The Château de Maltroye is a wonderfully restored bourgeois house. Built in the 18th century over the burnt-out ruin of a previous (15th century) building; the beautiful vaulted cellars date from that older house. The only parallels in Burgundy to such a house – immaculately and artistically presented – would be the ‘statement’ headquarters of Jadot or Bouchard Père. It is a real compliment to the current owner, Jean-Pierre Cornut.
Well shielded from the road by large iron gates, it is easy to miss the château from the road. Behind the Château where once was a vegetable garden, are lines of vines that head down the hill some 200 metres. This one area of vines encapsulates the vagaries of Chassagne – much of it unwritten – the vines are in the AOC 1er Cru of Maltroie which has 3 subdivisions; Maltroie, Maltroie Crêtes and the walled Clos de la Maltroye of, and named after, the Château. Each could appear as a separate 1er Cru on a label, but the blending of any of these three means the label must be Maltroie 1er Cru – oh, and of-course they are all planted with a mix of red and white grapes – welcome to Chassagne!
The Cornut – Maltroye connection
The bottom wall of the Clos de Maltroye bears an inscribed stone that refers to ‘Picard – Stoeckel Proprietaires’; Picard was the grandfather of Jean-Pierre Cornut, Stoeckel his grandmother. Grandfather Picard was of burgundian stock, coming from Nolay, but took his education in Paris. It was here that a senator friend alerted him to the opportunity to buy the château in 1940. 80% of the current estate’s vineyards came with the purchase.
In the first years it was not Jean-Pierre’s, grandfather that made the wines, rather his grandfather’s brother. Jean-Pierre’s father, André, was an Air France Pilot yet also managed to work the estate for about 20 years until 1993 when bad health caused his son to take-over. Jean-Pierre who was working as an engineer for Dassault Aviation at the time, is now both owner and winemaker of/for the domaine. Jean-Pierre is a tall, thin, lithe and athletlic looking, despite (or because of) his regular nicotine transfusions, and always gives the impression of someone who cannot sit doing one thing for long. He is an engaging host when it comes to discussing Chassagne and it’s vines.
The domaine today covers around 15 hectares – large for a private domaine – 2 of which are Santenay, the rest is Chassagne, 40% of the total is red. Jean-Pierre points to the change of fashion, both the Clos St.Jean and Boudriottes were at one time almost all pinot noir. Many growers are disappointed by this – at least until they check their bank balances!
The wines and winemaking
Starting with the vines in Chassagne, the domaine has enough for two barrels per year of Bâtard-Montrachet and produces 10 different premier crus: The Dents de Chien and La Romanée tend to be the more mineral wines, Jean-Pierre even likes to compare these to Perrières or Charlemagne. Grand Ruchottes and half a hectare of Maltroie Crêtes – which is never blended with the Clos de la Maltroye. Then there are two cuvées of Morgeots – one from vignes blanches and the other from ‘feroutes’ these are very rich rather than mineral and also never blended. Then there are the 1ers of Macharelle, Chevenottes and Baudine. The last whites from Chassagne are a villages, a bourgogne blanc and an aligoté.
The reds from Chassagne include 3 premiers; Clos de la Maltroye, Clos St.Jean and Boudriottes, the range being rounded out by a villages rouge and a bourgogne rouge. From Santenay the labels are all premier cru; La Comme red and white, and enough red Gravières for 3 barrels.
Jean-Pierre restricts yield by green harvesting – which caused some problems in 2005 as he’d only just finished the green harvest when hail hit – hence for 2005 he has only ~50% of his normal crop. At least then he is very happy with his 2004’s, in fact he loves them.
The reds and whites have their own cellars and cuveries. The reds are fully de-stemmed and go into temperature-controlled tanks for a 10-14 day cold maceration, before completing fermentations in a roughly 30 day cuvaison. The whites start their fermentations in stainless steel and are then transferred to the barrels when part fermented. The barrels for the reds are kept underground, and the whites at ground-level, but the white ‘cellar’ is temperature controlled. Sometimes Jean-Pierre will warm the cellar to prolong his fermentation, or cool it to try and precipitate the tartrates from the whites while still in barrel.
The top wines are well-oaked, usually 100% for the Bâtard and sometimes also for the Dents de Chien and the La Romanée. This is not the strong ‘toasty’ type of oak, rather the body-building, smoothing of edges type of oak. It certainly adds for depth, but to my taste, dulls the palate slightly when the wines are young; still vivacious but without the range of expression of some other domaines.
Medium yellow. A wide nose, some higher tones but not quite the amplitude or depth of some 2004 Chassagnes. The palate is rich and just a little softer but with real concentration. A real burst of intensity on the mid-palate though it’s just a little ‘un-knit’ at the moment. I think this is due to the oak treatment – there’s just perceptible coconut on the finish. Needs a little more time to come together, but it’s concentrated, has good acidity and should be rather good.
Château de la Maltroye
16 r Murée
Tel : +33 (0)3 80 21 32 45
Fax : +33 (0)3 80 21 34 54