About The Wine
Bruno Clair’s red Marsannay lieux-dits are an insightful set of terroirs to taste together because of the different personalities from these vineyards that are hardly a kilometer apart.
In the cellar, the winemaking is more or less the same between them. Historically, they didn’t employ whole clusters in any notable quantity with any of their wines until the arrival of Bruno’s son, Edouard, in 2015. As with all of Bruno’s reds, the wines go through spontaneous yeast fermentation without added cultured yeast. These three wines have always had a portion aged in foudre of I believe around 15-25hl. The rest are aged in Burgundy barrels (228-liter, French oak) with somewhere around 20% of them new.
In navigating their differences we can start with altitude. Les Vaudenelles is the highest; Les Grasses Têtes is in the middle of the slope—you know, that sweet spot always talked about in Burgundy; and Les Longeroies runs the gamut from the top to the bottom—another telling attribute that leads to this wine’s broad range.
Then there’s the soil structure, which is quite diverse. The 1.28 hectare parcel of Les Vaudenelles is extremely shallow clay topsoil, with a top layer that’s only a dozen or so centimeters deep and very rocky. In Les Grasses Têtes there’s plenty of clay topsoil and those big limestone chunks they call grasses têtes, or “fat heads,” scattered about his two-hectare parcel. Clair’s Les Longeroies is divided among four sections, two in the top and two in the bottom. The upper zone, Dessus des Longeroies, is as rocky as one might expect, and the lower zone, Bas des Longeroies, has a lot more red clay and marl. Clair has 1.55 hectares total in this climat.
Then we can consider their exposures. Marsannay has a series of combes, small dry limestone or chalk valleys carved out long ago by erosion, the biggest of which also created the path of the D108 highway that goes up and out of the appellation, toward the west. The north side of the dejection cone’s fringe (or alluvial fan) is filled with debris, and Les Longeroies sits below it on a soft slope, tilted toward the southeast. Les Vaudenelles is toward the top of the hill on the other side of this wide dejection-cone area, facing mostly east, so subject to winds that keep it cooler than the other two climats. Les Grasses Têtes is completely outside of any combe and nestled on classical Côte d’Or horizontal limestone stratification.
Clair’s Marsannay Lieux-Dits In-Short
Les Vaudenelles is high up and rocky with almost no topsoil, fully exposed and faces east. The result is that this wine is usually the most taut, high-toned, fresh, light in color and often feels as much like a white wine as it does a red.
Les Grasses Têtes is ideally situated on the mid-slope with deep clay soil and big chunks of rock. This combination brings power and coolness to the wine, and since it’s relatively protected from wind, it can fully ripen. Its east-facing slope brings tension, and the stratification of its bedrock (a result of not being inside one of the combes) all result in a classically balanced Côte d’Or wine with no extreme highs or lows.
Les Longeroies runs from the top to the bottom of the hill, giving it more diverse dimension; it’s exposed to the elements which may contribute to its elevated tension and aromatic lift; the southeast orientation brings more sun; the top parcel is stony—this may increase the strength of its mineral impressions; and the bottom contains more clay, which likely imparts it elegantly rounded edges and some weight. Les Longerioes often stands out in a tasting because of its aromatic lift and balance of tension, finesse and strength.
Each wine has its place: imagine a slightly chilled Les Vaudenelles on a warm day, Les Grasses-Têtes when you’ve got some time and someone to share it with, and Longeroies for any occasion, big or small, winter or summer. -TV