Domaine Machard de Gramont, Nuits St Georges, by Paul Thomas
In 2004 Axelle returned to Burgundy from Paris to join her father Bertrand, and since then they have managed the Domaine together. It was a condition of her return, that the estate would convert to organic farming. This means that no synthetic chemical treatments are used in the vineyard or in the wine making. The wines have a freshness and vitality, which is the first sensation encountered when tasting. There is also balance, delicacy and finesse, and they are not at all typical of the wines of Nuits St Georges, which are too often lacking in one or more of these qualities.
The cuverie where they make the wine, sits on the hill of Vergy in the Hautes Cotes, just below the remains of the Abbey St Vivant, the birthplace of the wines of Romanee-Conti.
The estate comprises 7 different plots spread over 6 hectares in Nuits St Georges and Vosne Romanee. As is typical in Burgundy, some of the vineyards are very small. So in Vosne for example, their vines deliver all of 600 bottles a year. However quality and demand have created a cult status for this small estate.
Come harvest time, Bertrand is in the vines with grand daughter Fanny, and the rest of the picking team, while Axelle manages the cuverie. Once the bunches have been cut, the aim is to get them into the vat as quickly as possible. Some clusters will include rotten grapes, or ones that have not fully ripened, and these need to be removed either at the time of picking - which slows everything down, or on a sorting table when the grapes get to the cuverie. In any event, it is essential they do not find their way into the vat - a practice not universally followed in Burgundy! The starting point for good wine, is not surprisingly, good healthy grapes!
The vineyard Les Terraces des Vallerots, is on the side of a small valley ‘vallerot’ to the south of Nuits St Georges. The date that vines were first planted here has been lost in the mists of time, however it is known that the vines were devastated by the phylloxera bug in the 19c, and the land ceased to be under vine in about 1850. In 1985 Bertrand started buying and replanting small parcels of the land, and gradually built the vineyard up to 2 hectares. The soil cover is minimal - not much more than 12cm, and below that it is the mother rock - limestone. So the vigneron suffers to work the land, and the vines suffer to force their roots through fissures in the rock to find moisture and sustenance. These conditions are surprisingly good news for the vines, - those that survive generally produce wonderful wine. It does not seem to have done Bertrand too much harm either, in remarkably good form for a quadragenarian.
In 2017 the vines seem to have compensated for their meagre performance in 2016, and the year is a very good one for the red wines of the Cote de Nuits - Marsannay, Gevrey, Morey St Denis, Chambolle Musigny, Vougeot, Vôsne Romanée and Nuits St Georges. The fruit is plentiful, healthy, and ripe - perfect for making great wine.