Marsannay, deep history

A timeless History

Age, quality and reputation of the wines produced in the three villages (Chenôve, Marsannay-la-Côte and Couchey) included in the appellation Marsannay are universally acknowledged.

The Gallo-Roman period

Vines have been cultivated in the Côte de Nuits area since the first centuries A.D., as confirmed by the discovery, in Marsannay-la-Côte, of the two Gallo-Roman tombstones of wine growers.
The Romans also left their imprint on the present-day landscape : some of the vineyard parcels in the appellation Marsannay still follow the strict metrics of the Roman layout, with a structured network of vineyard tracks.

From Middle Ages to the French revolution (1789)

The numerous monastic orders were the first to develop the art of wine growing. The well-known abbey of Bèze was endowed as early as 658 A.D. with vineyard parcels from Marsannay-la-Côte and Couchey.
In 882 A.D., the prior of St Stephen’s in Dijon owned seven plots at "Les Crais” in Marsannay-la-Côte. In Chenôve, the cathedral chapter of Autun owned a building and a vineyard known as the "Clos du Chapitre”, where fine vines were grown from 1000 A.D. onwards.

The House of Valois enhanced the value of the vineyards close to their capital, Dijon, as they needed very high quality wines in order to ensure their prestige throughout Europe. They owned the "Clos de Récille” (5 journaux, i.e. about 1,5 ha) in Marsannay-la-Côte. By 1238, the dukes also owned the "Clos des Ducs” in Chenôve (renamed "Clos du Roy” immediately after the defeat of Charles the Bold by Louis XI in 1477). The construction by duke Eudes III of a vast and imposing winery, housing two powerful screw-presses, proves that they could transform large quantities of grapes into wine with a constant concern for quality, as early as the twelfth century.

As Courtépée wrote in the eighteenth century, "Chenôve had a very good vineyard, whose fruits were excellent...if the wines are kept five to six years, they become comparable to those of Nuits”. As early as 1648, grapes from the present-day appellation Marsannay were sold at higher prices than those of surrounding villages, such as Gevrey-Chambertin, far better known today. Wines from Chenôve were among the very few served at the table of Louis XIV and Louis XVI and exported abroad.

The dovecot at the St Urban monastery

Manuscript dated 1238 in which Alix de Vergy, mother of Hugh IV, Duke of Burgundy, refers to the screw-presses of Chenôve ...super torcular meum de Chenove...

The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
Wine-growers in Chenôve at the beginning of the twentieth century

Even if some "climats” (small vineyards) benefited, up to the nineteenth century from a classification equivalent to the present-day "Grands Crus” (J. Lavalle classification, 1855), the growing population in the neighbourhood of Dijon a century ago caused massive plantation of Gamay vines, in order to respond to the increasing consumption of table wine. Economic prosperity in the three villages included in the appellation Marsannay was not affected during the 1930s when a severe crisis in Burgundy vineyards prompted the creation of the A.O.C.. As no pressing need was felt, the classification of the vineyards under the appellation Marsannay was not sought in 1936.

However, the wine-growers’ constant pursuit of quality rapidly led them to replant Pinot Noir vines. The creation of the A.O.C. Marsannay by decree, on May 19th 1987, opened new avenues for the acknowledgement of the quality and reputation of Marsannay wines.

A promising future...
25 years of vintage wines

The appellation Marsannay possesses all the vitality and creativity of youth ; these qualities are allied to the fruitful maturity engendered by the age-old history of these vineyards. The quality of the labour invested over the past twenty-five years by the two generations of wine-growers working in harmony on the estates has ensured international recognition, with exports to all continents, and a place of honour on every table of renown.
Wine-growers of the new generation, demanding, curious, and open-minded, have inherited from previous generations a sense of solidarity, and a strong attachment to their terroir. This family spirit, inspired by the ambitious quest to improve every vintage, seeks to progress while remaining true to Burgundian tradition and

Etudes et cartes :
Françoise Vannier-Petit
Photographies :
Françoise Vannier-Petit,
Valérie Huguenot Office de tourisme du canton de Gevrey-Chambertin