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Claude Maréchal was raised in Bligny-les-Beaune, a quiet, agricultural town that is bordered by the hillside vineyards of Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, and Meursault. The son of a cereal farmer, he felt an affinity early on for the farming life and vineyard work, and today he tends 10 hectares of vines spread over 6 towns in this part of the Cote de Beaune. Claude and his wife, Catherine, have gone nearly entirely organic (they say their course has evolved to one of lutte raisonnée) and work in the school of innovative winemaker (and Claude’s late friend) Henri Jayer.
After spending his early years as a winemaker working in much the same way as his peers, Claude reached a turning point in the mid-1980s when he came to taste in Burgundy with the likes of Jayer and Jean Thevenet. “Compared to what I was making, it was a revelation: it was like eating in a supermarket cafeteria your entire life and suddenly, you are tasting dishes from a 3 star restaurant. This led to a shift from conventional agriculture, to a work philosophy that is more respectful of our environment, but also to the quality of the wine itself.”
Following his instincts and his mentor, Claude is fastidious about keeping treatments in the vineyards to a minimum and striving for low yields. No herbicides are used, the vineyards are plowed, and all grapes are harvested manually and totally destemmed. Fermentation occurs slowly with native yeasts and maceration takes place over 20 days. Once pressed, the wine develops in oak barrels (only a low percentage of which is new) for a period of 12 to 18 months with the lees. Claude and Catherine’s aim is to produce “vins de plaisir” – wines that are approachable and bring pleasure to all who drink them. Ultimately, Claude says, “you don't make wine with techniques, you make wine with grapes. If you harvest ripe, healthy grapes, the wines will always be exemplary.”