One common problem I see with many wine collections today is lack of diversity. It’s great to specialize in the wines you love, but a diverse cellar is fun to drink from, as well as being a good investment. I know a wine collector who only invested in Cabernet Sauvignon or red blends made primarily from Cabernet. He had some beautiful wines in his cellar, including a prized bottle of Bryant Family, yet he scoffed at the words “Chardonnay” and “Pinot Noir.” That was until he tried his first Marsannay vintage; with the help of this French wine region, his cellar is now home to fantastic crisp white wines and even a few bottles of Pinot Noir. Marsannay truly is one of the few wine regions that can grow a wide range of varietals without sacrificing quality, and if you’re looking to spice up your cellar with a variety of unique wines, this French wine region should be your first choice.
What Makes Marsannay Special?
The key to its success is its almost unbelievable diversity. While other French wine regions specialize, Marsannay bucks tradition, growing all three classic Burgundy colors to perfection: ruby Pinot Noir, golden Chardonnay, and brassy pink rosé. This is the only AOC village that produces all three wines at once, making it a great choice for collectors looking to explore a variety of varietals from one region. Although you won’t find any bottles labeled Grand Cru or even Premier Cru in Marsannay, it’s near the top of my list for quality vintages and market value. The only reason why this subregion doesn’t yet have Grand Cru labels is because it is still too new; it only just gained AOC status in 1987.
Why Should Collectors Care?
You’ll find superb Marsannay wines in years when the weather was ideal, all at a third or even a quarter of the price of comparable vintages made in other Burgundy subregions. To prove this point, the New York Times once gathered together a group of wine critics to judge three bottles from this region. One of the critics said of the 2013 Clos du Roy, “Drinking this made me feel cosseted and lucky and perhaps privileged.” For a wine that costs less than $100, this is impressive.
Yet the main reason you should invest in Marsannay has nothing to do with the price, but with its consistency. When you decide to diversify your collection, you’ll usually run into one major snag: collecting consistently high-quality vintages. Just because you’re an expert in red Burgundy doesn’t mean you’ll know which white Burgundy is worth a space in your cellar, or which Cremant de Bourgogne is drinkable. It’s different with Marsannay. Because all three wine styles are grown in the same area, different varietals will have many of the same characteristics. For instance, if you know that 2012 Marsannay Pinot Noir is well-structured and ideal for cellaring, it’s relatively safe to assume that any Chardonnay or rosé grapes grown close by were equally blessed in 2012. All three of these wines tend to thrive under similar conditions because the grapes are near-identical in structure.
How to Choose the Best Marsannay
Most Marsannay is better drunk young than cellared, but you’ll still find dozens of age-worthy, collectible gems when you know where to look. First, decide which of the three wine styles you prefer. Marsannay Pinot Noir is usually more intense than what you’d find in many other regions of Burgundy. These wines have a strong bite to them, with savory, meaty components. The bouquet is also less floral and more fruity, which further differentiates Marsannay from other Burgundy subregions. Marsannay rosé is usually the least-collectible of the three varietals because most vintages aren’t designed for long-term aging, but its fresh, mouthwatering flavors make it the perfect party wine–I love these wines with seafood or cheeses. Finally, if you’re looking for diversity, the region’s Chardonnay has it in spades. Like all white Burgundy, Marsannay tends to be mineral-heavy, but its white wines also range widely in flavor from citrus to floral. I recommend buying at least one of each style to get a full sense of the variation in wines from this region.
As for vintages, I’ve found that a handful of the most recent offerings from Marsannay show the most promise for collectors. We’re seeing a shift toward finer winemaking techniques in the region, as you’ll see with vintages like the 2013. The weather was dismal that year, with little sunlight and a great deal of rain. What shocked critics was the quality of the wine coming out of Marsannay in spite of these difficulties. Critic Will Lyons says new winemaking techniques and climate change might have played a role, but that “whatever the cause, 2013 is a vintage that 20 years ago would have been a disaster.” The Marsannay produced 20 years ago was greener and less enjoyable than it is today, even when the weather was ideal. In slightly better weather conditions than the 2013, Marsannay can shine especially brightly. The 2012 vintage fared better overall than the 2013, and unlike the 2013, it is potentially age-worthy. While the 2012 is worth your time, the vintage you should watch most closely is the 2015, which is already receiving praise from critics. Now that the weather in Burgundy–and the techniques in Marsannay–are improving, this unique region might finally get its moment in the spotlight.
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