Drive up from Beaune, past Gevrey-Chambertin and the land on both sides of the main RN74 becomes more and more urban as you enter the outskirts of Dijon. Just past Marsannay and into Chenôve take a quick left turn up a side street and you will come to the new home of Domaine Sylvain Pataille, sited in Rue Roger Salengro (Salengro was a minister in the 1936 government of France’s socialist Prime-Minister Léon Blum), auspiciously sited next-door to the 12th Century “Pressoirs des Ducs de Bourgogne”, the two are separated only by the tiny “ruette” Clos du Roy.
Marceniacum in Monte, then Marcenay-en-Montagne, finally to become Marsannay-la-Côte in 1783, it is said that the village most likely owes its name to a Gallo-Roman by the name of Marcenus. There are many recognised lieu-dits within Marsannay (Grasses Têtes, Longerois, Ouzeloy etc.) but the region only received it’s Village AOC in 1987 – before this the wines were ‘regional’ and simply called Bourgogne or Bourgogne de Marsannay. There are no 1er Crus. Marsannay is also well known for its white and Rosé wines. Whilst the AOC belongs to the Côte de Nuits and includes the vines of Chenôve and Couchey, Marsannay-la-Côte (sometimes called the Porte d’Or) is not officially within the Côte de Nuits, this border starts a little further south with Fixin. Local signage describes Marsannay as part of Le Champagne-Haut.
The Marsannay vineyards are exposed to the east and to the south on relatively gentle slopes. Altitudes are approximately 260m to 320m. The dark brown soil has good natural drainage and is composed of varying mixtures of chalk, calcareous clay, clay and contains pebbles and gravel.
Sylvain and his domaine
Sylvain Pataille makes wines exclusively from the terroirs of Marsannay-la-Côte, and he loves his terriors! He comes from a family domaine in Marsannay but after studying in Bordeaux he worked as a (very successful) consulting enologist while establishing his own domaine. He started with one hectare but today has 10, producing 12 cuvées that cover a spectrum from Aligote, Passetoutgrain and regional bourgogne of both colours to Marsannay blanc, rosé and rouge.
Sylvain’s first vintage was 2001, and whilst the family domaine could accommodate his early steps, 10 hectares demanded more space so since the start of September 2004 he has his new premises in Chenôve. At the time of my visit a team were involved in breaking up the rocks in his driveway. Once the work is complete he will have separate facilities for his reds and whites.
Sylvain’s vinification philosophy is natural, natural, natural. Everything as simple as possible, natural yeasts, no enzymes and maximum fermentation temperatures of around 32°C. The wines are vinified in a mix of stainless-steel and fibre-glass before going in cask. When the vintage allows, such as 2002 and 2003, he’s not afraid to use plenty of new oak but it’s presence is felt most on the palate rather than the aromatics; nice mouthfeel and some fat. Sylvain likes his wines to have character and show their fruit. His overall yield in 2004 was 42 hectolitres per hectare, quite a bit higher than in 2003.
His wines are found mainly in France and the US, particularly restaurants, though there are growing sales in Japan, UK and Belgium.
I’ve always had a soft-spot for Marsannay; there are several in my cellar from Bruno Clair – his 1998 Grasses-Têtes has been a particular favourite this year. Get a good producer, and the wines are certainly of ‘upper-class villages’ standard, perhaps one day even 1er Cru. Marsannay rouge tends to offer a fresh complexion with excellent fruit density, often showcasing the black cherry fruit more than the red, and in the case of the wines that follow, fine tannins are possible too.
Before looking at some bottled wines we tasted a few pre-malolactic 2004’s, the whites (including an Aligote) had very nice aromatics as did the old vines Marsannay Rouge, already very interesting – full of beetroot and black cherry at this stage.
This is an address that I will certainly buying from and I look forward to trying a few Rosés in the future.
Bottled in September. Medium, medium-plus colour with purple highlights. High-toned fresh nose. Excellent intensity to the fruit – very kirsch style – good tannins too. This is first-class bourgogne. Lovely, I expect that I will be buying some.
The medium colour is a little more ruby shaded than the Bourgogne. The nose shows some high tones but is a little tighter than the Bourgogne. Even nicer mouthfeel, good velvetty tannin and excellent acidity. There’s a slightly more roast character to the fruit – a little prune perhaps. Interesting and very tasty.
Medium, medium-plus colour. Captivating cherry nose, red and black. Again there’s a very nice mouthfeel, the oak is doing a really super job here. This wine displays almost a cordial-essence aspect to the fruit. Good length. Delicious, I could drink this all day – very lovely – another purchase coming on(?)
This cuvée showcases old family vines in a lovely older-style, more flared bottle, similar to those used by Laurent Ponsot. The nose starts with a blast of toasty oak but takes only a minute in the glass to fade into the mix of red and black cherry fruit. Just a trace of astringency to the oak tannins on the palate but still a far from rustic mouthfeel. This wine shows a similar depth of fruit to the previous wine, but with more complexity. A wine that you could enjoy today but will be à point with another 2 or 3 years in the cellar.
There’s plenty of fresh pear on the friendly and forward nose. Soft palate with good fruit. This is a tasty and very honest bourgogne. Good.
Just a little oak on the nose to start with. Slightly more estery nose compared with the Bourgogne – apparently this was a very long fermentation, only finishing in June. The palate shows good fat and is carried very well by the acidity. Interesting length with some complexity. If I understood well, this wine also contains a little Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, a cepage de Marsannay if you like!
Domaine Sylvain Pataille
6 Rue Roger Salengro