It was Professor Jules Lavalle’s (1820–1880) most celebrated work, The History and Statistics of the Great Wines of the Côte d’Or, published in 1855, that forever changed how Burgundy winemakers would perceive the earth underneath their feet.
Histoire et Statistique: Jules Lavalle wrote the book on Burgundy terroirs in 1855
DR JULES LAVALLE
A respected doctor of natural sciences and a member of the Geological Society of France, Dr Jules Lavalle became a household name in his Burgundy birthplace following his celebrated classification of the region’s terroirs in The History and Statistics of the Great Wines of the Côte d’Or. The word and concept of “terroir” had gained quick popularity throughout the 17th century, but it wasn’t until Denis Morelot first threw a spotlight on the word in print in 1831, that it became adopted and worshipped by the region’s winemakers.
Top Togography: Lavalle’s famous topographic map of the great vineyards of the Côte d’Or
Lavalle’s praise of Clos Marey-Monge as première cuvée, a standard designated as today’s premier cru, further validated the world-class reputation the ancient vineyard had first received when Benedictine monks planted Pinot Noir in Pommard more than a thousand years ago, as well as King Robert of England’s delight at being sent “Polmareo wine” by Odo, viscount of Beaune, in 1005. A few hundred years later,in 1723, Pommard wine was still the talk of the table when ninety casks of the village’s wine were ordered from Paris to baptize the coronation of King Louis XV. A prestigious honor.
“This vineyard is one of the oldest in the Côte-d’Or, and certainly existed at the end of the Roman domination, as well as those of Beaune and Volnay.”
Dr Jules Lavalle, about Pommard
Wine or Bust: Jules Lavalle defined fine wine in 1855 Burgundy
Jules Lavalle’s work singled out only a handful of Pommard vineyards worthy of première cuvée status, of which General Guillaume-Stanislas Marey-Monge’s was acknowledged.”No climate is placed enough above others to deserve to be classified apart. But a large number of wines must be placed in the first rank, and are worthy of counting among the first cuvées…Le Clos Marey-Monge, to General Marey-Monge.”
The Eldest Son: It was Nicolas-Joseph and Émilie’s firstborn who welcomed Jules Lavalle in 1855
More than 150 years since Lavalle’s celebrated classification we remain eternally grateful for this certification. To honor the significance of Lavalle’s work, and to return the Clos to its roots, in Summer 2016 we restored the title of our historic vineyard back to its original designation, Clos Marey-Monge, as identified by Lavalle in his work. Since the 1930s, and throughout tenure of Louis and Albertine Laplanche and their son, Jean, the vineyard was entitled Clos de la 18 Hectares, a title that may promote the heritage of the Château as the largest undivided vineyard in Pommard, but hides our family ties to the Marey-Monge dynasty, a name that is imbued with a wealth of history and prestige.
“The wines of first cuvée are worthy to be offered as excellent wines.”
Dr Jules Lavalle, about Pommard
The admiration and affection for Clos Marey-Monge’s 20 hectares of sacred land does not begin and end in the 19th century, however.
Rene and Charles: Danguy and Aubertin’s noted asserted Lavalle’s initial findings
DANGUY AND AUBERTIN
Following in the literal footsteps of Dr Lavalle, in 1892, Rene Danguy and Charles Aubertin agreed with their predecessor’s assertion that the vineyard of Chateau de Pommard was premiere cuvée in their esteemed publication, Les Grand Vins de Bourgogne (La Côte d’Or). While it is Jules Lavalle’s 1855 publication observing the individual classification of terroirs across each of the Côte d’Or’s appellations that is widely considered the most important historical classification, Danguy and Aubertin were in agreement that the terroirs of “Pommard’s Château”were something special.
It would be 117 years before Clos Marey-Monge’s terroirs would be put under the microscope again.
CLAUDE AND LYDIA BOURGUIGNON
In 2009, desperate to satisfy his intuition and take the pulse of his vineyard, our winemaker, Emmanuel Sala, employed Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, revered pedologists and founders of the Laboratory of Microbiological Analysis of Soil (LMAS) to scientifically inspect the soils of Clos Marey-Monge. The results they uncovered were even more exciting than they expected.
Claude and Lydia: Standing in Simone in 2009, the Bourguignons
In each of Clos Marey-Monge’s seven diverse soil types – including the plots Grand Champs, Les Paules, Micault, 75 Rangs, Émilie and Nadine – each one contained a clay density of 350-400 m2/g, a measurement that is characteristic of solid, respectable, terroir in Pommard. The Simone and Chantrerie plots, however, unearthed a density level that surprised everyone – except Emmanuel Sala – and proved that Dr Lavalle’s classification of 154 years earlier, as accurate as it was, could not match the 21st century technology deployed by Claude and Lydia Bourguignon at LAMS. The two plots contain the highest recorded clay densities on record, more than 730m2/g. Similar clay density levels have been found only in two Côte de Nuits grand crus: Richebourg and Musigny. Esteemed company, indeed.
In their report, Claude and Lydia Bourguignon declared that Simone’s terroir is one of the greatest they had ever analysed, a true rarity, which is saying something special, considering everywhere in Burgundy is special. Claude and Lydia concluded: “At Château de Pommard, the work undertaken in the last 10 years has aimed to redefine their terroir diversity, which was described by Dr Lavalle in the 19th century. Reviving the terroirs of Château de Pommard has enabled Emmanuel Sala to vinify grapes from these exceptional soil types, and then to blend them with meticulous care and precision.”
As we continue our adventures into biodynamic vititculture towards our goal of being completely biodynamic by 2019, we hope Claude and Lydia Bourguignon will return to Clos Marey-Monge to track any changes to the vine roots/depths and the vineyard’s microbiology over the coming years. It will be fascinating to record how things change and why. Watch this space!
FUTURE CELEBRATED CLASSIFICATIONS
Throughout 2016 and 2017, Emmanuel has employed further science to analyze his cherished vineyard, including shockwave testing and geological sampling. Today, we have a comprehensive historical and present-day analysis of Clos Marey-Monge’s terroirs, a mix of traditional Burgundian intuition and modern technological innovation – all of the information we have acquired will be able to help us understand the world outside our window and help ensure its future.
As we move more in 2017, we’ll keep you updated with any more future celebrated classifications or certifications Clos Marey-Monge is awarded….
Finding the Future: Adama used technology unavailable to Jules Lavalle in 1855
“The wines of Pommard are renowned for the frankness and follow those of Volnay for the price.”
Dr Jules Lavalle