Will Coulanges-la-Vineuse, one of Burgundy’s lesser-known appellations, be getting a designation upgrade in the same way that Pouilly-Fuissé has in the south? LM Archer thinks so, especially given the quality exhibited by the wines of Domaine du Clos du Roi that sometimes blend Pinot Noir with ancient grape variety César. There is even one Pinot Noir that is non-vintage and is made by blending at least three different vintages together in one cuvée.
“Ultimately, Domaine du Clos du Roi wines from Coulanges-la-Vineuse offer astonishing affordability and quality, befitting their potential village-level status,” writes Archer.
Burgundy continues to notch a number of appellation upgrades, from Vézelay in the north, to Pouilly-Fuissé in the south. Get ready for another possible designation upgrade, this one in Coulanges-la-Vineuse.
Located two hours south of Paris in Burgundy’s Grand Auxerrois, Coulanges-la-Vineuse and associated villages Charentenay, Escolive-Sainte-Camille, Val-de-Mercy, Jussy, Migé, and Mouffy, await possible promotion from regional to village-level status. One producer contends they have history on their side.
Today, Coulanges-la-Vineuse (roughly translated, means ‘community of the vine’) remains the only wine region in Burgundy allowed to produce César, a grape named after the Roman Emperor Caesar by Gallo-Romans sent to colonise the area. Recent archaeological finds support this.
“In 1955, a walnut tree fell over in the village of Escolives Sainte Camille, revealing an ancient Merovingian (Frankish) burial site,” explains Magali Bernard, vigneron at Domaine du Clos du Roi in Coulanges-la-Vineuse. Subsequent site digs reveal Gallo-Roman stone carvings depicting the ancient César grape, along with other artefacts dating as far back as the Neolithic and Bronze ages. “It’s the oldest picture of viticulture in Burgundy,” says Bernard.
Bernard’s family estate sits only 2 kilometers from the archaeological site. Founded in 1969 by Bernard’s parents Michel and Denise Bernard, the 18-hectare Domaine du Clos du Roi is named after the village’s second-century Roman ‘royal’ owner. In 2001, Bernard assumed winemaking. In 2005, her husband Arnaud Hennoque, a former chef, assumed management of the vineyards.
Both embody the spirit of Coulanges-la-Vineuse. Quick to laugh and generous of spirit, they combine tradition with innovation. In addition to the winery, the couple run a tasting bar and specialty shop chock full of local fare, from charcuterie and cheeses, to honey and mustard. Post-pandemic plans include a guest house for visitors wishing to attend the region’s numerous cultural and recreational attractions.
Tradition meets innovation
Harkening back to César’s ancient history, Bernard and Hennoque employ traditional methods such as ploughing the fields by horse, manual harvesting, de-stemming, and foot-crushing the grapes, plus vinifying the wine in subterranean, century-old Burgundian stone tanks before ageing in 228 litre and 4400 litre oak barrels.
For her 100% Pinot Noir “L’Intemporelle” rouge, Bernard turns the table on convention. First, she incorporates the best wines from her Tradition cuvée, which she ages in old oak barrels for 24-36 months. Next, she blends different years, ageing them together in large oak casks prior to bottling. “Here is a red wine that erases the typicity of the years, presents the pure terroir of our appellation, and becomes the soul of the domaine over the years,” she says.
Ultimately, Domaine du Clos du Roi wines from Coulanges-la-Vineuse offer astonishing affordability and quality, befitting their potential village-level status.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse Cuvée Tradition, 2018, Domaine du Clos du Roi A fresh, light 100% Chardonnay produced in stainless steel tanks, with lovely mineral notes.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse ‘Clos de Charly’, 2018, Domaine du Clos du Roi Ageing of this 100% Chardonnay in 30% stainless steel and 70% oak yields an aromatic, complex wine with unctuous yellow fruit notes.
Chablis Premier Cru ‘Les Beauregards’, 2018, Le Clos du Roi Ageing of this Chablis in older, neutral oak imparts a lush fullness.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse Pinot Noir, 2018, Domaine du Clos du Roi Ruby-throated, red-fruited, silky 100% Pinot Noir, using de–stemmed grapes aged 12 months in oak. Excellent quality to value.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse ‘Coline’, 2017, Domaine du Clos du Roi Old-school curve-ball on board! 85% Pinot Noir 15 % César. Handmade from start to finish. The real deal.
Bourgogne ‘Chanvan’ Coulanges-la-Vineuse, 2016, Tastevinage Pinot Noir aged and bottled for La Confrérie des Cheveliers du Tastevin Tastevinage 2019.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse ‘L’Intemporelle’ Rouge “Cuvée Intemporelle” N/V, Domaine Clos du Roi
Intemporelle N°1 : 2012, 2013, 2014 – 33% of each vintage
Intemporelle N°2 : 2013, 2014, 2015 and Intemporelle N°1 – 25% of each
Intemporelle N°3 : 2014, 2015, 2016 and Intemporelle N°2 – 25% of each
Shape-shifting, suis generis brainteaser. Wines of power, grace, and energy.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse ‘Chanvan’, 2008, Domaine du Clos du Roi A powerful juxtaposition of liveliness and red fruit, combined with intense, nuanced layers that continue to unfold throughout the lengthy finish.
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse ‘Chanvan’, 2011, Domaine du Clos du Roi A less intense expression of the 2008 version.
All photos © LM Archer