oël Remy is the only full-time winegrower in his village. It’s only a ten-minute drive from Beaune, but it’s in the plain southeast of the Côte, a part of Burgundy which in the past only produced vin de table, table wine.
– This is where we have our roots, says Joël Remy. That’s why we have kept this place. Obviously, there are advantages being located in the Côte, but here we have lots of space and if we want to expand we can.
Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche, where you’ll find Domaine Joël Remy, is a village with some 800 inhabitants. Nowadays the focus is not on wine, but on other crops. Joël Remy’s twelve hectares of vines are all located in appellations such as Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny-lès-Beaune and Saint-Aubin.
– We can trace the domaine back to 1857, says Joël Remy. But back then it was polyculture with cows, horses, cereals and some vines. My grandparents produced vin de table here up until World War II. My father cut down on the production of vin de table. Instead he began buying vines in Chorey-lès-Beaune and other villages in the Côte.
– Having finished wine school I arrived at the domaine in 1988. The domaine had grown to close to four hectares by then, but there were still other crops and sheep. Today it’s only wine and I sell everything in bottle.
About 70 per cent of the domaine is red – Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Chorey-lès-Beaune Les Beaumonts, Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Fourneaux, Beaune premier cru Les Avaux, Beaune premier cru Les Cent Vignes, Aloxe Corton les Combes, Pommard les Vignots and Pommard premier cru La Chanière. The rest is white – Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Chorey-lès-Beaune and Saint-Aubin premier cru Le Sentier du Clou. About one quarter is regional appellations. Half is village appellations and the remaining quarter is premier crus.
– The vines used for the vin de table were hybrids. I don’t even know what they were called. Often they were planted directly, without being grafted onto other rootstocks. They were very productive varieties from the south of France. At the time wine was really something for everyday drinking, so large quantities had to be produced.
In the 1930 the growers in Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche abandoned the hybrids and began planting the varieties we are more familiar with – pinot noir, chardonnay, aligoté and gamay. But when the villages in the plain weren’t included in the appellations system the vineyards began to disappear.
– Today most of the vines have been uprooted, says Joël Remy. Only one single hectare remains. The wine produced there can only be sold as IGP, Indication Géographique Protégée. All my vines are in the Côte.
Both the Bourgogne blanc and the white Chorey-lès-Beaune at Domaine Joël Remy come from Le Grand Saussy on the Ladoix side of Chorey-lès-Beaune. Half of this lieu-dit is village appellation, half is regional appellation.
– I had some old pinot noir vines there, says Joël Remy. 15 years ago I uprooted them and replanted with chardonnay. It is well-drained. The subsoil contains a lot of gravel. There is limestone in the topsoil. In Chorey-lès-Beaune I think this is a very good place for chardonnay. Several of the other growers have done the same thing.
His red Chorey-lès-Beaune is a blend from several different lieux-dits – Les Grandes Rêpes, Poirier, La Maladérotte and Les Beaumonts.
– A large part is from Les Beaumonts, which I think is the best part of Chorey-lès-Beaune when it comes to character. With Les Beaumonts you are west of the route nationale and closer to the village of Savigny-lès-Beaune. The soil is redder, more iron oxide. You get a wine which is more fruity. The wines from parcels closer to the village of Chorey-lès-Beaune have more structure, depending on if they are on the Ladoix side or the Beaune side.
The red soil is very much present in Les Fourneaux, the Savigny-lès-Beaune of the domaine. It’s on a gentle slope next to the road to Pernand-Vergelesses. The age of the vines is 30 years.
– In Savigny-lès-Beaune you have more depth, more finesse and elegance. The soil is deeper. Not at all the same terroir as in Les Beaumonts. My parents bought this parcel and I replanted it when the vines had become too old. As the name Les Fourneaux suggests (fourneau=oven) it is a warm place, so the grapes are always very ripe.
In Beaune Joël Remy has two premier crus – Les Avaux and Les Cent Vignes. Occasionally he also produces a Beaune Les Chardonnereux. Not every year though since village appellation Beaune is difficult to sell.
– Les Avaux and Les Cent Vignes are completely different in terms of character, explains Joël Remy. Les Cent Vignes is on the Savigny-lès-Beaune side and Les Avaux is on the Pommard side.
– Les Avaux is on white soil with big stones. It’s at the bottom of the slope, almost flat. The limestone produces minerality in the wine. The tannins are soft. The vines are 50 years old.
The main owner in Les Avaux is Bouchard Père & Fils. In total there are nine owners, including the Hospices de Beaune.
Joël Remy bought his parcels in Les Cent Vignes in 1990 and 1993. Les Cent Vignes is on the bottom of the slope as well, surrounded by Les Toussaints, Les Bressandes and Les Fèves.
– Les Cent Vignes has more marked tannins. It’s a wine for keeping. At least five or six years. I tasted the 1990 and the 1976 recently and they were both fine. You have very thin soil in Les Cent Vignes and it’s very well-drained. When it rains the stare doesn’t stay. In dry years it can be difficult for the vines. In 2003 the grapes were too concentrated. There was very little juice in the grapes.
© 2015 Ola Bergman