I was initially compelled to visit this domaine after tasting the wonderful 1978 Chassagne Rouge at the Grands Jours de Bourgogne earlier in the year.
I first met the Duchesse de Magenta, Amélie de Mac Mahon when she was chatting with photographer Jon Wyand, I commended her on her ‘very English, English’ to which she replied, “that’s because I’m Scottish!” Oops – what a faux-pas!
The domaine is out from Chassagne on the road towards Santenay, sat across one of my favourite dilapidated houses in the region.
The buildings of the domaine are being updated so that they might better accommodate visitors, and sit at the edge of the l’Abbaye de Morgeot – a vineyard which was planted by the Cistercians – actually it was a daughter house of Citeaux, the Abbaye de Maizières that set up a winery here.
A MacMahon came over from Ireland in the 18th century, marrying a local heiress who then inherited the fairy-tale Château de Sully where the family still live. A wine domaine was also inherited and apparently records show that a barrel of wine was sent every year to MacMahon’s brother in Ireland who was a priest.
During the 1960s the domaine had reached only about 4 hectares of vines, so the Marquis Philippe de Mac Mahon decided he either needed ‘more vines or no vines’. The family didn’t want to join in with his ‘trip to ruin’, but he loved wine so ended-up buying the current winery on his own – the first crop was hailed so, given the loans he’d taken out he assumed he was ruined. The vines did recover though!
The 12 hectare domaine produces 85% white wine, and is particularly well known for its villages Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Clos de la Chapelle’, and it’s Puligny-Montrachet 1er Clos de la Garenne. The Clos de la Chapelle wines are monopolies in both red and white, the Clos being one section of the 6.5 hectare vineyard ‘l’Abbaye de Morgeot’, which to quote Jasper Morris: “Not in itself a premier cru, but two other premier crus (3.98 hectares of Morgeot, and 4.57 hectares of La Chapelle) may describe themselves as Abbaye de Morgeot if they wish. Louis Jadot, Olivier Leflaive, Vincent Girardin all choose to.” Such is Chassagne, but the Magenta wines are described as Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru Abbaye de Morgeot.
In the late 1970s the Marquis became ill and so negotiated a 20 year contract with Maison Louis Jadot to exploit the domaine. His wife, Amélie, who has studied at the Beaune Lycée, renegotiated the contract with Jadot about three years ago. Previously about 80% of the domaine’s vines were exploited by Louis Jadot, this is now closer to 50%, mainly the domaine is now exploiting more of its villages vines.
Jadot still make the Puligny premier crus and the monopole villages Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Clos de la Chapelle’ in red (one hectare) and white. The domaine in Chassagne concentrates only on white wine, Amélie saying that the volume of red is a little low for her.
Vines to Wines
The domaine is responsible for all the vineyard work, including that part commercialized by Jadot. Today they work the soil with a plough rather than use herbicides, Amélie considers herself a winegrower not a winemaker; “if you’ve got great grapes there is no ‘making’, you simply press the grapes then put them in a barrel then wait”. New oak is avoided for the elevages here.
Sully has 20,000 visitors per year, so this, together with regional ‘faires’ is their main approach to commercialisation. They even have a small shop in Puligny at the place des Marronniers: “Le Cellier de l’Abbaye”.
In the domaine’s cellar there’s a Premier Cru Chassagne, village Puligny and Bourgogne Blanc. When I visited in the middle of the summer it wasn’t an ideal time to appraise the 2009 wines, but the Puligny villages had a deep core of citrus accented concentration, and seemed rich but balanced. The Chassagne 1er (Abbaye de Morgeot) had a lovely width, showing a classic Chassagne personality. I’ll have to get to that shop in Puligny to do more research!
Domaine du Duc de Magenta
Abbaye de Morgeot
tel: +33 3 80 21 30 77
fax: +33 3 85 82 92 54