omaine Marc Roy is one of the smaller domaines in Gevrey-Chambertin. With just four hectares of vines Alexandrine Roy and her parents produce three different cuvées of village Gevrey-Chambertin as well as a small amount of the rare white Marsannay, Les Champs Perdrix.
– The Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, is our main cuvée, explains Alexandrine Roy. It's a selection of the oldest vines we have, which is easy since the main part of the estate is old vines anyway. The annual production is around 9000 bottles.
Alexandrine Roy is the fourth generation at the domaine. It was her great grandfather, Victor Roy, who originally founded the domaine. Back then it was even smaller.
– He came from an old family of winegrowers, says Alexandrine Roy. It was just that he didn't have much vines. He lived near Marsannay. It was with my grandfather André that the domain really started to grow. As most of his generation he was selling mainly to the négociants.
Then in 1982 came the big change, when Alexandrine's father, Marc Roy, decided to start bottling the whole production. With a total output of 20000 bottles a year Domaine Marc Roy today exports to the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
– It's another relationship between you and your vineyards when you are in charge of everything from vine to bottle, says Alexandrine Roy. Instead of producing grapes, you are producing fine wines that will be a reflection of your philosophy and your ideas.
After working in Australia and New Zeeland, and doing the 2002 harvest in Bandol, Alexandrine Roy returned to Gevrey-Chambertin in 2003 to work full-time with her parents. She points out that she has pretty much the same philosophy as her father; something that is necessary if you are going to work closely together.
– Maybe I have added more attention to detail, she says. I am a woman, so I am very focused on details. My father does a great job and I am still working with him. But I am more focused on tiny things that make a difference. For example, I have been pushing him to start ploughing the vines again, like he used to do years ago. Also, I have been influencing the yields at the domaine. My father was already doing some green harvesting, but I convinced him to remove more shoots on the vines in the spring, just leaving six or seven. This gives a good aeration of the grapes and it also limits the number of grape bunches.
During harvest there is no sorting table used at Domaine Marc Roy. Instead the sorting is carried out already by the pickers. The domaine uses the same team of pickers every year, which means they have people working for them that are familiar with the requirements they have. Then when the buckets with grapes are emptied into plastic cases there is a second check to make sure that only healthy grapes are transported to the winery.
– Before the harvest we remove the leaves on the north side of the vines, explains Alexandrine Roy. This allows the pickers to better see what they are cutting and it also allows better aeration between the grapes. If there is moisture there will be rot or botrytis.
All the Gevrey-Chambertin of Domaine Marc Roy is village vines. The Clos Prieur is bottled separately, while the other climats – En Jouise, Carougeot, Les Murots, Les Crais, Vignes Belles, Les Seuvrées and La Justice – go into the Cuvée Alexandrine and the Vieilles Vignes. Alexandrine Roy is not giving away which parcels that go into the cuvée that bears her name.
– There must be some mystery, she smiles. Cuvée Alexandrine is something I created in 2005. Since we don't have any premiers crus or grands crus I wanted to create a special selection. It was a nice way to prove what you can do if you are doing a good job with village grapes, what you can achieve if you take care of everything from the vineyard to the wine.
– The Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos Prieur, is a specific parcel located near the grands crus that produces a very spicy wine, very complex and full-bodied and elegant at the same time. Even in its youth it is a very charming wine.
The only white wine of Domaine Marc Roy is the Marsannay, Les Champs Perdrix. The annual production of 2000 bottles comes from half a hectare of vines at the southeast end of the commune of Couchey. There are some 15 owners of Les Champs Perdrix. Most of these have planted pinot noir here. Only three are growing chardonnay here – Domaine Marc Roy and two more.
– There is not a lot of white Marsannay, says Alexandrine Roy. So I am very glad that my father decided to plant chardonnay there some ten years ago. Some of our customers had been asking for it, so he thought it would be easy to produce it and sell it. But at the beginning it was awful. Nobody wanted to buy a white Marsannay, because nobody was familiar with it. So we had several vintages with only a few bottles sold.
When Alexandrine Roy returned to the domaine full-time she set out to change this. She felt that a very good wine was being neglected. With a lot of hard work and a lot of explaining she pulled it off in the end. Today the Marsannay, Les Champs Perdrix sells without any problems.
– The terroir is amazing for this wine, she says. It's a steep hill, with a lot of stones. The grapes benefit from a very mineral terroir. They have a good acidity level when we pick them.
– This wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. We make it in stainless steel tanks, and then we transfer the wine, while it is still fermenting, to oak barrels. 20 percent of the oak is new. Then there is a steering of the lees. The result is amazing.
– For the 2000 vintage we had a very strong acidity in this wine. I mean, it was completely undrinkable during the first year, so we decided to leave it. Two years ago we tried it again, and wow, it was amazing. We then sold all the bottles in one year.
Since 2007 Alexandrine Roy is also contributing winemaker at Phelps Creek Vineyards in Oregon. Bob Morus, owner of Phelps Creek Vineyards, asked if she would be interested in doing a special cuvée for him.
– I loved the idea, she says. The aim was to produce something different from what the regular winemaker over there does, using my Burgundian techniques.
– It worked and my cuvée turned out to be very different from the cuvée of their own winemaker. His cuvée had more of expressive fruit, explosive fruit, very aromatic. Very charming in the mouth, but short at the end, whereas mine was a bit discreet, a bit closed, but that developed after some aeration, like a Burgundy wine, and it lasted very long.
© 2009 Ola Bergman