It is not enough, even if it should be, to make excellent wines and Domaine Marchand-Grillot has been making great wines for many years.
When Burgundy Pinot Noir started to become deeply oaky at the beginning of the ‘90s under the leadership of estates such as Denis Mortet and Marchand-Grillot, wines were considered out of fashion. When the fashion went to over-extraction of tannins at the end of the ‘90s, the wines at this estate continued to propose an elegant vision of Gevrey-Chambertin. Rousseau wines were not sought after too much at that time. Several producers of Burgundy seemed to be racing with wines of Bordeaux or those of the New World. Marchand-Grillot wines are now much more fashionable while nothing fundamental has changed at the estate.
What has changed is people's taste. Once you have had 10 or 12 bottles of these black, dense, overwhelming modern winemaker’s bottles, you want to breathe, you want to feel the fresh air, you want to swallow without having your jaws or your throat wounded. You want Fine wines, and all of the wines at this estate are Fine wines.
The Domaine has been producing wines under the Marchand-Grillot name since 1950. Jacques Marchand and his son Etienne are the team in charge today. Jacques Marchand, as he says with a smile, is the fifth generation to bend its back on those vines.
When I first discovered their wines, I went to see one of my oldest and most reliable suppliers who was showing his wines at the same fair. I asked him what he thought of Marchand-Grillot wines, and he answered “everybody knows they are great.” (Everybody meaning everybody in Gevrey-Chambertin, but apparently not everybody among the wine critics).
There is now an opportunity for people in the United States, where the wines have not been shown for at least a generation, to experience these wines as well.
With the exception of some Morey-Saint-Denis, village of origin of Jacques Marchand, and a little Chambolle-Musigny, all the production concentrates on the village of Gevrey-Chambertin.
Considering that their different plots of Gevrey-Chambertin village each have a real personality in terms of soil characteristics and fruit expression, the domaine cultivates, matures and bottles five different village wines, which are En Créots, Au Vellé, En Songe, En Jouise, plus a very old vine plot called Champerrier.
They add to the name of Champerrier “vigne centenaire,” meaning in French that the vines are more than 100 years old. (The plantation date is 1903.)
There are two first growths. Perrière is situated under the Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru, and Petite Chapelle is situated under the Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru.
Through their site, you will discover the years of plantation of their vines; half of the Perrières plot is going on 70 years of age. Perrières means stones, and yes, this wine is particularly high in mineral and precise. The name of Perrières is also found in Meursault where it is the name of a famous first growth and also in Nuits-Saint-Georges and in Aloxe-Corton with the Corton Perrières.
At the top of the scale is a microscopic production of Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru. All of the village wines are placed into barrels aged between one and three years. For the two first growths, maturing is done with a mix of one-year-old and new barrels. The two barrels of Grand Cru are always in new oak.
Without affirming they apply agro-biological techniques, you will discover going through their website at www.domaine-marchand-grillot.com that even if they do not proclaim it, they probably do. Wine growing and winemaking techniques are traditional with the exception of a rather long cold fermentation, which consists of lowering the temperature in the tanks to provide the alcoholic fermentation to start too quickly. The goal is to retain more freshness and fruit expression. The danger is in uniforming the wine’s expression. As always, the truth will be in the glass.
The style of the wines is delicate and subtle, and the estate recommends four to six years of cellaring to fully start enjoying the terroir potential of their village wines. For those of you who know about Burgundy, but not about Marchand-Grillot, I would suggest a certain similarity with those at the fellow Gevrey-Chambertin estate, the Domaine Trapet.
Because the general style of the wines is delicately perfumed and not too tannic, I would go for poultry rather than bigger animals: chicken, guinea hen, pheasant hen or wild duck. Once again, mushrooms (chanterelles and morels rather than ceps) and potatoes (more gratin than boiled) will be easy winners.