Almost unique among Burgundy growers for only producing grand cru wines, Domaine Bonneau du Martray owns 11 hectares of vines on the famous hill of Corton, one of the largest holdings of grand cru vines of any Burgundy producer. The vast majority of the vines are chardonnay with just 1.5 hectares of pinot noir, making Corton-Charlemagne and Corton respectively. Legend has it that vines have been cultivated on the hill since Roman times and the emperor Charlemagne was said to be enamoured of the red wines of hill in the late 8th century AD.
The family of Jean-Charles le Bault de la Moriniere, who took over from his father in 1994, have owned their vines since the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century but they already have a legendary reputation. Recently the domaine saw a change of management with the purchase of the majority shareholding by Stanley Kroenke, famous for his ownership of Californian cult winery Screaming Eagle and Arsenal FC. With the purchase came the news that Jean-Charles would be relinquishing his various responsibilities.
Jean-Charles had taken the domaine in a new, or perhaps some might say even more traditional, direction by deciding to follow the principles of biodynamic farming, a holistic philosophy that embraces organics, homeopathy and cosmology. It is probably not wholly different to the methods once embraced by Roman or Carolingian growers on the hill. Today, no herbicides, synthetic pesticides or fertilisers are permitted in the vineyards of Bonneau du Martray.
The chardonnay vines, which average 45 years of age, are divided into 16 parcels, all of which are hand-picked and vinified separately to capture the precise characteristics of the terroir. In order to allow the terroir even more of a voice he employs a lighter touch than some in his use of oak with only 30% new wood used in a typical vintage. Pinot noir was at one time something of a weakness of the domaine, but after Jean-Charles took over it improved dramatically, with green harvesting and low yields contributing to the progression in quality. However, it is the great white wines of Corton-Charlemagne upon which the huge reputation of the domaine is founded and there can be little doubt that this is one of the stars of the Côte d’Or.