hen leaving the N6 for Irancy you pass through the villages of Vincelles and Vincelottes, one on each side of the river Yonne. In the past both villages were shipping points for wine and salt. Vincelles on the western side dealt with the wines from Coulanges-la-Vineuse and Vincelottes on the eastern bank with the wines from Irancy.
Irancy lies two kilometres up from the Yonne, surrounded by a large natural amphitheatre of vines. It is an impressive view. Irancy is 17 kilometres south of Auxerre and 18 kilometres southwest of Chablis. It was only in 1998 that this part of the Auxerrois region got its own village appellation, but winegrowing has been present for at least twelve centuries, probably more. The arrival of the monks in the 11th century meant a boost to the vignoble. For eight centuries, up until the revolution, Irancy stayed dependent upon the abbey Saint-Germain in Auxerre.
In 1903 the Ministry of Agriculture in France published ”Les Vins de Bourgogne”, a 24-page booklet describing the wines of Burgundy. The Irancy wines were described as having ”nice bright colour. A bit hard, rich in tannins and acidity. They require some ageing; two years in barrels will produce good wines for bottling. The most well-known are the ones from La Palotte”.
The amphitheatre protects the vineyards from the northwinds. Altogether the Irancy appellation covers 315 hectares, but only 156,60 hectares are planted (2007 figures). Irancy took its first steps towards an appellation of its own back in the 1930's. The Yonne civil court ruled that the winegrowers of the village had the right to add Irancy to the label. In 1977 the INAO put forward a more detailed description of the appellation. It was still a regional appellation, but the labels would read Bourgogne Irancy. In 1991 the appellation was extended to cover some of the vines in the neighbouring communes of Cravant and Vincelottes. Then from the 1998 vintage Irancy became one of the very few villages in the Yonne departement with an appellation of their own. In this northwestern part of Burgundy there are only three villages – Saint-Bris le Vineux, Irancy and Chablis – that have the right to put just the village name on the label. When Irancy was promoted to village appellation the total surface area was reduced by 50 hectares and the maximum yield set to 45 hl/ha.
Irancy is the only village appellation in Burgundy where the césar grape is allowed. In an Irancy up to ten percent can be césar and the rest pinot noir. The césar grape is a productive, late ripening variety that adds both colour and tannins to the pinot noir. The Palotte is often cited as the best climat of the appellation, followed by the likes of Les Mazelots and Les Cailles. Not all producers use the césar in their Irancy wines, and among those who do there are often different cuvees with different percentages. For instance, Domaine Anita, Jean-Pierre et Stéphanie Colinot produces eight different Irancy wines. The straight Irancy, Boudardes and Les Cailles are pure pinot noirs. Les Mazelots has three percent césar, Palotte five percent and Côte du Moutier eight percent. Both Les Mazelots, cuvée César, and Vieille Vigne de César have ten percent.
As you enter the village from the west, you have the domaine of the appropriately named Serge Bienvenu on your left. A small green and yellow sign announces Vins d'Irancy – Cave Ouverte. Right in front of you the street divides into three forks. Straight ahead is the Rue Soufflot, the main street of the village where you find the only restaurant, the mairie and producers such as Domaine Stéphan Podor, Domaine Thierry Richoux and Domaine William Charriat. To your left is Rue des Fossés, with names such as Domaine David Renaud, Domaine Benoît Cantin and Domaine Saint-Germain, and to your right Rue les Promenades. In total there are about 20 winegrowers in the village.
When the phylloxera hit the Auxerrois region in the late 19th century a very large part of the vignoble was wiped out. Irancy was no exception, and it took the village very long to even begin to recover. In his book "Les Vignobles de Chablis et de l'Yonne" Henri Cannard writes that in the early 20th century many of the vines grafted onto phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks did not produce any grapes in Irancy. In 1910 the village was hit by heavy rains, which led to serious problems with insects and mildew. Shortly afterwards the First World War broke out and the village lost more than 30 of its men. Between the wars there were only a mere 20 hectares planted with pinot noir and césar vines. It was not until after the Second World War, in 1945, that the Irancy vignoble began to expand.
Besides wine, the village's claim to fame is being the birthplace for Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-1780), the architect whose work heralded the rise of neoclassical architecture in France. His most famous work is the Panthéon in Paris.
Not only the main street bears the name of the architect. Le Soufflot is the only restaurant of the village. It doesn't look much from the outside, but the cooking is excellent and the wine list has a good choice of Irancy producers. It is run by Fabien Espnana with chef Roland Hivert.
© 2013 Ola Bergman