The only shared Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits, Bonnes-Mares is divided between Chambolle-Musigny, which has the lion's share of the vineyard, and Morey-St-Denis, which lays claim to a smaller share. Bonnes-Mares itself makes wine of a surprisingly distinct character, with both tannic expressions of raw power and balanced, subtle masterpieces being made from within the vineyard's 40.1 acres. The tannic style is more common, and of Bonnes-Mares' best wines, the majority follow that style. About 6,000 total cases of wine are made each year.
Bonnes-Mares' name is thought to derive from the verb marer, loosely translated to English as to cultivate, and therefore this makes Bonnes-Mares an area for "good cultivation." This seems true, as the Grand Cru is one of the most quantitatively oriented of its kind. Fortunately, Bonnes-Mares has been able to combine its quantitative success with qualitative prowess as well.
The Grand Cru of Bonnes-Mares was "minted" in 1936, making it one of Burgundy's original AOCs. At this point several rules were made, like the outlawing of white wine. This rule also applied to every other Côte de Nuits Grand Cru except Musigny. Since then, the Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru has maintained its reputation as one of the best, if not one of the most flashy, Grands Crus in the Côte de Nuits. Despite the fact that there are some boutique producers here, there are also a number of producers that don't charge inflated prices, and as a result Bonnes-Mares has suffered a little less from the current perception that Burgundy wine is overpriced.
Climate and Viticulture
Due to the appellation's massive size, the soil types of Bonnes-Mares tend to vary greatly in style. They can lean toward the light and somewhat thin, as in Chambolle-Musigny, and these soil types usually make for refined, elegant wine. Then they can be rich and deep, with concentrated banks of limestone and tougher rock, which makes a wine in the Morey-St-Denis style.
Although Chambolle-Musigny has the greater part of the vineyard, the soils of Bonnes-Mares tend to be more in line with Morey-St-Denis' rich, deep banks of limestone, and more often than not the wine will take on a similarly tannic, deep character. The vineyards are not really sloped, so they don't have that exceptional variance of fruit that some sloped Grands Crus like Corton can take on, but more than make up for it with a variety of powerful flavors that become more intriguing over time.
- Pinot Noir: As outstanding as Chardonnay can be, this is Pinot Noir Grand Cru territory, and so all white wine in Bonnes-Mares was outlawed in 1936 when the AOC regulations went into effect. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc can be blended into the red, but this happens very rarely. In reality, the 100% Pinot Noir spans a variety of styles, almost all of which have the concentration, depth, and ageability that makes them truly worthy of the Grand Cru classification that they have. In more Chambolle-Musigny-like soils, feminine, elegant wines are made with a solid backbone for aging to go along with a silky texture and fine earth and red fruit flavors. The more powerful beasts are made in the concentrated, dark, rich soils and make for similarly rich wines with dark flavors of black cherry, plums, and earth. Backward but rarely austere, these wines will do better with a longer aging period, although wines of all styles here should last out 15-20 years quite solidly.
Bonnes-Mares is a Grand Cru, and as a result there are few poor wines made in these vineyards. Certainly, some wines may be overpriced, but almost all of them will be of Grand Cru quality, despite the size of the Bonnes-Mares vineyard. Nevertheless, we would like to summarize the absolute best producers in Bonnes-Mares, all of whom make wine of a world-class quality showing exceptional character and at the same time solid definition of terroir.
There are 10 producers that meet these criteria in Bonnes-Mares.
- Bouchard Pere et Fils: These wines, which are classic Bonnes-Mares, start out very silky with typical Côte de Nuits flavors of raspberry, flowers, minerals, and dark spice, but gain in complexity to form into a long, tannic finish. Although as complex and concentrated as any Grand Cru offerings, there's nothing particularly heavy about the wines. They usually cost between $200 and $300.
- Domaine Dujac: This outstanding cuvée demonstrates a more dry, backward style of Bonnes-Mares that can be hard to drink at a young age. But with time the very deep, concentrated flavors of berry, coffee, and dark chocolate, with a bitter note but no true heaviness, will eventually show up in the bottle. Expect to pay in between $300 and $400 for this ageworthy cuvée.
- Domaine Robert Groffier Pere et Fils: This very consistent, reliable wine starts out with a very silky texture, but with time slowly expands to a sweet, elegant complexity of blueberry, red fruit, and rich spice. Commendable for its avoidance of heaviness or intensity, but it has the concentration to make up for its sweetness. Sometimes coming in at under $200, this cuvée could be regarded as a very relative Bonnes-Mares bargain.
- Jadot: Made from Jadot's own property in Bonnes-Mares, the wines start out with brown spices, berry flavors, and wild, exotically tinged notes of underbrush, but for all this complexity are rarely intense or overconcentrated. Very silky texture is backed up by a firm structure, but once again this wine seems to lack weight for all its power. After the correct aging period, which could be anywhere between eight and 20 years, the flavors will become lighter and more rich and they will harmonize. Prices can be around $150.
- Dominique Laurent: These are amazingly powerful and complex wines, starting out with very dark flavors of berries and somewhat sweet spice notes, but there's enough firmness to offset the silky texture and round flavors. The old-vine example is a bit deeper and more expensive.
- Domaine Leroy: This boutique producer, famous for many very expensive wines, has a Bonnes-Mares offering with four-figure prices. The usual Domaine Leroy wild, complex, earthy flavors are there, along with a dense and somewhat dry texture. Although somewhat austere, this wine is rarely overbearing and after eight years should be pure and elegant in style.
- Lucien Le Moine: One of the most flamboyant wines in Bonnes-Mares initially starts out with wild, deep, complex fruit flavors running the gamut from the usual berry fruit to more exotic notes of sweet tar and mineral. With time the wine should balance out, but this will always be an explosive cuvée. Expect to pay at least $300.
- Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier: This sometimes sweet wine lacks the intensity and depth of some of its competitors, but makes up for it with vivacious, lively wines with no hard edges as well as an amazing core of red fruit and rich spice. Prices are competitive with the appellation, sometimes going as "low" as $250.
- Domaine Roumier: These explosive wines combine flavors as diverse as pepper and roses, to match the usual Pinot fruit and earthy flavors. Very pure and elegant, they are classic Bonnes-Mares with immense flavors that somehow have no heaviness at all. This very ageworthy cuvée will tend to cost in the neighborhood of $400, but the great vintages, especially old ones, may cost twice that.
- Comte Georges de Voguë: Voguë makes some great Côte de Nuits reds and their Bonnes-Mares is no exception. Herby berry flavors start out silky but quickly gain in complexity on the palate, of a darker and at once more ripe style than most Bonnes-Mares. After 20 years who can imagine how complex these wines will be? Expect to pay $300 or more for a bottle, but great vintages such as 2005 are even more exorbitant.
Since this is a Grand Cru vineyard, "Bonnes-Mares" followed by some Grand Cru designation will be on the label. Some producers may put a lieu-dit afterwards, although I have never seen this practiced, but these are largely meaningless.