Brothers Claude and Hervé Muzard took over the running of the family domaine from their father – Lucien who had started the same way (but aged just 14!) in the 1960s – in 1995; the brothers had anyway worked the vines since 1992. The family can trace their local roots as far back as 1645 – nine generations. Once the brothers took control they immediately chose to bottle wine under their own name instead of shipping everything to the négoce. Today about thirty-five percent of the wines are exported, but the largest part are sold to a list of private clients that major on restaurants and cavistes, in France.
Although Santenay is both their home and the core of their vineyards, Maranges, Chassagne-Montrachet, Pommard, Puligny, Volnay and even Corton-Charlemagne can, from time to time, be found in the domaine’s cellar, some of which have been bought in as grapes; despite such excursions, the domaine produces overwhelmingly red wine, much of it from stocks of old vines from in and around Santenay. Ten of the domaine’s sixteen hectares – also mainly in Santenay – are rated as 1er Cru, less than one hectare of the total producing regional appellations.
Claude and Hervé have long-since abandoned the use of herbicides, allowing grass to grow between their rows; since 2005 the domaine’s vines have been managed by organic methods, but they will be certified Biodynamic in 2011.
Claude describes a ‘traditional approach’ to winemaking; hand-harvesting, sorting and predominantly destemming the fruit – though when they consider the raw materials good enough some stems are retained. Fermentation relies on their native yeast populations, in temperature controlled (a nod to modernism) wooden fermenting tanks, and typically lasts about two weeks before pressing, settling and then placing the wines into barrels.
All the Muzard wines mature in lightly toasted oak barrels from Damy of Meursault; depending on the vintage thirty to forty percent of which could be new. The domaine’s barrels are replaced once they reach four years old. Vintage dependant, elevage in barrel may last twelve to eighteen months. Three months before bottling the wines are racked and assembled to allow the fine sediment to sink; permitting bottling without fining or filtration.
The Muzard wines are often slightly reductive when first bottled as they retain plenty of carbon dioxide dissolved in the wine – so younger bottles will always benefit from decanting. The domaine produces a little Santenay Blanc, both Villages and Premier Cru; I particularly like the Premier Cru, a wine that offers much value though the only example I tasted of the villages seemed a little bland to me.
At this domaine there are at least seven different red Santenays; two Villages and five Premier Cru cuvées – all are keenly priced and I’d be happy to choose any from a restaurant wine-list. Of the two Village wines, both are classed as Vieilles Vignes, but the more impressive is the cuvée Champs Claude, its 1920s vines deliver impressive power that nods to its close neighbour the Premier Cru Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot.
Of its Premier Crus the domaine is rightly proud of its Santenay Premier Cru Clos des Mouches; 1.6 hectares that delivers detail and concentration yet with impeccable balance. My personal favourite remains the Santenay Premier Cru Clos de Tavannes; a supple wine of roundness and mouthwatering pinot flavours; it can be a precocious wine but one that, should you wish, will age very well indeed.
Domaine Lucien Muzard et Fils
11, bis rue de la Cour Verreuil
Tel. +33 (0)3 80 20 61 85
Fax. +33 (0)3 80 20 66 02