From Charlemagne to the
The Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, appreciated wine and promoted moderate consumption. He pushed his administrators to set up "precise rules for the production and maintenance of quality viticulture for the benefit of all", according to Corinne Lefort and Karine Valentin*. He required his overseers to apply innovative methods and techniques in the vineyard and in the cellars.
Charlemagne's secretary took note of this imperial injunction, writing: "Let our intendants take care of our vines, those under their care, and take good care of them, pour the wine into good containers and make sure that they are not spoiled in any way. (...) Let them send for our use the product of the vines of our vineyards. » **
"He who knows how to drink knows how to rule" rang true for Charlemagne. In Fronsac, while he intended to repel the Vikings and Saracens, his table was enlivened by the vermeil wine produced in the region. In Tours, he drank the wines of Saumur. Charlemagne's reign was long, and throughout it he enjoyed tasting local wines while he himself was a major owner of vineyards.
Because of the warming sunlight, Charlemagne would have noticed that the snow on the hill of Corton melted faster than on the other hills of the region, so he ordered vines to be planted in this particularly bright place.
Later, in 775, Charlemagne donated his Corton vines to the Abbey of Saulieu. There, the Benedictine monks utilized the most advanced wine-making techniques of the time and were therefore the most capable of making the kingdom's wines shine. This was an insightful choice that the following centuries did not contradict.
*Grands Palais - Editions Les Idées Claires (2008)
**In the book « Charlemagne » from Georges Tessier - Editions Marabout (1982)From 1835 to the present day
From 1835 to
the present day
With the sale of Church-owned properties organized by the revolutionary government in 1791, Charlemagne's vines left the hands of the monks of Saint-Andoche in Saulieu and were bought at auctions by François Ray and quickly resold to Simon Very.
Marie-Eugénie, Simon Very's daughter, married Charles Bonneau du Martray, who was a descendant of Nicolas Rolin, the founder of the Hospices de Beaune. Her dowry included approximately 60 acres of vineyards in Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, and Volnay.
In the 19th century, the Bonneau du Martray family owned a few acres of vines whose heart and jewel were the entire Charlemagne climate in the commune of Pernand-Vergelesses.
Their son, Marie-Eugène Bonneau du Martray is an essential link in the history of the Domaine. He allowed the Domaine to go through the ups and downs of history without suffering: during the wars of 1870, 1914-18, phylloxera, and beyond. The action of this brilliant engineer during these dark hours preserved the integrity of the estate.
René Bonneau du Martray, son of Eugène, also experienced his share of historical events. Born in 1886, he suffered the horrors of the two world wars; he suffered physically from them for the rest of his life. Despite the difficulties he endured, René took his responsibility at the head of the family vineyard very seriously.
René Bonneau du Martray did not have children, so he bequeathed the property to his niece Alice Colonna de Giovellina, who married Jean le Bault de la Morinière.
The arrival of Jean le Bault de la Morinière at the Domaine in 1969 marked the beginning of international recognition for the Bonneau du Martray wines. Sales were organised in France as well as in foreign countries; the Domaine's two great wines were present on the most prestigious tables. Devoted entirely to his family vineyard, Jean worked hard to continue the work of his predecessors, including constructing walls and ditches to fight erosion in the vineyard. He introduced temperature control in the cellar to guarantee fermentations under the best conditions, an innovative approach at the time. From the vineyard - with a qualitative renewal of the vines - to the cellar, Jean le Bault de la Morinière converted Domaine Bonneau du Martray into a reference among the producers of great Burgundy wines.
His son, Jean-Charles le Bault de la Morinière, joined the Domaine in 1994.
Since 1997, Jean-Charles gradually oriented the Domaine towards organic farming, and its first biodynamic trials were launched in the fall of 2004. The full conversion to biodynamic was completed in 2011. It is Jean-Charles' firm belief that "we are accountable for a better understanding of the complexity of the environment in order to preserve its integrity, vitality and diversity". Jean-Charles' focus on quality in the vineyard and cellar had an immediate impact, reinforcing Bonneau du Martray's status with the most discerning wine connoisseur around the globe.
Five generations have built upon the others' successes, each participating through the ages to raise the Domaine to the highest rank, worthy of Emperor Charlemagne.
Respect for a legacy
E. Stanley Kroenke, a passionate Burgundy lover who owns renowned vineyards in California, became the proprietor of Domaine Bonneau du Martray in 2017. As only the fifth owner in the Domaine's history, E. Stanley Kroenke now pursues the same quest for perfection and excellence that was started by Charlemagne, the Benedictine monks, and families Bonneau du Martray and Le Bault de la Morinière.
The Domaine's team has shaped the Bonneau du Martray style over the years and continues this same task day after day on this unique vineyard atop the hill of Corton, and in the cellars of Pernand-Vergelesses.An observation
At the end of the 20th century, the Domaine faced a major agronomic problem: soil erosion on the hill of Corton, which meant a considerable volume of lost land.
The causes of this erosion were found to be natural and human. A geological fault and the inclination of the rocks in the subsoil of the hill contributed to a progressive landslide. Chemical weeding, the use of synthetic phytosanitary products and non-tillage aggravated this phenomenon of natural erosion. As a result, the root system of the vineyard became very superficial and the physiological balance of the plant was disrupted.
In the era of chemical viticulture, it became imperative to re-establish the living at the heart of the system and to reconnect with a true notion of terroir. The Domaine therefore sought the most effective solution to this erosion problem while respecting the hill's environment and improving the balance and expression of the site. To be pragmatic, it was essential to develop the vines' root system deep in the soil. Biodynamics then proved to be an interesting approach to explore.An ecosystem
More than a tool to restore life to the soil and the vines, it is a whole philosophy that has taken root within the Domaine, bringing together the ecosystem that constitutes the hill of Corton as a whole.
This idea of a whole complete ecosystem gave way naturally to biodynamics: the first tests were carried out on a few plots of the Domaine to assess the effects of this farming method. The first visible results on and in the soils of the vineyard were very rapid.
A few years after initial testing and full adoption, biodynamics has revealed itself as an extraordinary regulator of life capable of both tempering excesses and highlighting the quietest of the positive changes. The result was a long sought after harmonious and balanced farming.The benefits of biodynamics
The benefits of
From the first year, this cultivation method allowed the development of soil life:
- Water management: soil porosity and its storage capacity
- Better mineralization: mobilization of mineral salts to feed the vine and spontaneous flora
- Soil structuring
- Return of the spontaneous flora.
Now, the soils are much more resistant to the natural phenomenon of erosion and have re-formed. The vigour and architecture of each plant is homogeneously regulated between and within the same plot, which allows for better photosynthesis.
The ripening of the fruit is more homogeneous. During winemaking, the quality of the must and its fermentability have considerably improved. The quality of the wines is clearly appreciated: the wines are more structured, with greater aromatic complexity, elongated by an acid balance that is both powerful and delicate.
A better expression of the plant and its environment reveal the terroir with more clarity. Biodynamics is a soil enhancer, a prism that increases every details and presents the wine with greater purity and authenticity.
The terroir's DNA is an open book that can be appreciated in both white and red wines of Bonneau du Martray.