Edouard Pointeau-Langevin, Marcel Pointeau-Langevin, Clément Pointeau-Langevin and Vincent Pointeau at Domaine la Fontaine aux Muses, La Celle-Saint-Cyr, Burgundy.

isiting La Celle-Saint-Cyr in northwestern Burgundy it is difficult to imagine this was once an area dominated by vineyards. Today the vineyards are few and far between. But things are changing.

– Around 1900 there were 500 hectares of vines in La Celle-Saint-Cyr, says Clément Pointeau-Langevin. That was more than in Chablis. In the 1980s our father was the first to replant chardonnay around here.

Here everything revolves around La Fontaine aux Muses, the inn created by the grandparents and later taken on by Vincent Pointeau, the father of Clément and his brother Edouard. The restaurant part is mainly taken care of by Edouard and Vincent, whereas the vineyards and the winemaking are the responsibility of Clément and Vincent.

Domaine la Fontaine aux Muses, La Celle-Saint-Cyr, Burgundy.– My mother didn’t want to live in Paris, Vincent Pointeau explains. Too many temptations. My parents began looking for a house and eventually ended up here in La Celle-Saint-Cyr. This was in 1960. Initially there were two houses here. This one and another one. But the other was in such a bad shape it had to be torn down. With this place they wanted to create a haven for artists.

Since then much has changed. The first vines did not arrive until 1988, but the music remains an integral part of the site. Often, when the work in the restaurant is over for the evening the family pick up the instruments and perform for the guests.

– In 1988 there was a mudslide, says Vincent Pointeau. The restaurant was filled with mud. I managed to buy the field above the house and turned it into a golf course. Then a friend suggested I turn the steeper parts into vineyards, with grass between the rows. Thanks to that everything stays up there when it rains.

Domaine la Fontaine aux Muses, La Celle-Saint-Cyr, Burgundy.With Clément Pointeau-Langevin going to wine school in Beaune the wine production expanded. There are the vineyards in La Celle-Saint-Cyr for pinot noir and chardonnay under the Domaine la Fontaine aux Muses label and there are the vineyards in Joux-la-Ville for chardonnay, pinot noir and artaban under the Domaine Clément Pointeau-Langevin label. The latter are tiny in terms of surface area and are mainly for Clément’s own experiments. They do however end up in bottle.

While La Celle-Saint-Cyr is 40 minutes northwest of Auxerre, Joux-la-Ville is 30 minutes southeast of Auxerre, towards Beaune. Joux-la-Ville is where Clément lives with his wife Clara and their kids.

– The house we live in is the house of Clara’s grandparents, says Clément Pointeau-Langevin. We bought it and when I opened the doors to the barn there was a press. There were barrels and there were tanks. Clara’s grandfather had been working for the SNCF, France's national state-owned railway company. But in the barn there was everything one would need to make wine. It was well planned and set up to be working by gravity. When we moved in it had been abandoned for 20 years.

La Celle-Saint-Cyr, Burgundy.– In Joux-la-Ville I just have 0.60 ha, he continues. It is chardonnay and pinot noir, but there is also some artaban, a red variety stemming from INRA’s Resdur programme. It is disease-resistant and I have had it included in the specifications for IGP Yonne, the quality category around here.

The holdings in La Celle-Saint-Cyr are larger, 2.6 ha of vines in total. Vincent Pointeau points out that since this part of Burgundy is closer to Sancerre there is also more of flinty soil here, about 50 per cent. The rest is clay and limestone.

The IGP Yonne is a relatively new thing. The IGP category (Indication Géographique Protégée) superseded Vin de Pays in 2009. Two years later the Yonne version arrived, much tanks to Clément Pointeau-Langevin, who is also the president of the organisation.

– The IGP category was introduced by the European Union as an effort to harmonise the rules and bring the countries closer to each other. Create a team spirit. It was a great idea. As my grandfather said, Europe should be the sky where the arts are the sun. And among the arts you have the gastronomy and the wine.

La Celle-Saint-Cyr, Burgundy.His grandfather was the composer Claude Langevin, who among many was responsible for the arrangement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as the official European Union anthem in 1989.

The IGP Yonne vineyards still remain modest in terms of surface area. In total there are about 50 hectares, split between ten or so growers.

– We want to avoid excess, explains Clément Pointeau-Langevin. There could easily be 500 to 1000 hectares of new vineyards every year, but we have chosen to limit it to ten hectares per year. The idea is to have one vineyard in each village.

– There is hope for the future and for the young who love their villages. This is a chance for them to start as winegrowers. There is no need for them to seek work elsewhere, to go pruning in Chablis. Small satellites like this, surrounding well-known appellations such as Chablis, will only strengthen. Everybody will benefit.

Domaine la Fontaine aux Muses, La Celle-Saint-Cyr, Burgundy.Before the phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century there was an impressive 40 000 hectares of vineyards in Yonne. Today’s 8000 hectares are mainly found in the well-known appellations such as Chablis, Irancy, Saint-Bris etc. With the vineyards long gone in other parts of Yonne it is not always the easiest task to find the best spots for the vines. But some help can be found by looking at maps. Often the names of places tell you something about the activities there in the past.

– The only sign that this village once was important when it came to wine is the name, says Vincent Pointeau. It was a place chosen by the Cistercian monks. Somehow they had it figured out, that this was a good place for producing wine.

– We basically live in a cellar above ground here, says Clément Pointeau-Langevin. With the stream it is always very humid. The temperature is controlled, cool. Since 2008 I have stored my bottles outside, next to the stream, covered by a piece of sheet metal.

The number of cuvées produced varies depending on the vintage.

– If there is a small harvest we blend everything, says Vincent Pointeau. In 2017 for instance, the harvest was so small it wasn’t even Vin de Garage, a garage wine. It was Vin de Camion, a lorry wine.

© 2022 Ola Bergman