneau where I use old vines from five vineyards in Marsannay. Some of the young vines in those vineyards are used for the Bourgogne rouge. My great-grandfather died in World War I. Marie was my great-grandmother and she continued the work the domaine and she is the reason why we’re still here.
The Marsannay appellation stretches over three villages. From Chenôve at the outskirts of Dijon, via Marsannay down to Couchey. Domaine Charles Audoin has vines in all three. The Clos du Roy is the only cuvée from Chenôve.
– I have two cuvées from Clos du Roy, says Cyril Audoin. One red and one white. Clos de Roy is large, but the soil homogenous. It’s not like in Champ Salomon, where you have parts very different in character. My grandfather planted the top part with chardonnay. It’s more clay and marnes there, very good for chardonnay. In Charme aux Prêtres it’s the other way around. There it’s bottom part which best suited for chardonnay. There are a few good spots for chardonnay in Marsannay, so you have to be careful where you decide to plant.
When Charles Audoin, Cyril’s father, took on the domaine in 1972 it was only 2.5 hectares. At the time it was mostly gamay and aligoté. He began bottling the same year and over the years the domaine grew to 14 hectares.
– My grandfather used to sell his wine to négociants or to cafés in Dijon, says Cyril Audoin. He also sold vegetables at the market. The big change came with my father and that’s why I have kept his name in the domaine name. He retired in 2009, but he will never stop. He is always out in the vineyards.
To the immediate south of Clos du Roy, just across the border to the commune of Marsannay, is Les Longeroies. Like Clos du Roy this is a large lieu-dit, but while Clos du Roy is facing straight east Les Longeroies is turning around the hill facing southeast. Clos du Roy is very sandy clay and Les Longeroies is clay with some limestone. Both are well-drained.
– The sandy soil in Clos du Roy is what gives the wine its minerality, says Cyril Audoin. Les Longeroies is always a rounder wine.
On the slope behind the village of Marsannay are Charme aux Prêtres, Clos de Jeu and Les Favières. The two cuvées of Charme aux Prêtres, red and white, are tiny. Just two barrels of each.
– Charme aux Prêtres is very stony and it’s very good for both red and white, says Cyril Audoin. Especially our red part is so stony it is difficult to plough. The sizes of the cuvées are ridiculous. Commercially it’s a stupid thing to do. But it’s such an interesting wine, so I have to do it.
Clos de Jeu and Les Favières are next to each other. Cyril Audoin describes the Clos de Jeu as a powerful wine, but still quite soft, which is accessible as young.
– There is just a small trail between the two vineyards, he says. But they are completely different. The top part of Les Faviéres is very good for pinot noir. For me it’s one of the best parts of Marsannay. Les Faviéres can age forever.
– It’s a never-ending discussion between my father and I, whether it’s Les Favières or Champ Salomon that is the best. Our parcel in Champ Salomon was planted in 1945 by my grandfather and that is probably why my father prefers it. It’s an emotional thing. He’s known this vineyard forever. Both are great terroirs. Champ Salomon is a bit more rich than Les Favières, but I love the precision of Les Favières.
© 2016 Ola Bergman