n the northwestern corner of Burgundy, east of Chablis bordering on the Champagne-Ardenne region, is the Tonnerrois. The area is centred around the town of Tonnerre and its 5400 inhabitants.
The Canal de Bourgogne cuts rights through the area, from the northwest to the southeast. This is the canal that connects the Saône to the Seine, and therefore also connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea via the Yonne and Seine to the Saône and the Rhône. Construction began in 1775 and was completed in 1832. In the past the canal was important to the local industry. Today tourism has taken the place of the industry.
The Tonnerre vignoble is both young and old. The vines were present already during Roman times. From the10th century and onwards the monks began to develop the vignoble. At the end of the 19th century the Tonnerrois vines covered more than 5000 hectares. The phylloxera almost entirely wiped out the vineyards in the area. Today, after extensive replanting during the last decades, it covers 240 hectares and in 2006 it received an appellation of its own – Bourgogne Tonnerre.
Restoration of the vignoble first began in Epineuil in 1970, led by mayor André Durand. In the mid-1800's this village four kilometres north of Tonnerre could count 350 hectares of vines.
In his book on the Yonne from 1882 Malte-Brun lists Les Roches, Les Hautes-Perrières, Les Buissons, Les Bridaines and Les Les Champsoins as the most renowned climats in Epineuil and adds that the white wines from Côte de Grisey can compete with the most respected wines of the Côte d'Or.
Some 15 years later replanting continued in Tonnerre and there are now around 30 producers making Bourgogne Tonnerre.
The Bourgogne Epineuil appellation was created in 1993 for the red, white and rosé wines of the commune. In 2006 the Bourgogne Tonnerre appellation was added to the portfolio. Both are regional appellations. Bourgogne Tonnerre stretches over six communes – Tonnerre, Molosmes, Epineuil, Junay, Dannemoine and Vézinnes – and can only be used for white wine. Tonnerre and Molosmes are the two principal communes with more than 70 percent of the vines. Bourgogne Epineuil comes in red and rosé, but the appellation only covers the commune of Epineuil.
© 2013 Ola Bergman