Andrew Guard

Bligny les Beaune

Claude Maréchal is a winemaker who most people have not heard about, especially outside France despite his estate being rated at the same level as Dujac, Carillon, d’Angerville, Ponsot and Sauzet in France’s most respected wine guide - La Revue du Vin de France.

Now in his forties and having befriended the late Henri Jayer, he follows in his mentor's footsteps using the same meticulous approach to quality in the vineyards and the cellar. Of course he doesn't work the same exalted vineyards as Jayer did (he doesn't even have any land in the Cotes de Nuits) but his methods are the same and the results are brilliant.

Claude's father was a cereal farmer with a few vineyard holdings around Bligny-les-Beaune, a small village east of Beaune. Claude and his wife Catherine reside there now and it is also where they make their wines. Claude's passion for vineyard work has meant he has been able to piece together a good sized estate by renting vineyards throughout the Côte de Beaune.

His principles in the vineyards are straightforward: the vineyards are plowed, no herbicides are used, treatments are kept to a minimum and the pruning is severe to keep yields low. Vinification takes place in open wooden vats, all grapes are totally destemmed (à la Jayer), and fermentation is not induced by adding cultured yeast, so it can take a few days to start (a "natural" cold pre-maceration) using it's own. New barrels are added every year for maturation, but their proportion stays very low in order to produce wines where fruit dominates. It is important to stress that there is no recipe here. Winemaking follows a general theme, but techniques may be changed from year to year to suit the conditions of the vintage.

Claude's wines are not expensive but, due to their quality, are incredibly hard to find and sold on allocation. There are small quantities available for sale and so I humbly suggest you get in quickly.


Written by Andrew Guard — June 23, 2012