The Clos Marey-Monge is a large, 20-hectare Monopole vineyard in Pommard, Burgundy. This walled plot has a single owner, the Château de Pommard. It is an iconic and historic property, given a new lease of life since its purchase by American businessman Michael Baum in 2016. Since then, a whirlwind of renovation has touched every aspect of the winery, vineyards and wines.
This tasting was to celebrate the first organically-certified vintage of the Clos Marey-Monge Monopole. Conversion to organic viticulture was begun by winemaker Emmanuel Sala in 2008, and he is confident that full biodynamic certification will follow shortly. All ploughing is by horse, and there is a programme to encourage biodiversity within the walls of the Clos. In the past few years, 400 trees have been planted for example.
The Clos has been studied over the years by Emmanuel, who has identified seven indivudual plots based on soils, plus their position on the site’s gentle slope.
One Becomes Eight
Following on from Emmauel’s studies, the decision was taken to bottle wines from the seven individual plots within Marey-Monge. Emmanuel says: “Some of theses are of Grand Cru quality.” The cuvées include the Grands Esprits and Nicolas-Joseph tasted here, as well as the cuvée Simone which I tasted previously. Emmanuel considers it to be one of his ‘Grand Crus’. Owner Michael suggests that a horizontal tasting of the seven wines is a mesmerising experience: “You see the differences, and understand the ‘layers’ that go into the Monople.” The Monopole bottling, also tasted here, is an assemblage of fruit from across the different plots.
I continue to be impressed by the recent wines from Château de Pommard. The entire operation appears to have been fully revitalised under the partnership of Sala and Baum, with very noticeable improvements from what was once a slightly under-performing property. A large range of wines is produced, including Marey-Monge, but also from other holdings as well as négociant wines uner the Carabello-Baum label. Michael Baum expressed his excitement about future developments about to come on stream, Intriguingly, these include a premium Aligoté project.
Château de Pommard opens to visitors daily for tours and tastings, without the need for an appointment.
I buy someone elses Pommard villages from a plot may 200 years away, on the same side of the road. It does not fall far short of the quality of the producer’s 1er cru on the other side of the road. Cost? Just over £30, compared to £50 for 1er cru. I buy both. Of course, the authorities deem the terroir inferior, but so what?
That’s the crux of the matter Mark: there are no vineyard areas in the world that I can think of that are so micro-mapped and divided on supposed quality as in Burgundy. Are the distinctions in ‘grading’ and therefore price all valid? Well we all know of poor wines made from 1er and even Grand Cru vineyards, and superb ones made from village vineyards. As I say to Richard B in these comments, if we take Chateau de Pommard’s seriousness and honesty at face value – and I have no reason not to having tasted the wines – then they think they have a special vineyard in the Clos Marey-Monge and are now doing what Burgundy has always done: study it row by row and plot by plot, determining the qualities of each and drawing new lines on the map. Time will tell if they stand up to scrutiny in the long term.
Well, that really is ambitious pricing. Hard to feel emotionally warm towards an enterprise that is so obviously trying to push the envelope in this way. They would generate a lot more goodwill and probably more customers by starting off a bit more reasonable, then raising prices if the wines perform well as they mature, and if the secondary market holds up. Having said that, the idea of separating out and bottling different plots from a big Burgundy vineyard is a great one.
Richard, it is ambitious pricing. Part of me feels – having of course tasted the wines – that there is nothing wrong with ambition if you really believe you have something special in your terroir, and you are so obviously ploughin money and resources into improving the wines. I haven’t been able to visit and see the operation for myself yet, but have had three zoom tastings with three different lots of wines from the Chateau and from their negociant operation, and allowing for the fact that these are very polished and plush styles, I am impressed. I can fully understand some people being a little cynical or reluctant on these wines, but I guess the micro-mapping of Burgundy terroirs is what has driven our obsession for the past thousand years, so looked at favourably, Chateau de Pommard’s new owners are continuing that with the division of this Monopole into seven plots, all being offered at different prices, presumably to reflect the quality they see in them.
I would say it is not just a question of what people are ‘prepared’ to pay, but what they are able to pay! 20 years ago I was able to afford premier cru (and occasionally grand cru) Burgundy. They were expensive, but not completely out of the reach of someone on a modest salary. Now if it’s the case that Mr Baum and his ilk wish to take even village Burgundy out of the reach of anyone but the super rich, I think the implications of that approach should be discussed honestly. It’s especially sad given that biodynamism is an idealistic (and ultimately spiritual) approach. Is such wine only to be available to oligarchs and premier league footballers? (And please don’t assert that biodynamic wine must be expensive. As an instance, Chateau Mayragues in Gaillac has been biodynamic for 20 years and produces wonderful wines at eminently reasonable prices. Dozens of domaines in the Jura could also be cited. But because it’s Burgundy, they can draw in a few ‘influencers’ and cash in…)
Peter, like you I regret the escalating prices of Burgundy (and Bordeaux and others) that mean the purchase of a Grand Cru red Burgundy or Premier Cru Bordeaux are now largely out of my reach too. Whether we can ‘blame’ the producers, or suggest they should resist because of long-term implications is another matter: I guess time will tell whether it is sustainable, as the market is surely the ultimate test in the long run, but for now it is what it is, with people able and willing to pay these prices. As you point out, there are lots and lots of alternatives for people not willing to pay £100 per bottle for a quality Pinot Noir.
Mmmmm. I remain unconvinced (until I get the opportunity to taste, of course – any dregs left?). I’m sure plenty of other producers have poured money into improving the land, going organic/biodynamic, and cellars but not many are charging that sort of money for a village wine. Even if it is considered to be a special terroir, at the moment it is still a village wine and, as I said, there are plenty other village wines scoring similar points, so must be considered to be just as special and excitingly good? If you went into your local merchant and saw a Pommard VV from Genot-Boulanger (92 points) for £30 and next to it was the Clos Marey-Monge Grands Esprits (93 points) for £73 would you go straight for the Chateau Pommard?
Thanks Paul, but I am honestly not trying to ‘convince’ you or anyone else! Nor am I arguing that it is not an expensive wine. The fact is that your Genot-Boulanger might be just as good and less than half the price, but all wines are worth what someone is willing to pay for them, and I think these wines are very good indeed. So if anyone is happy to pay that, then they will get an excellent, very modern Burgundy. It’s interesting that you are a bit fixated on it not being a Premier or Grand Cru vineyard :). Penfolds Grange (£500 a bottle) is from multiple vineyards each vintage that have no official rating, same as the £7.99 Australian Shiraz in Aldi. Does that mean that the Aldi wine is just as good? What about the super-Tuscans? Famously they did not conform to DOCG rules so were rated as the lowliest Vino da Tavola, yet sold for five times the price of top Chianti Classicos. Time will tell whether the Chateau de Pommard wines continue to command this price, which will be down to their quality in the end. Wait 10 years and we can have this conversation again 🙂
It will be interesting to see how Chateau Pommard fares over the next 10 years.
Not sure Grange (or any Australian wine) or, even to an extent Tuscan wine, can be compared to Burgundy, as they do not have the same hierarchical vineyard classification system. And as we know, with a few notable exceptions, pricing of Burgundy tends to follow the hierarchy, so, in general, there is an accepted price range for generic Bourgogne; Cotes de Beaune/Nuits; village; premier cru and grand cru and most producer who step above the price ranges do so on their reputation, or rarity of their wines. In my many decades of touring in, and tasting and buying Burgundy, Chateau Pommard was really a bit of an underperformer, and their prices (certainly in situ) reflected that. While it sounds like they are lovely wines ‘on the fruit’ we don’t know how they will age yet, as they have no track record, and a seriously good track record is another factor that can command (ridiculously :-} ) high prices.
Anyway, I’m just a grumpy old Burgophile, who has been seriously annoyed by the attitude of many producers to the white Burgundy pox that has blighted us for 25 years (and I’m still getting pox’d wines). Unsurprisingly, I get reeled back in every time I have a good one. Its one of those relationships that will last my life but there are have been some hard knocks and disappointments along that bumpy road (and prices today is another difficulty).
Wow!! £70+ (and a ridiculous £137) is very ambitious pricing for a village Burgundy, even by today’s standards. There are many village wines scoring similar points for well below £30.
Paul, well if you think £137 is ridiculous, note that the Cuvee Simone which I’d tasted earlier is £326 per bottle :). These are ambitious prices for sure, but I think unless you taste the wines, it’s unfair to call the price ‘ridiculous’. The owner is clearly very ambitious and is pouring money into the estate, and a lot of it in the right places – vineyard conversion to organic and soon biodynamic, new cellars, etc. The wine, like all wines, is worth whatever people are prepared to pay for it. And who is to say these wine are not as good as Premier or Grand Cru Burgundies, or the terroir not as special? It’s all in the tasting, so next time you are over there…