Maranges is the ‘wild south’ of the Côte d’Or, the seldom mentioned, southern extremity of the Côte de Beaune where the East facing Côte turns to face the South. It’s technically in the next département of Saone-et-Loire, but is part of the Côte d’Or and distinct from Côte Chalonnais hill range. If it has a reputation, it is for reds with robust tannins and good acidity and for the gorgeous scenery. It is a delight here.
The appellation was created in 1989 to encompass the three villages Cheilly, Sampigny and the unfortunately named Dezize. The vines cloak the south facing hillside. It’s rocky with a high percentage of limestone at the top mixing with clays on the terraces, moving down the hill to more gravels at the bottom. It’s frontier country where geological formations collide. There is even a large granite outcrop in the valley.
There are ten premier crus in a block across the slope in the upper section. I wanted to learn more about the premier cru La Fussière, which is a sizeable premier cru of 34 hectares shared between the villages of Cheilly and Dezize, and the tiny 1 hectare premier cru Croix Moines.
I arranged to see Pablo Chevrot. Domaine Chevrot make 16 wines across Maranges and the adjoining appellation of Santenay and Pablo is very well versed in the terroir of Maranges. He explains all in the film below. Be warned the film is long, but fascinating. There is too much good information to edit it down. Pablo spent a year studying geology and is passionate about communicating his knowledge of Maranges.
Domaine Chevrot has a parcel at the top of La Fussière, where the hill side breaks into rock and trees. This lofty part was recently reclaimed, ripping out the acacia, removing smaller rocks and cultivating around the larger ones. This tough looking terrain to grow vines was planted in 2010 with Chardonnay ATVB clones.
Just south of La Fussière is the tiny 1 hectare premier cru of La Croix Moines in the village of Dezize. As the name suggests this was the spot chosen by the monks who established an abbey in the village of Dezise just below.
I drove through the vineyards climbing steadily higher. Pablo had preferred to take my car – an unusual choice. Usually I hop into the vigneron’s little white van. My car felt decidedly bulky on the muddy narrow tracks and I soon regretted I’d bothered with the bi-annual clean.
“La Fussière is up there.” Pablo indicated a decidedly steep and stony incline off the track. I assumed we’d walk, but no, “just drive the car up… if you don’t want to, I’ll do it.” Well really. We strained and bumped 3 tonnes of metal to a halt at the top. The engine was thundering under the bonnet and there was no place to turn round. We had reached 360m.
In the young vineyard three women were tying down the canes in Pablo’s precipitous parcel of La Fussière… not an enviable task. With the panorama of the Maranges beneath us, Pablo explained the terroir in the film (below).
La Fussière may be planted in Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Most is planted in red, but there is a trend to replant in white. Chevrot “It’s a natural place,” says Pablo, “as it turns to forest above.”
Domaine Chevrot farm organically, but lost their certified organic status in 2016. Pablo explains. “I had to treat in June with chemicals. Since 2004 we have not used any chemicals, but I could not lose an entire crop. Mildew had really got to the vines. We had 25 days of rain in May to mid June. We struggled. We sprayed by hand, but on the 10th June we had a week of rain and hot temperatures and it went from clean to mildew. Those who were organic harvested just 5 to 10 hl/hl and if you stayed organic, you used so much copper. If we had not had frost before it would have been different, but we had already lost too much to frost. It was a very hard decision.”
“We harvest the whites in the morning always with cold berries. We press cold and lower the temperature down to 10 degrees or less and put it into barrel. The yeast population will be very different with the temperature. You must press cold grapes or the quality will be compromised. So in the afternoon we stop processing the whites.”
“We press with a pH meter….end the press at 3.6. This part is not kept though. We crush, whole bunch but crushed. We settle very clean.” They use a vaslin press. “I like the extraction we get with it.” They used pneumatic on the 2013 as it was very fragile. “We put 2g of sulphur in the press. Straight to the pan… we’re very careful with oxidation as we use no sulphur for all the life of the wine. We feed the yeast some pure oxygen.”
They use one year old barrels. 2015 has a little new oak. If he can Pablo does not filter the whites. He fines whites (not the reds) with a little bentonite, “as we press with whole bunch.”
If the tasting below is any indication, La Fussière is a very good place for whites, better than for reds. This is a young vineyard and as the vines age, the wines will increase in depth and intensity.
Tasting in the 1798 cellar under the house
Pablo’s wife Kaori, a Japanese wine taster, and son Angelo arrived with a birthday present during the tasting. Pablo had in New York and missed the day. It also happened to be Vincent’s birthday. Vincent joined the domaine in 2007, while Pablo began in 2002. Both are very well qualified and have a wealth of experience working at wineries around the world in addition to many in Burgundy. For a few minutes the cellar was full of the family, including the brothers’ father Fernand. He and his wife Catherine inherited in 1973 from his parents Paul and Henriette who created the domaine. Today it’s still very much a family affair with Vincent, Aureile and son Paul also living on at the domaine. They make 16 wines with a total production between 80-100,000 bottles.