Maranges is a series of complexities or even contradictions:
The appellation of Maranges was created in 1989 – before, this was regional wine and the largest part was sold in bulk. Maranges is a semi-circle of vines at the south of the Côte d’Or where the generally east-facing hillside of the Côte d’Or begins to break down and becomes more complex – a place bisected by canals and pasture-land but also hillsides that resemble – for instance in the image above – smaller versions (sometimes) of Corton.
Although the basic wine description is AOC Maranges, you really have to think of Maranges in plural – Les Maranges – as there are three producing villages: Cheilly-lès-Maranges, Dezize-lès-Maranges and Sampigny-lès-Maranges, though none wore the name Maranges until the end of the 19th century.
Although Les Maranges are classified as part of the Côte de Beaune, for administrative purposes, they are not part of the Côte d’Or as they have moved over the ‘départmental’ border into the Saône-et-Loire – so why then, are they still part of the Côte de Beaune?!
Although Les Maranges are in the Saône-et-Loire départment, and the terrain is becoming more and more complex (no-more the single east-facing hillside of the Côte d’Or) Les Maranges is a clear continuation of both the geography and vines of Santenay – itself, a rather complex and sometimes disparate range of vineyards. This helps cement Maranges as the last outpost of the Côte de Beaune.
Despite this clear geological connection to the Côte de Beaune, and wines that can offer much more than just ‘fleshy and characterful’, you might find excellent 1er Crus in local cellars for €8-14 (tax included), those that carry the name of a Beaune négoce may start at closer to €15*, but here the trade element must be factored-in.
There had previously been some mining interests in the area, but that transient workforce had largely moved on by the late 1800s – it seemed that only vines and farming were left to sustain the soul. In 1895, it is said to avoid confusion with the town of Decize (in the Nièvre), Dezize applied to change its name by incorporating the name given to the local vineyards – Maranges – just as likely it was to help boost the potential sales of wine in an area of diminishing population. This first application was turned down after neighbouring village of Cheilly pointed out that the largest part of the vineyards known as Maranges were actually within their boundaries. After some consideration, and another two years, a joint application by Dezize and Cheilly was approved, so on September 4, 1898 they became xxx-lès-Maranges. The village of Sampigny, much closer to Dezize than Cheilly, joined them on October 29, 1899.
Despite the name-change for the three villages, Maranges still had little renown, a fact underlined in 1937 when the AOC for vines was awarded as ‘Côte de Beaune’. Despite well over 200 hectares of vines, the produce of those vines were known only to merchants who used the wine as a component for their ‘house’ blends.
I read a quote somewhere:
“The charmingly old-fashioned homes of the winemakers provide perfect subjects for a painter’s brush.”
I would add not just on canvas – many houses might do with a lick of paint too!
Dezize seems a typical, small, regional wine-producing village of small, sometimes steep streets and old churches – there are less than 200 residents. Perhaps because it clings to the hillside, there is much here that reminds me of Pernand – except that Corton/Charlemagne Grand Crus have allowed Pernand to be be better maintained. The village is dominated to the north-east by the Mont de Sène – here is where the prime vineyards are to be found – more often called the Montagne des Troix Croix whose panorama tops out at an altitude of 521 metres – from some vantage points the ‘Montagne’ bears more than a passing resemblance to the hill of Corton and it is a lovely place to walk and worth visiting the three crosses on the summit just for the views. Dezize itself is the highest village of the three, sitting at an altitude of approximately 320 meters
Sampigny was once occupied by monks, hence, is one of the oldest villages in the region and is perhaps older than the other two villages in our trio, it is also the smallest with ~150 inhabitants – and to give an idea of how small and far apart these villages are – as the crow flies, Sampigny is less than 1km from Dezize, at just 240 metres altitude. It is believed that the monks created the vineyards of Maranges, of which the commune of Sampigny accounts for 116 hectares.
Cheilly is a pretty village just 2km from Dezize, if you can fly. The Rue des Maranges runs north from the village towards the vines, but first it must cross over the river Cozanne. For a small town of less than 500 inhabitants, there are two old buildings of note; a 9th century church and a 13th century priory. Cheilly, like Sampigny, sits lower on the hill than Dezize, at 240 metres altitude.
|hl: 5 year av.|
|Maranges 1er Rouge||3,484||3,646||2,750||3,139||3,294|
|Maranges 1er Blanc||86||98||99||232||132|
Figures courtesy the BIVB
“Maranges is where the ‘Golden Slope’ comes to its end … but this is nevertheless still part of the heart of Burgundy.”
Maranges is the youngest AOC of the Côte de Beaune – receiving its certification for both Villages and 1er Crus in 1988, before that you probably still drank the wines, but with a Côte de Beaune-Villages label. Since then Maranges of both Villages and 1er Cru have been availalble; Twelve climats are entitled to the 1er Cru label, but in practice it is more like seven. According to the BIVB, the current area under production is:
- Reds : 163.11 ha (including 81.98 hectares of 1er Cru)
- Whites : 7.71 ha (including 1.63 hectares of 1er Cru)
Those main climats classified as 1er Crus are:
- In Cheilly-lès-Maranges: Les Clos Roussots, La Fussière, and Clos de la Boutière
- In Dezize-lès-Maranges: La Fussière, Clos de la Fussière, and Le Croix Moines
- In Sampigny-lès-Maranges: Les Clos Roussots, Le Clos des Rois, and Les Loyères
As you will see in (for instance) Clos Roussot and La Fussière there are potentially others that could bring the total up to 12 different 1er Crus, but in this flexible world I still doubt whether all would actually be allowed on the label. Those labels are designated Maranges 1er Cru plus the vineyard name, or may simply be labelled ‘Maranges Premier Cru’ in which case it may also contain blend wine from one or more 1er Crus from within the Maranges AOC. Whilst you are hardly likely to come across them, the Villages lieu-dits are:
A la Croix de Bois, Au Chêne, Aux Artaux, Borgy, En Buliet, En Crevèche, La Tête de Fer, Le Bas des Loyères, Le Bas du Clos, Le Bourg, Le Chamery, Le Clos, Le Goty, Le Plain, Le Saugeot, Les Aubuzes, Les Meurées, Les Plantes, Les Regains Nord, Les Regains Sud, Les Varennes, Sous les Roseaux, Sur la Rigole, Sur la Rue des Pierres, Sur la Verpillère, Sur le Bois Nord, Sur le Bois Sud, Sur le Chêne, Vigne Blanche.
And, of-course, any of the above can still take a Côte de Beaune-Villages label, indeed I have also seen 2008s with the label “Maranges, (then next line) Côte de Beaune, (next line) Premier Cru Clos Roussots”!
Figures for the size of the vineyards seem rather flexible: Large signs erected in the vineyards give one number, Jasper’s book brings another number, finally the growers association delivers a third number – oh-well!
- Clos Roussots: The sign in the vines proclaims 25.42 hectares – two-thirds in Cheilly and the rest in Sampigny, covering an altitude of 260 – 315 metres, mainly south, south-east facing. The climats of Les Plantes de Maranges (13.68ha), Aux Rouères (1.04ha) are within Clos Roussots. The slope varies from hardly perceptable to ‘average’ – but nothing you would describe as steep. As you might guess from the name, this is a direct continuation of Santenay’s Clos Rousseau (which can be a compelling wine), except for the intervention of the Clos de la Boutières (below). Over it’s Jurassic substrate the soil contains plenty of blue coloured clay/marl mixed with limestone debris – indeed the form of the debris can be very big chunks of rock higher up, whereas the lower slopes offer something more like scree. Unlike some of the other 1er Crus of Maranges, there is a wide selection of producers of this cru; including Chevrot, Regnaudot and others.
- La Fussière: This is the largest climat of Maranges, covering an area of almost 35 hectares if you believe that large sign in the vines, yet others put the figure higher. Within it’s boundaries it also includes the climats of Le Bourg (0.07ha), Le Croix Moines (1.03ha) and En Marange (15.16ha). It has a south-facing exposure and lies mainly on the slope over an altitude of 290 to 400 metres. Some parts of the vineyard have a very shallow slope – others are very steep indeed. The Jurassic bedrock is consistent throughout the cru in terms of type, only it’s thickness varies. ‘Sources’ of water dot through the terrain and the soil is often quite white and stony and over a blue coloured marl – this area throws-up many fossils. Plenty of good examples emanate from this Cru; locally from Chevrot and Bachelet-Monnot, Thomas Morey, Vincent & Sophie Morey and Roger Belland all make okay versions, and further north still, Louis Latour also make a négoce version.
- Clos de la Boutière: Is a thin strip (top to bottom, 290-260 metres) of south, south-east facing vines, of only 2.84 hectares, bisected by the road to Dezizes. This Cru mainly forms a small buffer between Santenay Clos Rousseau and Maranges Clos Roussots – towards the bottom of the hill is Rousseau/Roussots contiguous. Above the road, an archway proclaims the entrance to ‘Boutière Superieure’. In old French Boutière could be derived form ‘end of a field’ which might fit as this sits at the border od Santenay and Maranges. Here is the classic Jurassic limestone bedrock and blue-gray marly soil of the other 1ers in Cheilly – only towards the bottom of the slope does the soil become deeper, browner and contain fewer stones. Edmond Monnot have a monopole ‘Clos Boutière’ which is pretty good, but I see Bachelet-Monnot also have this label – I’m not sure how that works!
- More La Fussière: as Cheilly above.
- Clos de la Fussière: is a 0.86 hectare block within and towards the bottom of La Fussière, bordering the top of Les Clos Roussots. I’ve seen ‘monopole’ bottles by René Monnier but recently that baton seems to have passed to Xavier Monnot of Meursault.
- Le Croix Moines: here is a tiny, 1.03 hectare enclave within the 1er Cru of La Fussière – the wine may also take the Fussière name. There is no cross to be seen and as for the monks, nobody seems quite sure, but it is thought they may have been Benedictines. This is almost as far south as the 1er Crus venture, and indeed the hill is now starting to curve to the west, yet this is also one of the highest regarded terroirs in Maranges. It can be a steep, south, south-west facing slope and is quite high on the hill, ranging from 360-380 metres of altitude. This is another place rich in fossils. There are only two owners here, one who sells grapes. The best wines are without doubt the Chevrot and the Camille-Giroud versions.
- More Les Clos Roussots: as Cheilly above.
- Le Clos des Rois: sits towards the bottom of the hill, covering 7.17 hectares of south and even a little south, south-west facing vines. The altitude here is around 260-290 metres and the slope quite variable – that are both flatter and steeper sections, and the geology is generally more complex than that of the vines higher on the hill. A small portion of Les Loyères (0.72ha) may also take the Clos de Rois label.
- Les Loyères: If you take the old French term of loier, Loyères quite possibly indicated land that was for rent. Covering 11.48 hectares, Loyères can be further subdivided into Le Clos des Loyères (7.14ha) and Le Clos (4.34ha) – though (of-course!) both of these can (and normally do) take the Le Loyères name. Like the Clos des Rois, this area is similarly exposed to the sun and lower on the hill than La Fussière above. At 270-310 metres of altitude there is also much variability in the slope, parts of which are reasonably steep.