Monday, 20 August 2012

Delicate Burgundies of the Maranges

Last Friday I drove over from Arbois to the little hamlet of St Gilles on Burgundy's Canal du Centre. On the other bank of the canal high above Santenay are the Maranges, the last southerly villages of the Cote de Beaune, even if the post code is Saone et Loire. I had come to stay with my friend Amanda Regan and her companion Remi, who provided the most blissfully simple & delicious food of pate en croute, jambon persille, escargots and the freshest cheeses and salads. That first afternoon we went to visit the Domaine Jean-Louis Bachelet in Dezize les Maranges. Jean-Louis and his son Bertrand's wines may not have quite the fashionable pull of their cousins' domaine of  Bachelet-Monnot just down the street, but they showed a varied range of burgundies that would give a lot of pleasure for early drinking, reflecting this pere et fils' sunny natures. I liked particularly their straight Chassagne villages and a delightful, less extracted Pommard  especially in 2010, from the Volnay side of the village.
Jean-Louis & Bertrand Bachelet

Back in St Gilles,  I was very struck by the supple flavours and delicacy of  the very different wines we drank at supper - fresh aligote in an aromatic minor key, supple Hautes Cote de Beaune of little red fruits, more mineral & elegant flavours in Maranges Ier Cru La Fussiere - all three 2010s- then genuine class in a gently maturing Santenay Clos Rousseau 2008, the sort of wine that says wait a bit and I will show you everything in my own good time. Tho' I had determined to hang up my tasting glass on holiday, curiosity got the better of me: Amanda, bless her, got me an appointment with the creators of these delicate natural beauties - none with much more than 12.5% alcohol - at the Domaine Fernand Chevron in Cheilly les Maranges. I quickly checked the Hanson bible and Anthony in  his inimitably discreet but telling way seemed pretty keen on the wines of Fernand & his sons.

I wasn't  to be disappointed. On saturday afternoon, sharp at 3 pm, under a fierce August sun (35 celsius) a fit older man,  trim with iron-grey moustache, in a crisp white shirt gently approached my car and looked in a kindly quizzical way at my Swiss number plates, until I assured him that I was the Anglais, ami  of Amanda. I instantly warmed to Fernand, for tho' I'm sure he would have rather been sitting in the cool of his stone manor house, he never showed it and gave me plenty of time at very short notice to taste in his cellar. Now officially retired, Fernand's modesty and honesty shone through. " I'm now taking a back seat, giving my boys their head; and to be frank, the wines have improved a lot since 2007 when Vincent & Pablo bought une table de trie and the grapes now drop by gravity into the fermenting cuves. The wines are more supple, the tannins plus fin." They sure are, but a little more credit should be given to Fernand for his foresight in going organic some years ago, and since 2007 in converting to biodynamie (certified in 2010). The domaine has 17 hectares, six of their own, the rest worked en fermage. Winemaking is an intelligent mix of tradition & modernity, cuves used for some whites like the lovely fragrant 2011 Aligote. The stars in the cellar are the precise and beautifully defined Maranges 1er Cru la Fussiere (rouge) 2010 and the dramatically fine Santenay Clos Rousseau 2011, quietly evolving en fut, and a step up I reckon from the already excellent 2008. A little of the domaine's wines have been imported to London by Top Selection, agent among others for Henri Giraud of Ay & of course Egon Muller.
Fernand Chevron

Domaine Chevrot et fils, 19 route de Couches, 71150 Cheilly les Maranges e

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