Historic Estate on the Upswing?

Today’s Story: Domaine François Lamarche

While the Lamarche family origins place them in Vosne-Romanée as early as 1740, the domaine was founded in 1797. Over time, particularly through the end of the 19th century, the domaine grew in size under Henri Lamarche and his wife Marie Grivelet from Chambolle-Musigny. When their son Henri (born 1903) took over, he soon inherited La Grande Rue when he married Aline Demur in 1933. Then, in 1985, François took over the estate with the death of his father Henri and he and his wife Marie-Blanche currently lead winemaking and sales. Truly a family endeavor throughout its history, the domaine is also run by François’ sister Geneviève Lamarche (accounts), his daughter Nicole (viticulture), and Geneviève’s daughter Nathalie (sales).

Domaine François Lamarche owns some very enviable land within Vosne-Romanée. While the estate makes 14 different wines ranging from village to 1er Cru to Grand Cru, their most historic holding is the monopole La Grande Rue (one of 6 Grand Crus in Vosne-Romanée). La Grande Rue borders La Tâche and Romanée Conti (monopoles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) as well as La Romanée (a monopole of Comte Liger-Belair). While over time the wine from La Grande Rue has fallen under shadow of its neighbors (La Tâche sells for about $5,000 per bottle and Romanée Conti for $15,000+) Nicole Lamarche has been making viticultural changes in an effort to bring out elegance and terroir that have been missing from their wines.

More care seems to be going into the harvesting and winemaking processes with Nicole leading the charge, particularly with grapes being hand-harvested and sorted in the vineyards. Grapes are taken to the winery in small baskets to avoid premature crushing and oxidation where they are shaken and then hand sorted. Partially and sometimes totally destemmed, the grapes go into open vats made of stainless steel or wood and pressing is accomplished with a bladder press. Wine is bottled after being matured 14-20 months in French oak ranging from 30-50% new.

Fun Fact: The Grand Cru wines of Domaine François Lamarche are La Grande Rue, Clos-de-Vougeot, Grands-Échezeaux, and Échezeaux. Relative to their neighbors, these wines are still very, very reasonably priced and could be worth looking into if the changes being made to the winemaking process prove successful in achieving their goals.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits

100% Pinot Noir; 12.5% ABV

I’ve wanted to try a wine from Domaine François Lamarche since they came onto my radar a month or so ago, and I figured it best to start with their entry level Bourgogne.

The wine is clear pale ruby in color. While the nose is very feminine, clean, and soft and took some time to open up, I get aromas of raspberry, strawberry, dried cranberry, rose petal, slight leather, and chalky earth. After this opened up a bit the nose added some characteristics of red meat as well. Once in the mouth, the palate showcases notes of ripe red cherry, strawberry, white pepper, slight baking spice, and chalk. This falls apart on the palate, especially by the mid-palate which is almost non-existent, and I found it quite disappointing after learning of the improvements the domaine is taking. Nonetheless, this is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, light tannins, and a medium length finish. I remain curious to try the Lamarche higher-end offerings, particularly La Grande Rue.

Price: $35. For Burgundy, this is a good entry level price-point and I think controlling for its shortcomings it does deliver. This being said, I would suggest taking $35 and buying a bottle of Pinot from Oregon or a more established Bourgogne. Pair this with lamb, veal, or duck breast.

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