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The richness of terroirs

Well exposed toward the rising sun and the south, the appellation Marsannay vineyards are situated at an altitude of 260 to 390 metres, between the cereal crops of the plain to the east, and the forests and limestone pavements of the plateaus to the west. This hillside, with concave slopes of up to 20%, is incised by dry valleys called “combes”.
The geological substratum of the appellation Marsannay varies considerably : it can be composed of either limestone, or marls (a mixture of shale and limestone) or soft sediments with limestone pebbles and shales. Jurassic limestone displays a palette of hues ranging from the russet gold of Entrochal (crinoidal) limestone to the white of oolitic limestone, with the cold, hard greys, and pinks of Comblanchien marble and Prémeaux stone. Marls are sometimes light coloured and rich in small oysters, sometimes yellow-green and sandy, or pastel grey-blue at the foot of the hillside. Gravelly debris generates light soils on the slopes. Stony alluvium fans out over a wide area at the outlets of the “combes”.
The horizontal limestone and marl layers are broken, and form steps several hundred metres wide, collapsing progressively from west to east. Severe fracturing of these shale and limestone alternations has created a geological mosaic upon which is superimposed the lacy network of vineyard parcels from the “lieux-dits” of the appellation Marsannay. The thousand facets of the terroir are revealed through this great geological diversity.
Within this shale and limestone framework, each “lieu-dit” of the appellation Marsannay demonstrates its own individual characteristics, depending on altitude, slope, location on the hillside, nature and diversity of the subsoil, as indicated in a detailed study by Françoise Vannier in 2005.
Terroir cannot express itself in wine unless the wine-grower is able to work in such a way as to grasp the infinitesimal shades of differences in the soil, while taking into account the distinctive features of each land parcel, and then to accord these characteristics with the specificities of each vintage.

Crinoidal limestone
Ostrea acuminata Marls
Prémeaux Limestone
White Oolite
Comblanchien Limestone
Alluvial fan

 

The Marsannay appellation obviously possesses an identity and typicality all of its own. But, just as in a family the personality of each child is unique, so the different zones of the appellation, within a common framework, reveal certain specificities. The heart of the hillside, as is always the case for Premiers Crus, is where the most distinguished wines are grown, for both red and white.

South of the village of Couchey (Champs-Perdrix)

The upper part of the hillside, steep and at a high altitude, is characterised by light compact limestone capped by very thin soils. The mid-section of the hillside is composed of crinoidal limestone, with soils containing both pebbles and reddish shales. The lower zones are more clayey.
The white wines from crinoidal limestone areas are elegant and sunny, whereas those from the marly soils are robust, powerful, mentholated and well structured.
The red wines are stocky and tannin rich, with a spicy taste and gamey aroma.

Between the villages of Couchey and Marsannay-la-Côte (from Les Genelières to Les Grandes Vignes)

This area exhibits a wide diversity of substratum but predominant crinoidal limestone.
These limestone soils give a great deal of minerality and delicacy to wines that are mainly light and airy with great complexity.

Alluvial fans at the valley outlets (Les Crais, Les Ouzeloy, Les Récilles...)

Terroirs are situated in areas of limestone gravel and pebbles with low water retention, eroded by seasonal torrents and deposited at the valley outlets.
The white wines are rich and hearty, with typical white peach, exotic fruit and pear aromas.
The red wines are delightfully rounded, with fruit pit, blackberry, blackcurrant, and elder aromas. The palate often combines silky tannins with oily persistency.

To the west of Marsannay-la-Côte (from Les Vignes Marie to La Charme aux Prêtres)

The central section of the appellation contains a great variety of subsoils, dominated by crinoidal limestone.
The white wines, characterised by their finesse, where balance as the golden rule, are also oily and expressive.
These small plots of lands are often vinified individually, as they thus produce red wines where an excellent compromise can be achieved between structure, body and aromatic expression. The limestone on the upper slopes produces elegant mineral wines, whereas the richer shaly soil halfway down the hillside gives an oilier texture, even if minerality persists strongly.

At Chenôve and north of the village of Marsannay-la-Côte (Les Longeroies, Clos du Roy, Le Chapitre)

The hillside is narrow, with little difference in altitude. Most of the slope is covered in a mixture of sand and gravel, with good drainage, apart from a shalier strip in the middle. The upper part of the hill is more rocky to the south, with thin soils.
The white wines are mineral, delicate, and with very good length.
The red wines age well, are often powerful and vivacious, with a limestone and fruit pit nose. The attack is supple, followed by powerful but well-integrated tannins. These wines have a delicate and precise finish.