t is not always easy being a wine grower in Auxey-Duresses. Not that the wines aren't good enough – they definitely are – but from a marketing point of view the name of the village leaves a lot to be desired. For people outside the region it is, if not impossible, so at least difficult to pronounce.
– That's why we have some vines in Meursault and Volnay, which are easier to say, explains Estelle Prunier with a smile, the "Fille" part of Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille in Auxey-Duresses.
This is a domaine that is often referred to as one of the best in the village. Estelle's father Michel started out in 1968 with only two hectares. Today they exploit twelve hectares, making 17 different wines. Red, white and even some sparkling wine; Crémant de Bourgogne.
– My grandfather had six children and he had six hectares of land, says Estelle Prunier. So he gave them one hectare each. So my father had this hectare and he got another one from a sister who did not work with wine.
Auxey-Duresses (the 'x' is pronounced as 's') is a small village of some 300 inhabitants up in a valley behind Meursault. This is still the Cote d'Or, with Meursault and Monthelie to the east and Saint-Romain to the west. In total there are 25 wine growers here.
– Most of them bottle themselves, but some sell their wine to négociants, says Estelle Prunier.
You will find the Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille right in the middle of Auxey-Duresses. Of their twelve hectares six are owned and six are rented. The average size in the whole of Burgundy is 6.2 hectares.
– We are a family winery. My mother, my father and I work in the vineyards and we have two employees. I think it is a good size, because we do all the work ourselves. We don't separate the work. It's very interesting because you get to see everything – the vineyards, the cellar and the commercial side.
Estelle Prunier has been working with her parents since 2004. Before that she completed her viticultural studies and training.
– I finished my studies in 2002, she explains. After that I had my training period – two months in Bordeaux during the harvest 2003. Before that I was three months in Australia. It was a very good experience.
In the past, much of the Auxey-Duresses wines were bottled as Cote de Beaune-Villages – the appellation that covers all the villages on the Cote de Beaune, except for Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Pommard and Volnay. Today much more wine is sold as Auxey-Duresses. While the weak point is the name, the strong point is a good price-quality ratio.
– My father has always been proud of the appellation and he has been promoting it all the time. But we have a lot more work to do.
The production area of Auxey-Duresses is 133.60 hectares. That is one of the smaller on the Cote de Beaune; just a little bit larger than Aloxe-Corton. There are nine premier crus; all of which may be used for red, but only in some cases for white.
– We are situated in a valley and we have one side that produces white wine. It continues up in Meursault. The exposition is north-northeast. In Auxey-Duresses we produce 30 percent white and 70 percent red wine. The reds are produced on the other side of the road; it continues from Monthélie. The soil is more suited for red because you have more clay and limestone. The exposition is very good; to the southeast.
– The whites have more minerals, flowers and a good acidity thanks to the exposition. The character of the reds is a fruity wine, with a good structure and a good acidity that makes it well balanced.
The flagship of the domaine is the Auxey-Duresses "Clos du Val". This premier cru is situated between the "Climat du Val" and "Les Bréterins", facing south. Only two wine-growers offer this wine – Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille and Domaine Prunier-Damy. The annual production is only 5800 bottles.
– We are very proud of this vineyard because it is a family vineyard, says Estelle Prunier.
Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille also offers a straight Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru. It is a blend of three parcels – "Climat du Val", "Bas des Duresses" and "Les Grands Champs". "Climat du Val" and "Bas des Duresses" are at opposite ends of the premier cru area in Auxey-Duresses. "Bas des Duresses" is on the border to Monthélie while "Climat du Val" is at the western end". "Les Grands Champs" is a long strip of land alongside the main road, just below "Les Brétins", "La Chapelle" and "Reugne".
– It's interesting to compare this wine with the "Clos du Val" because both have good structure, but still they are very different.
There is also an Auxey-Duresses village, as well as village reds from both Chorey-lès-Beaune (both Chorey tout court and Les Beaumonts) and Pommard (Les Vignots). Outside the village there are another two premier crus – Beaune, "Les Sizies" and Volnay, "Les Caillerets". The red portfolio is completed with a Côtes de Beaune-Villages together with the generics Bourgogne Pinot Noir and Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune.
The whites are not as many; two generics – Bourgogne Aligoté and Bourgogne Chardonnay – to start with, followed by two Auxey-Duresses village (one of which is a vieilles vignes) and a Meursault, Les Clous.
And since Michel Prunier studied in Champagne there is also a sparkling wine, a Crémant de Bourgogne made from 50 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir and ten percent aligoté.
Also Estelle Prunier has been influenced by where she studied. When she is not drinking her own wines she can be found looking in the direction of the Maconnais and the Auxerrois, where she studied and did a training period. She is a fan of both Saint-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé.
– We also have a lot of blind tastings, where we take wines from all over the world – California, Australia etc. It's good to have an idea of what we can find outside our region.
In 2002 Domaine Michel Prunier & Fille expanded into the restaurant business. They bought La Crémaillère across the street. Jean-Michel Vernochet is the chef there now and it is open every day except Tuesday and Wednesday. The cuisine is traditional with regional specialities.
© 2007 Ola Bergman