2018 DOMAINE DES MARRANS
'LES MARRANS', Fleurie, Beaujolais, France
From Somm Select review....
It’s no secret that we love Cru Beaujolais. We offer a lot of it, we drink a lot of it, and yet, we’re never tired of it. It’s hard to imagine life without Gamay, the ultimate joie de vivre cure-all with its intoxicating fruits, rosy earth, and feel-good freshness. –Ian Cauble, Master Sommelier
There are plenty of ho-hum wines from Beaujolais worth passing over, there are a handful of wines worth aging beyond a decade, but there is no better wine to drink in the splendor of its vibrant youth than Fleurie. And, there is no producer who exemplifies this contagious splendor better than Domaine des Marrans. Out of the 10 cru villages of Beaujolais, Fleurie is the one most closely associated with the words, “elegant, silky, and supple,” and within this lexicon, Domaine des Marrans casts a line, pulling-out “pristine” then a “racy floral deliciousness” (quoted by the importer) from the depths of Fleurie’s sea of decomposed pink granite. Heed this friendly warning: Don’t let the Gamay hoarders and fanatical sommeliers poach this signature bottling from Domaine des Marrans—it’s a perfect example of how much class, complexity, typicity, and sheer joy can be had for less than $30 a bottle.
The man behind Marrans is the young yet deceptively experienced Mathieu Mélinand. “Les Marrans” is not only a lieu-dit, it is the physical and metaphorical heart of the winery. The domaine was founded in 1970 by Mathieu’s father, Jean-Jacques, who began collecting old vine vineyards of Gamay. The soil stereotype of Fleurie is “pink granite,” and Les Marrans has plenty of it. Essentially pink granite is weathered granite which disguises itself as a coarse pinkish sand, hence the name. It drains well, the vines are able to scissor their roots deeply below the ground, and the finished wines have an extra gear of zip and freshness.
Unlike Burgundian Pinot Noir, most Gamay vines in Beaujolais are not supported by a trellis system. They are called “goblet” vines because they resemble the drinking vessel of the same name. Free of wires and traditionally without stakes, the plants grow individually, asymmetrically, and lay lower to the ground versus the conventional high-trained, manicured systems. With more mature plants, like the ones in “Les Marrans” (45-50 years old), the trunks are short and chunky, and their canopies look like leafy snow cones, circulating air and providing shade so the berries mature at a calm and leisurely pace. Dating back to Roman times, goblet vines are sought-after by winemakers because they are low-yielding, producing pitch-perfect fruit—a priceless quality when it comes to making venerable Gamay.
Les Marrans, a gentle southeast facing slope, produces the family’s flagship wine; without Les Marrans, there would be no Domaine des Marrans. When Mathieu was a student of enology in Burgundy, it was a bottle of Roumier’s Chambolle-Musigny that inspired him and set forth his everlasting travels with Gamay. He knew he could not reinvent the elusive smells of Chambolle in his native Fleurie, but he could make wines that traveled in the same circle of elegance and purity. At 33 years old, Mathieu already has a decade of experience behind him. Since his takeover of the Domaine in 2009, he has developed his own style, underlined by his consistent discipline in the vineyard and cellar. His practices include organic farming, the use of whole clusters, traditional 'semi-carbonic' fermentation via natural yeasts, minimal movement of the wine, as well as shy doses of sulfur before bottling. The wines are never fined nor filtered; this is acoustic Gamay in its moment, a soulful stripped-down version of Fleurie that will surely make you hit “repeat.”
An unhurried ‘whole-bunch’ fermentation with careful and minimal movement of the wine in the cellar define Mélinand’s style in an exceptional Gamay vintage. Like 2016, violent weather wrecked vineyards, old vines persisted and the remaining fruit was sprightly. 2017 is not a timid vintage, it’s got more oomph than 2016, but also has a zany freshness that was well-missed in the 2015s. The Domaine des Marrans cellar contains breathable cement and large 20-year old barrels… if you are looking for a lip smack of new oak, go elsewhere. Some prefer a light chill for Gamay, and I would recommend that for the simple Beaujolais Villages wines. The sweet spot for today’s wine is between 55-60 degrees, and a quick decant will open-up the slinky of aromatics. In a Burgundy glass, the wine shines in ruby, with flickers of pink and purple on the rim. Unlike the dense, over-extracted “new” versions of Gamay, this Fleurie is translucent in the glass. But don’t let its see-through quality fool you, the aromas are heady and deep: crushed raspberries, cherries, sweet green and rose into pink peppercorn and juicy purple plum. The palate is sheer, all-inclusive of its stimulating aromatics, rolled-out in the silk of Fleurie. There is mouthwatering acidity, which speaks as minerality and colorfully animates the wine into its long finish. Firmly poised and beyond delicious, I can’t think of a better wine to bring to summer’s drumroll of backyard festivities, especially if there is a grill involved. So why pick just one recipe, when there are so many ways to drink Fleurie? Attached are 24 ways to eat/drink well this summer with Les Marrans. Cheers!