omaine Michel Martin in Coulanges-la-Vineuse stays true to the village. Unlike elsewhere in Burgundy you’ll only find wines from one appellation here. All three wines of the domaine – one of each colour – red, white and rosé – come from the regional appellation Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse.
– To me Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse is first and foremost about fruitiness, says Michel Martin. Of course, within the appellation you have the different styles of each winemaker. Some make more tannic wines than others. But the true character is the fruitiness. It is lighter in style, very feminine.
Somebody once said there is, at least, one Michel Martin in every French village. And if that village is in a wine region Michel is very likely to be a winegrower. In Burgundy there are two Domaine Michel Martin – one in Coulanges-la-Vineuse and one in Chorey-lès-Beaune on the Côte d’Or.
Together with wine producing villages such as Irancy, Saint-Bris le Vineux and Chitry-le-Fort, Coulanges-la-Vineuse is part of the Auxerrois area in northwestern Burgundy. Chablis is just nearby, only 30 kilometres to the north-east from Coulanges-la-Vineuse.
Before the phylloxera, in the 19th century, this was the largest wine-producing area in France. 36000 hectares were under vines, a vast area compared to the 6000 hectares of today. Over three years, from 1877 to 1880, production dropped from 2 802 853 hectolitres of wine to 194 755 hectolitres.
Chablis managed to recover, but for the rest of the area it proved difficult. Two world wars and the Depression made things worse and it was only in the 1960’s and the 1970’s that the situation slowly started to improve. Large areas still remain unplanted, but more and more vineyards are added.
– At the beginning of the Chablis boom, around 1975–1980, there were a lot of vineyards you could rent, says Michel Martin. And it wasn’t particularly expensive either. But since we’re using quite small – 60 hp – vineyard tractors 30 kilometres is to far to drive. So for us it was a choice to only have vineyards in the Coulanges-la-Vineuse. A couple of Coulanges growers, Christophe Auguste and Jean-Marc Bon, managed to find some land in Irancy, but we haven’t had the opportunity.
Michel Martin finished wine school in Beaune in 1965. Back home in Coulanges-la-Vineuse his father told him he could take care of the winemaking at the domaine. For some time they worked together, but eventually his father left all the responsibility to him.
– Michel started bottling in 1982, says his wife Maryline Martin. We got married in 1985 and moved in here, which was the house of Michel’s uncle. He was about to retire, so for a while we worked alongside. His last harvest was in 1989. He had some stock to sell, but by 1991 it was all gone.
– Today we have 13 hectares of vines, says Michel Martin. There is only chardonnay planted on one hectare and a half. The rest is pinot noir. The age of the vines varies from 25 years to 40 years. We practice polyculture. we grow cherries and we have 60 hectares for cereals.
The main part of the production at Domaine Michel Martin is the red Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse. Barrels and large wooden tanks are used, but never any new oak.
– I buy used barrels from Chorey-lès-Beaune, from Domaine Tollot-Beaut, says Michel Martin. They are barrels which have been used for two wines. Buying new barrels is very expensive and they have too much of an impact on the wine.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse is a regional appellation. Prices are low. In the range of seven to nine euros if you buy directly from the growers. Still, the wines ages very well. Michel Martin puts on a tasting that covers the past 20 years at the domaine to illustrate this.
– White Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse is not a big thing, he says. I don’t think there is more than 25 hectares planted with chardonnay in the whole appellation.
– It was Christophe August who started it, says Maryline Martin. He had always made some table wine, but he started planting for serious use in 1988 and the rest of followed. We planted our chardonnay in 1989.
– Our white is made with macération pelliculaire, continues Michel Martin. At harvest, instead of pressing the grapes immediately we leave them in the tank overnight, for about 15 hours. This produces a wine which is fuller, more aromatic, but less mineral. We are not Chablis and we don’t have the same terroir, so we shouldn’t try to make a Chablis.
– Depending on the vintage we don’t use macération pelliculaire for 100 per cent of the wine. If the vintage is low on acidity macération pelliculaire will produce a too modern wine if you use too much of it.
The production of rosé Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse is the smallest at the domaine. Just 50 hectolitres annually, which is about 6700 bottles.
– Back in 1986 there was already a demand for the rosé, says Maryline Martin. Michel’s uncle had stopped making it, so he asked us to continue the production for his clients.
– This rosé is much drier than the rosés from the south of France, says Michel Martin. We use macération pelliculaire for this one too, but only for 50 per cent. The rest is pressed directly. 100 per cent macération pelliculaire would bring too much colour.
© 2014 Ola Bergman