he French don't see much of the Domaine des Malandes. An impressive 92 percent of the production of this well-reputed Chablis domaine is exported. Today they have a total of 27 hectares and a range of wines that covers the whole spectrum from Petit Chablis up to the two grand crus of Vaudesír and Les Clos.
– 27 ha is not very big in Chablis, Lyne Marchive explains. For a family in Chablis that wants to live off the vineyards five ha is enough if you just have premier and grand cru. Obviously, if you have Chablis and Petit Chablis it is more difficult. Then you must have 10-20 ha in order to have a comfortable life.
Lyne Marchive and her husband Jean-Bernard founded the Domaine des Malandes in 1986. Much of the vineyards come from Lyne's family, the Tremblays.
– My grandfather was a wine producer as well. Tremblay is a very old traditional name in the Chablis region.
Unlike her parents Lyne Marchive has been able to make a living as a wine grower. Previous generations in Chablis were forced to have other sources of income. Wine was simply a business too risky to be the only one. The situation remained like this until the 1950's.
– At that time people in Chablis had a maximum of three or four hectares of vines. It was because of the risk of frost and of diseases. They didn't have the means to fight all this. They lost a lot of crop each year. So for them it was very important to have another activity. I remember when I was a child there were poultry and rabbits at home. One year when my parents didn't get any crop my father had to go harvest in Beaujolais to get money. That was in the 50's.
Then in the 1960's came various ways to protect the vines from the frost attacks in the spring. Together with the mechanisation of the work in the vineyards this led to a strong development of the Chablis vineyards. The domaines grew as they could concentrate on one single activity.
A decade ago the maximum size for a Chablis estate was around 30-35 ha. Since then some of them has surpassed that by far. Domaine Jean Durup Père et Fils has 170 ha. Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard has 120. And Domaine Laroche, which was a mere six hectares in the 1960's has 130 ha only in Chablis. In addition to that they have 230 ha in Chile, 45 ha in the Languedoc and 70 in South Africa.
– Something else that has happened in the last decade that is important is the consciousness of ecology, says Lyne Marchive. We do our best to avoid the use of chemical products. For certain diseases we cannot avoid it; it's a question of crop or no crop.
In the 1960's the common practise was to treat the vines chemically every ten days, whether it was necessary or not. Today "lutte rasionée" is the guiding star and chemicals are only used when absolutely necessary.
– In the 70's and 80's we started to understand and change our habits in the vineyards. In some respects we are very close to Champagne; geographically we are between Champagne and the Côte d'Or. Especially for the modern influences we are close to Champagne. For example, for the frost we use techniques from Champagne.
She adds with a warm smile:
– Naturally I very much like my colleagues of the Côte d'Or, but I think we are a little bit ahead of them regarding the vineyards and the wines. We are a few years ahead. We start and they follow.
This illustrates the relationship between Chablis and the Côte d'Or; a friendly rivalry. For a long time Chablis has been regarded as the poor cousin; more so in the past then today.
– It depends on if you speak with young or old people, Lyne Marchive explains. With old people in Beaune it's terrible, because for them Burgundy is Beaune and around Beaune. I have many friends in Beaune and they say "you over there in Chablis" as if it was very far away. It's an hour and a half! With the young people it is changing. You find a lot of exchange between the Côte d'Or and Chablis. It is more and more friendly.
– We have been considered as being outside the kingdom of Burgundy. That's maybe the reason why we have been so energetic and modern when it comes to ecology and technology; to prove to our colleagues of the Côte d'Or that we are good.
With 27 ha of vines and twelve employees Domaine des Malandes has a yearly output of 190 000 bottles. The range includes nine different wines; from Petit Chablis up to grand cru level.
Among these is the Chablis "Tour du Roy". By definition this is just a straight Chablis, but in many vintages this wine comes very close to premier cru quality – at a very modest price.
– "Tour du Roy" is located at the end of the valley of grand cru Vaudésir, says Lyne Marchive. So you can imagine that it is ideal. The exposure to the sun is fantastic. The soil is wonderful. Ten years ago we decided to vinify this parcel alone, because we considered it to be more than a straight Chablis. We sell it as a Chablis, but we add "Vieilles Vignes" and "Tour du Roy" on the label. The vines are now 53 years old.
The production of "Tour du Roy" is only 6000 bottles a year. If they could double it they would not have any problems selling that either. Such is the demand.
– Everybody loves this wine. This parcel is very rich in Kimmeridgian soil. When my father bought it he thought it could be reclassified one day.
The Les Clos of Domaine des Malandes is slightly younger. The vines of this grand cru are 45 years old and since five years it is vinified in oak.
– We decided to use oak because Les Clos really accepts it. We don't use oak systematically because we want to respect the character of Chablis with its minerality. Chablis must be subtle, delicate and elegant. If you add too much oak you risk loosing it. We want you as a consumer to be able to taste the wine, the wine that is coming from the soil.
Lyne Marchive points out that to a certain extent the vinification process is secondary to the quality of the vineyards.
– When you speak with New World producers the first thing they talk about is the vinification. For us it is totally different. For us it is important to have good land. If you have that it is relatively easy to make a good wine.
© 2007 Ola Bergman