Christophe Coillot at Domaine Coillot, Marsannay-la-Côte, Burgundy.

hristophe Coillot in Marsannay does not like tannins. As he points out, he has officially declared war against tannins.

– One shouldn’t have to be a Norwegian woodcutter to drink the wines, he says. What I’m looking for is precision, purity and finesse. I’m against tannins. I don’t like them. I don’t find any pleasure in drinking wines which are heavy on tannins.

You’ll find Domaine Coillot in the quarters behind the church in Marsannay, where you also have domaines like Audoin, Fournier and Pataille. The domaine has twelve hectares of vineyards, which is twice the size it was when Christophe Coillot began working with his father in 1986. There is also a small négociant business.

Marsannay-la-Côte, Burgundy.– It was my father who created the domaine, Christophe Coillot explains. My grandfather, who died in 1969, had some vineyards, but like everybody else of that era he did a bit of everything to make ends meet. It wasn’t only wine. There were damson plums, cherries, raspberries, chickens, eggs etc. At the time, at the end of the WWII, people did what they could to make money.

Since then, he points out, much has changed. The wine business is not at the same, not even when compared to the time of his father’s.

– Working with my father was very difficult. Today winegrowers are generally more educated. My father did not want to make investments and he did not plan for the future. He would chaptalize, something we no longer do here. The wines were very old-fashioned. So working with him was very complicated. The domaine is doing well today, but it is only since my father passed away.

Marsannay-la-Côte, Burgundy.Domaine Coillot is mainly a red domaine. There is some Bourgogne Aligoté and in 2019 the vineyard producing the Bourgogne blanc of the domaine was upgraded to village appellation Marsannay. The vineyard in question is Champ Forey, below the village. It is planted with both pinot beurot, the Burgundian name for pinot gris, and chardonnay.

– Every now and then we use the pinot beurot for the white. It’s fun. The problem with the pinot beurot is that in great vintages there is not much acidity. It becomes very similar to eating a lump of butter. A wine without interest.

Marsannay-la-Côte, Burgundy.The rosé version of Marsannay was once the flagship of the village. With a new generation taking over focus has shifted towards the reds. In some cases growers have even decided to stop making any rosé at all. Christophe Coillot is one of them.

– I’m not a big fan of rosé, he says. Then again, I love Asian cooking and to have a Bandol or a Tavel with it is a brilliant match. My father would sell 150 hectolitres of rosé, but I prefer to make red wine.

The basic Marsannay cuvée comes from Champ Forey and the lower part of Les Ouzeloy, just next to Les Récilles. In addition to that you have the single vineyard cuvées. Five in total. Les Ouzeloy (or, as it is spelt on the label, Les Ouzelois), Grasses Têtes, Les Boivins, La Charme aux Prêtres and Les Longeroies.

– Les Grasses Têtes, which is below and to the left of Les Boivin, was originally called Les Grosses Têtes (the big heads), referring to the big stones you find there. It can be difficult ploughing there. I treat all my wines the same way, from the Bourgogne to the Gevrey-Chambertin. I use one third new barrels, one third which have been used for one wine and one third which have been used for two wines. I leave the wines in the barrels between 14 and 16 months.

But it has not always been this way. Since taking over the domaine from his father Christophe Coillot has made many changes.

– I have been working a lot with the élevage, with the barrels, he explains. I wasn’t happy working with my father, because we would use barrels that were ten to 15 years old. In August every year we would repaint the hoops of the barrels. It looked very nice, but the barrels were still old and when you tasted the wine you could tell it wasn’t right. It wasn’t clean. I fought with my father, but he wouldn't change his way of doing things.

Marsannay-la-Côte, Burgundy.– When I eventually got the chance to change things quality improved. There was a significant improvement in quality and purity.

– During harvest there is no mechanical interference with the grapes. This is also something that has changed since I took over the domaine. My father’s way of working would free the tannins of the pips, and that is not something you should do. If you do you end up with undrinkable wines.

– During vinification I am very much non-interventionist. I’m not the one making the wine, it’s the grapes. If you show up with nice ripe grapes much of the work is already done. I love very ripe grapes, but not over-ripe. A friend of mine and I we are always the last ones to harvest in Marsannay.

Les Longeroies is the biggest lieu-dit in Marsannay. The upper and lower part together cover 34.1 hectares. You will find it on a not particularly steep southeast-facing slope just north of the village. It is considered as one of best parts of the appellation.

Christophe Coillot at Domaine Coillot, Marsannay-la-Côte, Burgundy.– I’m mid-slope. It’s one hectare which is perfect, because there are three different parts. One third is deep soil, one third is deep soil, but with stones, and one third is basically just stones.

Les Boivins, at the top of the slope just west of the village, has a similar kind of soil as Les Longeroies. It’s clay and limestone, but it produces a sturdier wine. In terms of size Les Boivins is roughly one fifth of Les Longeroies. And there are far less growers who have Les Boivins on their wine list.

– Les Boivins, I’m in love with this lieu-dit, says Christophe Coillot. It’s like my little bay. In 1987 it was the first lieu-dit my father and I separated from the Marsannay cuvée. Up until then he had been making one single Marsannay, with all the lieux-dits together.

– But you really need to know the vines in Les Boivins. There is always a risk that you make wine which is too powerful. Therefore I keep the vinification process slightly shorter for this wine.

While Les Boivins is clay and limestone its neighbour to the north, La Charme aux Prêtres, is mainly clay. The soil is heavy and if it’s been raining you don’t go in there.

– There can be problems with the maturity in La Charme aux Prêtres. It doesn’t always quite get there. Working in La Charme aux Prêtres is much more complicated than in Les Boivins and in Les Longeroies. In Les Boivins the vines are 70 years old and the wine almost makes itself. The vines are very nicely planted and you have five, six or eight bunches on each, while in La Charme aux Prêtres you have clones from the 1970s, which is a whole different thing.

© 2021 Ola Bergman