Bruno Clair

The Story

One could say Bruno Clair is a vigneron’s vigneron. His wines are loved worldwide by everyone lucky enough to know them, and what’s truly impressive is the respect he garners within Burgundy, where his fellow growers consider him one of the greatest of their ranks. They admire his attention to detail in the vineyard, his organic practices (even if he doesn’t bother with certification), and the long hours he and his crews put in. In the cellar, along with his longtime enologist Philippe Brun (they have been called “the Batman and Robin of Marsannay”), Bruno produces wines that are loved for their purity of expression. They show no ego or even style, but just seem to be true to the essence of each individual vineyard.

Bruno’s grandfather was Joseph Clair, who created (along with his wife, Marguerite Dau) one of Burgundy’s most celebrated domaines, Clair-Dau. It started in the 1920s, with Marguerite’s family holdings in Marsannay, the Côte d’Or’s most northerly village, which is now starting to be inundated with development from the sprawling city of Dijon. Joseph, just returned from WWI, took over farming and began to grow the domaine. This expansion would continue for the next 50 years, collecting glimmering holdings up and down the Côte de Nuits, from Bonnes Mares to Clos de Vougeot to Le Clos Saint-Jacques. By the 1970s it was one of the greatest estates in Burgundy, made more remarkable because it had been achieved by a humble and hardworking farmer, not inherited via aristocratic ancestors.

Sadly, the apparently unavoidable Burgundian family soap opera set in, and disputes among the five children caused the domaine to be hacked apart, with some bits sold off to Jadot, while others were locked into long-term lease agreements. This denied Bruno the brilliant domaine he should have inherited, but also allowed him to become the Bruno we know today. Channeling his grandfather, perhaps, the resolute Bruno set out on his own, with a few of his family’s plots in his hometown of Marsannay, and a couple other locations. Happily, over time, some of his extended family’s larger plots began to come out of rental agreements, and were placed into Bruno’s able hands. He hasn’t reclaimed the full extent of Clair-Dau, but he’s put together a sizable (around twenty-three hectares) of great plots stretching as far south as Savigny-les-Beaune. Together, his collection acts as an intonation of Bruno’s style, whilst maintaining diversity and clarity in terroir. Bruno Clair symbolizes structure and grace and is destined to become one of Burgundy’s true greats. -TV

Lay of the Land

Most wine Francophiles are familiar with Burgundy. It’s divided into a few major areas, starting from Chablis in the north, the Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and finally Beaujolais to the south, just above France’s second largest city, Lyon. The grapes are principally Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on Jurassic limestone bedrock (pretty much all the vineyard bedrock between Chablis to the Mâconnais is from this same general geological period), and Beaujolais’ red grape, Gamay, where the soils are largely derived from granite and metamorphic bedrock from the ancient formations in France’s Massif Central.

Bruno Clair’s domaine is near the hamlet of Marsannay-la-Côte in the Marsannay appellation that stretches the length of three hamlets in total, with Chênove in the north, Marsannay-la-Côte in the middle and Couchey in the south. Clair sources Pinot Noir for his rosé, Chardonnay and a trio of fabulous lieux-dits Marsannay Rouge wines. The remainder of his vineyards are further south, starting in the Côte de Nuits with Gevrey-Chambertin (where a large proportion of his wines come from), then on through the south in Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée. He also has a quiet stable of wines within the Côte de Beaune in Aloxe-Corton, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-lès-Beaune, all cleverly selected over time for their prime locations.

There’s so much written about Burgundy, with special attention to the Côte d’Or, that it seems redundant to have yet another lengthy explanation of the big picture, and futile to get caught up in all the specifics for every given wine. It’s from the regions that are not excessively or even barely written about where I will make the effort to bring forth details that are difficult to find, at least on the internet.

For more extensive and general information on Burgundy, I suggest exploring the many thorough accounts by authors like Jasper Morris, Remington Norman and Clive Coates. Plus, there’s an immense amount of coverage from critics who uproot tons of new and interesting details with each new publication, with some notables being Burghound, A View from the Cellar, Winehog and Vinous. Also, one shouldn’t miss out on Becky Wasserman’s website www.beckywasserman.com for a lot of great content, and the website www.bourgogne-wines.com, where a good collection of videos and free downloadable vineyard maps are available, along with general overview content for each area.

Within each of Bruno Clair’s product pages on our website are details of each of terroir (or climat) and with some details on the winemaking. You’ll find information on some of the product pages that discusses some of the particularities sort of skipped over in the aforementioned Burgundy bibles. I’ve written somewhat extensively on a few terroirs, and less so on others. -TV

Bruno Clair - 2017 Bonnes Mares Rouge, Grand Cru

Price: $560.00
Size: 750ml
Availability:

Out of stock

Type of Wine: Red
Style: Mineral, Elegant and Aromatic

The Wine

Interestingly, in both of Bruno Clair’s grand cru vineyards, he owns rows from the very top of the cru to the bottom, bringing a breadth of layered complexity found in vineyards like Le Clos Saint-Jacques and La Tâche that swallow the better part of the slope entirely—this is a special characteristic of a vineyard where the range of complexity can be immense, but perhaps without any one characteristic that overrides others. The winemaking between the two is more or less the same, leaving mostly the terroirs to express their differences.

What can one get out of a taste of wine that will help you to summarize it? After all, most people share great wines with too many people and nowadays these kinds of wines are more like show dogs in a competition to be analyzed and judged next to others instead of enjoyed and marveled through a few hours with a good friend. When considering the evolution of an average wine all the way to the greatest in the world, a taste of wine seems to me to be little more than a 2D impression—a snapshot taken in a moment in time. With these two wines it would be difficult to see their differences as stark. In their youth they’re really not so different, unless you open them together and spend a day with them. Clair keeps them within the throughline of his style but what one may find is the earthy, linear and focused quality of Bonnes Mares, and the slightly wider lens of Clos de Bèze, with a slightly elevated charm meter by comparison.

From a physical standpoint, Clair’s parcel of Bonnes Mares has more relation to Clos de Tart, and actually sits entirely within the commune of Morey-Saint-Denis. He’s the furthest parcel north in Bonnes Mares and owns 1.67 hectares, although I seem to remember that Clair vinifies not all of it yet as some section of it may still be under contract with another domaine. Bonnes Mares was planted equally in 1946 and 1980, while 2/3 of the 0.98 hectare parcel of Clos de Bèze was planted in 1912 and the other 1/3 in 1972—not too shabby when looking for some good vine age to support such crus as these!

Indeed you may get a waft of new wood in these young wines upon opening, but what red grand cru in Burgundy doesn’t? In general, hardly any amount of new wood aromas that begin when the bottle is opened will overwhelm the grand cru-ness of the wines for too long. With the right amount of aeration, and certainly the right amount of bottle age, they should be two of the most formidable grand crus on the entire Côte. And Clair does a masterful job of allowing them to speak their grandeur in an understated and more humble way.  -TV

About The Wine

Interestingly, in both of Bruno Clair’s grand cru vineyards, he owns rows from the very top of the cru to the bottom, bringing a breadth of layered complexity found in vineyards like Le Clos Saint-Jacques and La Tâche that swallow the better part of the slope entirely—this is a special characteristic of a vineyard where the range of complexity can be immense, but perhaps without any one characteristic that overrides others. The winemaking between the two is more or less the same, leaving mostly the terroirs to express their differences.

What can one get out of a taste of wine that will help you to summarize it? After all, most people share great wines with too many people and nowadays these kinds of wines are more like show dogs in a competition to be analyzed and judged next to others instead of enjoyed and marveled through a few hours with a good friend. When considering the evolution of an average wine all the way to the greatest in the world, a taste of wine seems to me to be little more than a 2D impression—a snapshot taken in a moment in time. With these two wines it would be difficult to see their differences as stark. In their youth they’re really not so different, unless you open them together and spend a day with them. Clair keeps them within the throughline of his style but what one may find is the earthy, linear and focused quality of Bonnes Mares, and the slightly wider lens of Clos de Bèze, with a slightly elevated charm meter by comparison.

From a physical standpoint, Clair’s parcel of Bonnes Mares has more relation to Clos de Tart, and actually sits entirely within the commune of Morey-Saint-Denis. He’s the furthest parcel north in Bonnes Mares and owns 1.67 hectares, although I seem to remember that Clair vinifies not all of it yet as some section of it may still be under contract with another domaine. Bonnes Mares was planted equally in 1946 and 1980, while 2/3 of the 0.98 hectare parcel of Clos de Bèze was planted in 1912 and the other 1/3 in 1972—not too shabby when looking for some good vine age to support such crus as these!

Indeed you may get a waft of new wood in these young wines upon opening, but what red grand cru in Burgundy doesn’t? In general, hardly any amount of new wood aromas that begin when the bottle is opened will overwhelm the grand cru-ness of the wines for too long. With the right amount of aeration, and certainly the right amount of bottle age, they should be two of the most formidable grand crus on the entire Côte. And Clair does a masterful job of allowing them to speak their grandeur in an understated and more humble way.  -TV