In late January 2015 we visited the domaine Francois Lamarche. The estate dates back to the 1740’s. To most people, the estate is known for its monopoly vineyard La Grand Rue and it is situated right in the holy grail of Burgundy and just next to the famous La Tâche in Vosne-Romanée. Actually, it was in possession of the Liger-Belair family that went bankrupt in 1933. Then it was purchased by Edouard Lamarche and given as a wedding present to his nephew Henri. We did some research prior to this visit and according to official publications, up until 1959, small parts of the former boundaries of Gaudichots were exchanged with DRC and La grand rue was adopted grand cru status in 1992. Oldest parts apparently predate 1970, but a lot was replanted in the 80’s, so roots are yet not really old. Except for La grand rue, they own several other premier- and grand crus, of which Clos Vougeot, Aux Malconsorts, Les Suchots, Grands Echezeaux can be mentioned and in addition the interesting La Croix Rameau, in the north-east corner of Romanée-Saint-Vivant.
After knocking on the door to Lamarche in a cold but sunny January for a few minutes, finally Nicole opens. She explains that she had to pick up the children somewhere and she says that she is sorry that she’s late, but we are just happy that they are here. After all, this is a family business. We are just very exited to visit this domaine,.. finally.
Nicole, the daughter of Francois Lamarche, who took charge in 2007 with her first vintage being the glorious 2010, is obviously a very energetic, determined and confident woman with a clear focus of what she wants to do with their wines and she explains that she told her father over and over again to move away for her. Lamarche’s reputation at the time when she took over was not the best to say the least. Publicly, it was perceived as overly austere and lacking freshness from several wine critics, but luckily we absolutely feel that Nicole is really improving the estate’s wine quickly year-by-year. The potential in this part of Vosne-Romanée appears unlimited. Nicole tells us that she enforced thorough cleaning of the cellars and a whole lot of improvements in the wine making after her trial-period was over and her father stepped down, finally, as she puts it.
They harvest by hand using a secondary selection table. A few days and customary cold-soak is conducted to enhance perfume and colour. 80-100% of only ripe stems goes into fermentation depending on vintage to enhance structure and add tannins. When I mention that DRC is doing biodynamics and ask her about her principles, she swiftly answers that she hates extremism, so they employ things that they see fit and really work. She is very focused on the vineyards and thinks that organic principles are really important to them. She says, she intercepts ideas from the biodynamic movement, but for her, ecological farming is most important and they employ hard pruning which she thinks is most important to her as well as constant attention to the vineyards. They also work with sexual confusion techniques to keep insects off the leaves. Grass is extremely shortly pruned within vineyard rows to provoke the roots to dig deeper and avoid dilution.
I ask her about what she strives for in her wines and she immediately answers that she aims for silkiness, aromatics and elegance. She explains that she thinks that she, through her wine making adds a woman touch to their wines compared to her father. The level of new oak, from very much adapted barriques to the vineyards, are about a third now and very lightly toasted. Extraction (maceration) is carried out for about 15-18 days and like many others, no filtration or fining is done.
2013 Bourgogne “Hautes côtes de Nuits”
Vosne spices. Very fine, young and crisp acidity. Fruits in the back ground now, but there is balance.
Some finesse in this fresh nose of herbs.
Delightful and sourish, small red berries, blood orange, ginger, and some complex minerals. Medium bodied. Very crisp and fresh acidity.
Distinct Vosne spices here and fresh herbs dominates. Very small, sourish red berries and blood orange. Here is some finesse and pleasant pliancy.
2013 V-R 1er cru “Les Chaumes”
They own two small sections this vineyard.
Some seductive perfume from this very clean and fresh nose. There is a vertical quality here with the perfume as top note and the Vosne spices in the base.
Very silky and soft texture in this pliant wine with fine tannin cut. Small, ripe and fresh red berries, blood orange, ginger, clove and herbs. The acidity is just a little sharp now, but this will be very fine. It is quite persistent too.
2013 V-R 1er cru “Les Suchots”
Finally, the rose chips arrives in this super-fresh and seductive perfume with nice depth.
Almost perfect tannins in here. Very good concentration and less acidic bitterness compared to the Les Chaumes. Blood orange dominates with a trail of pure, red small berries in the persistent finish. In addition, notes of passion fruit, fennel wrapped in the very balsamic, crisp and mineral-driven acidity.
2013 V-R 1er cru “La Croix Rameau”
A very interesting vineyard in the north-east corner of Romanée-Saint-Vivant of which they only made two barriques. 45 year-old vines.
Very different nose compared to Les Chaumes and Les Suchots. More intense and less fragrant with more herbs and pastry. It is a complex and intriguing nose.
Small, sourish red berries, a lot of herbs and pastry on the palate too. The very clean, energetic and crisp acidity wraps passion fruit and orange peel. Thicker tannins but still soft, but not as silky as the other two.
2013 V-R 1er cru “Les Malconsorts”
Very complex nose with high precision and details, but reduced now so very analytic at this stage. Extremely slowly, the fragrant rose petals arrive and the Vosne spices that appears to hover on the surface only. It truly contains something special.
Sourish, super-small red layers of, ripe and pure red berries, anise, fresh herbs and spices. Acidity is a little overly energetic now, but very promising. Impressive balance without any edges or bitterness in the very persistent finish. Very smooth and silky texture with very ripe tannins. A very classic and elegant, but too young V-R wine with great potential.
2013 grand cru “Echezeaux”
A very direct nose of darker minerals and pastry. Dried flowers in its persistent, but subtle inner perfume.
Very good concentration and very clean fruit and acidity. Good grip in the tannins.
2013 grand cru “Grands-Echezeaux”
A very broad brush stroke of scents in this nose. Some earthy tones, crushed stone in the base and balsamic, dried herbs and deep perfumes at the top.
On the palate, the acidity is dominating now and it is currently a little edgy and whiny, but vivid which is promising. However, there seem to be red fruit in there, anise and some leather notes lurking. All this framed in thicker and firmer tannins.
2013 grand cru “Clos de Vougeot”
Here they have three parcels in the south-east part, i.e. the lower parts.
The nose emerges as very deep with very much finesse. An incredibly seductive and feminine perfume as top note here with some crushed stone and dried herbs in the base.
On the palate, what struck us most is its impressive high quality acidity that is fantastically fresh. Moreover, the texture is super silky and totally seamless. A very fresh wine with almost perfect texture.
2013 grand cru “Les Grand Rue” (monopoly)
A very light and transparent pink and raspberry red colour.
The nose is reduced now and emerges very slowly, but after a while there is a really elegant and aristocratic, but subtle, perfume that slips through. A deep and complex nose indeed.
On the palate, it offers cherries with layers of deep and very pure, red fruit. Totally seamless, incredibly pliant and super-silky texture. Acidity is crisp and fresh coating the fruit with deep, fresh minerals. It is persistent too. Yes, this has come very far in this vintage.
It is obvious that the previously uneven impression of this estate some years back now is history and they are absolutely taking a distinct step in the direction of a much higher level of quality with Nicole in charge. Especially the pliancy, slenderness and elegancy impresses us a lot, but it is not all. In addition, the finesse and purity is impressive and the potential comes through in the Clos Vougeot, Les Malconsorts, La Croix Rameau and the stunning La Grand Rue. It will be very interesting to follow the development here and we will certainly be back soon.