La Grande Rue of Bourgogne

  • By Pier-Alexis Soulière MS
  • 16 Oct 2020
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 301
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La Grande Rue - Credit : BIVB / Michel Baudoin

Learn about one of Bourgogne's most exclusive Grand Cru. A direct translation of La Grande Rue (1.65 hectares) would be The Main Street. Indeed, it is a magical strip of land, no more than 50 metres wide, squeezed between Romanée-Conti (1.81 hectares) and La Tâche (6.06 hectares). Its geographical location is second to none, but curiously even though both of its neighbours achieved Grand Cru status in 1936, La Grande Rue remained a 1er Cru until 1992. There is no doubt that historically the vineyard has always had a great reputation, one that dates back to the 15th century. Even Dr. Jules Lavalle in Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne et des Grands Vins de la Cote-d'Or (1855) qualified it as a Première Cuvée alongside the vineyards of Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Les Gaudichots, Les Varoilles-sous-Richebourg, Les Malconsorts, Les Beaux-Monts, Les Brûlées, and Les Suchots. C’est peu dire…

The commune of Vosne-Romanée has always been Pinot Noir’s kingdom. Here, the varietal tends to achieve a darker, denser fruit profile defining its long-lived legend. Six Grand Cru vineyards co-exist and four of them are monopoles: La Tâche, Romanée-Conti, La Romanée, and of course La Grande Rue. La Grande Rue fell under the ownership of the Lamarche family in 1933 when it was given as a wedding present to Henri Lamarche by his uncle Edouard, who himself bought it at auction from the famous Liger-Belair family. Back then, being a vigneron was far from what it is today. Speculation had not yet hit Bourgogne and most wine was sold through négociants rather than au Domaine, resulting in far less potential profit. Farming the land in the first part of the 20th century meant lots of work, difficult vintages, low prices, uneven yields, and very long days. Therefore, when Henri had the opportunity to make a case for elevating La Grande Rue to a Grand Cru status, he refused, claiming that it would involve too much paperwork and a possible increase in taxation that he had no interest in paying. 

It was the son of Henri, François, who took over the Domaine and applied for a reclassification in 1984. La Grande Rue achieved its Grand Cru status in July 1992, with the 1991 vintage being labelled retroactively with the newly awarded designation. When we look at La Grande Rue vineyard today, the vines have an average age of 30 years with an annual production of between 50 and 60 hectolitres, translating, depending upon the vintage, to 7,000 - 8,000 bottles annually. The soils have much more in common with its southern neighbour, La Tâche, and are defined by brown limestone, leading to a darker, occasionally confit (candied) fruit profile, but always with an underlayer of cuir (leather) and sous-bois (forest floor). Since 2007, François’ daughter Nicole has taken over the Domaine and is bringing it to new heights; she has always sought elegance over concentration. Most of the fruit is destemmed and use of new oak is light compared to most Grand Cru. It should be noted that as of the 2018 vintage, wines previously labelled as Domaine François Lamarche are now simply Nicole Lamarche.

We should also highlight the fact that Nicole Lamarche (née Domaine Lamarche) produces a special cuvée from the Grand Cru vineyard of La Grande Rue called Cuvée 1959. This wine comes from a plot of old vines traded with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in 1959 when the border between La Tâche and La Grande Rue was adjusted.

La Grande Rue - Credit : BIVB / Michel Baudoin