Pouilly-Fuissé has been in the news in the last weeks because the INAO have recently agreed to an upgrade of status – to 1er Cru – for 194 hectares of vines starting from the 2020 vintage. What all of those articles fail to note, is that the French Ministry of Agriculture has not yet signed-off this change. Whilst it’s unlikely that the minister in charge will forget, without a timely signature, the wines of 2020 still won’t be allowed to wear a 1er Cru label. But as I said, enough about Pouilly-Fuissé!
There are many locations across Burgundy that are looking to polish their image with an eye-catching 1er Cru or Grand Cru makeover; amongst them are Nuits St.Georges, Saint-Véran, Pouilly-Loché/Pouilly-Vinzelles and of course Marsannay too.
None of these are short processes, each taking at least 10 years. Probably the Nuits St.Georges attempt to raise the vineyard of Les St.Georges to Grand Cru may be the most well-known but it’s also an application that has hardly moved in terms of status for a couple of years now. Where there has been some progress is in Marsannay and Saint-Véran – the most visible progress, however, is in Marsannay:
AOC Marsannay only pulled itself into a regional appellation in 1965 (Bourgogne-Marsannay), taking the next step by becoming a communal (or village) appellation in 1987. The lateness of that first date is a reflection of what was planted throughout the vineyards of Marsannay during the 1930s – the time of AOC – and that was gamay!
Compared to many other Burgundian villages – certainly villages that produce predominantly red wine – Marsanny is rather well-to-do – just look at how big their church is – comparable to Pommard but much bigger than Volnay or Monthélie. This reflects the wealth that was generated by being in the catchment area of Dijon and so being the primary supplier of wine to the population of that city. The variety was gamay and it could be cropped higher than pinot noir and still produce something serviceable. Of course, there was pinot noir planted here too, but it was only after 1945 that the major conversion to planting pinot began.
We are probably at least another 3 years away from seeing actual Marsannay 1er Crus, but some changes have already been enacted: About 80 hectares of vines that could previously produce only Bourgogne or Marsannay Rosé will now also be allowed to produce Marsannay Blanc and/or Rouge – like the rest of the appellation – there remains some hectares that may only produce AOC Marsannay Rosé. This reclassification was confirmed in March 2020 and retrospectively includes the 2019 vintage. The first real change to labeling – also applicable to the 2019 vintage – will be the change of name for Bourgogne Le Chapître – it will jump to a village AOC – so Marsannay Le Chapître.
In terms of Le Chapître, I think this a fitting recompense for wines that have always shown a certain class!