Title/Subject: History Lesson: Bruno Clair’s Iconic Marsannay Rosé

Posted on: 08/16/18 12:00 PM

Bruno Clair

Burgundy isn’t all Grands and 1ers Crus that need decades of age. There are, for lack of a better term, frivolous wines, too. Wines that do not require hours of thought or great contemplation to appreciate their complexity and nuance, but rather are simply delicious and offer only delight to the drinker. Bruno Clair’s Marsannay Rosé is one of those wines.

Bruno’s wines have an ardent following and the Marsannay Rosé has been an open secret from this touchstone Domaine for quite a while. Where else can you find a wine that is unabashedly delicious, but also offers you a preview onto the forthcoming vintage from one of the region’s most reliable and exceptional Domaines?

But despite all the simple deliciousness of Rosé and the sneak peek into the next vintage, there is a real story here that involves the history of Marsannay, the Clair family and Burgundy. For generations Marsannay was always considered to produce inferior wines to appellations to its south, namely Fixin and Gevrey. The wines were thin and insipid, and seemed fruit simple, with no complexity or structure.

Marsannay, planted by the monks, unsurprisingly has excellent terroir and it would seem odd that this particular village should so wildly underperform its neighbors. Consider that today the appellation is well along in finalizing the 1er Cru status for many of the vineyards most ideally located in the village.

So, what was the problem? Gamay – “déloyal gamay,” in the words of Duke Philippe le Hardi – had somehow survived the various purges over the centuries throughout the Côte d’Or. No wonder the wines of Marsannay were thin and insipid – they weren’t true Burgundy, vrai Pinot!

Bruno Clair’s grandfather believed in the terroir of Marsannay and, as such, pulled up his vines and replanted with Pinot. In the early years, with young vines, there was little quality wine which could be produced. Thus, in 1919, necessity, the mother of invention, gave birth to Marsannay Rosé, which became a full blown rage in the bitros of Dijon. And, along with it, the Clairs helped nurse Marsannay beck toward respectability, leading the charge toward replanting throughout the appellation, as well as creating a signature product in the process.

Marsannay Rosé was recognized in 1987 as an AOC and has had a healthy following for decades. Bruno Clair’s may be the original, and the best, but it is a lovely wine that provides ample joy to the wine drinker. It is honor to continue the tradition that has helped underwrite one of Burgundy’s most successful families and the rebirth of an appellation.

Posted in Burgundy List By Ian Halbert