La Grande Rue is located north of La Tache and just south of La Romanee, Romanee-Conti and Romanee-Saint-Vivant – indeed a sweetspot just next to the very best vineyards in Burgundy – or if you like in the world.
Whereas the four other vineyards are famous and most wines from them achieve high prices .. La Grande Rue is less hyped and relatively unknown despite its very prominent location.
So what is the story of La Grande Rue?
The early history of La Grande Rue
The first mention of La Grande Rue was according to Jasper Morris7 in 1450 where the owner is mentioned as Richard de Chissey. At that time the area was around 22 ouvrées – just under 1 ha.
The ownership of La Grande Rue before the revolution is otherwise unknown – but after the revolution it was most likely sold of as bien national to the Marey family .. who acquired a lot of vineyards in those years.
The Marey ownership of La Grande Rue
In 1720 Claude Marey, secretary of the king and mayor of Nuits-Saint-Georges founded the wine merchant C.Marey in Nuits-Saint-Georges 9. The Marey family already then owned vineyards and they expanded the holdings over the next century and especially after the revolution.
In 1781 his son Claude Philibert Marey took over the wine merchant house, and ran the business until his death in 18049 – where his son Guillaume Felix Marey (1783 – 1869) took over the wine merchant business.
Guillaume Felix Marey was married to Félicité de Champeaux de La Boulaye (1794 – 1866) in 18138. The couple had 5 children, and the first born Ludovie Marey (1814 – 1874) was married to Comte Louis Charles Liger-Belair (1802 – 1878) in 1834 – and this was how the Liger-Belair family entered the C. Marey merchant business and the history of La Grande Rue8. The wine merchant business changed name to C.Marey and Comte Liger-Belair in 18529.
Comte Louis Charles Liger-Belair was the adopted son of Louis Liger-Belair (1772 – 1835) and from his father’s side he got a fine portfolio of vineyards. Louis Liger-Belair – a Napoleonic general – acquired Chateau Vosne-Romanee in 1815 and several fine vineyards – including La Tache and La Romanee8 + 10.
In 1855 Lavalle1 wrote that La Grande Rue was under Liger-Belair ownership, thus indicating that this vineyard was passed on from Marey ownership to Liger-Belair ownership after the marriage in 1834.
The Liger-Belair and Champeaux era
Louis Charles Liger-Belair and Ludovie Marey had two children – Edgar Bocquillon Liger-Belair (1835 – 1915) and Cécile Bocquillon Liger-Belair (1843 – 1876)8.
Edgar Liger-Belair was married to Marie Bidault in 1863 and Cécile Bocquillon Liger-Belair was married to Joseph de Champeaux de Saucy also in 18638 – and this is how the Champeaux name entered the ownership history of La Grande Rue.
In 1892 Danguy and Aubertin2 mention two owners on La Grande Rue, les hertiers de Duvault and Liger-Belair. Duvault – ancestors to the current owner of DRC – Aubert de Villaine. Duvault also owned some plots in both Gaudichots ou La Tache and Les Gaudichots in 1892. According to Danguy and Aubertin the ownership of the Marey/Liger-Belair plot on La Grande Rue was still mentioned as owned by Liger-Belair.
In 1920 Rodier3 mention two owners on La Grande Rue – Chambon and de Champeaux – thus indicating that the ownership had transferred to the Champeaux part of the Liger-Belair family prior to 1920. Most likely this has happened after the death of Louis Charles Liger-Belair in 1878, where the ownership could have been divided between his two children – with La Grande Rue apparently ending up on the Champeaux side of the Liger-Belair family.
In 1933 La Grande Rue was sold by General Denis Champeaux (1865 – 1937) the son of Cécile Bocquillon Liger-Belair and Joseph de Champeaux. The buyer was Edouard Lamarche and the price was according to Allen Meadows 50000 francs6.
The Lamarche era on La Grande Rue
Edouard Lamarche was a wealthy bachelor who collected vineyards as a hobby 6. In the case La Grand Rue the vineyard was used as a wedding present to nephew Henri Lamarche who was married in 19336.
La Grande Rue have been under Lamarche ownership since 1933 … but the vineyard have expanded over the years – lets take a look at these expansions.
The expansions of La Grande Rue
La Grande Rue the border between La Grande Rue and the neighbouring Gaudichots and La Tache ou Gaudichots … have changed several times during the last two centuries. Read more in the article about Les Gaudichots.
The map below show the current size of La Grande Rue – now a Lamarche Monopole.
The Cadastre from 1827 show a smaller vineyard than the current La Grande Rue. Especially in the southern part there have been some changes. I have tried to outline the areas that are currently included in La Grande Rue on the cadastre map from 1827 below.
Lavalle mention an area of 1 ha, 32 ares and 95 cents … that’s 0.32 ha less than the current area of 1.65 ha. Rodier mentioned the same area in 1920 – so let’s assume the expansions were made after 1920.
The main expansion comes in 1989 where the Lamarche holdings in Vosne-Romanee Les Gaudichots was included in La Grande Rue – these holdings expanded the area from 1.42 to 1.65 ha – see map below.
It should be noted that the plots included in 1989 are still a part of Les Gaudichots according to the cadastre informations.
The promotion to grand cru
La Grande Rue have always been highly regarded. Lavalle classified La Grande Rue as Premiere Cuvee along Romanee-Saint-Vivant, Les Gaudichots, Les Malconsorts, Les Beaux Monts, Combe Brulee, Aux Brulee and Les Suchots.
La Grande Rue was however not classified as grand cru in 1936 and the reason seems to be that Henri Lamarche didn’t push for a grand cru status due to tax reasons6. The property tax was higher on grand cru vineyards, and Lamarche apparently wanted to save the money and settled for a 1er cru status for La Grande Rue.
La Grande Rue remained 1er cru in 5 decades – until Marie Blanche Lamarche in 1984 began to challenge her father-in-law, Henri Lamarche, about the missing grand cru classification6. In the end the Lamarche family put forward an application to have La Grande Rue promoted to grand cru – this happened in 1985. On November 14th 1989 the application was approved by INAO and La Grande Rue was promoted to grand cru …. including the 0.23 ha of plots of Les Gaudichots.
The first vintage of grand cru La Grande Rue was 1991 – as the promotion to grand cru was delayed and finalized on July 8th 1992.
Improving quality …
The quality of the wines from Lamarche have had its ups and downs over the years, but in recent years there have been some improvement in consistency and the overall quality.
I rarely have the opportunity to taste La Grande Rue, and will therefore not comment on the quality now or in the past – I do however see more and more positive reports on La Grande Rue … but judged from what is written and said there is still some work to do before it can stand its ground against the neighbouring wines like La Tache, La Romanee, Romanee-Conti and the top wines from Romanee Saint-Vivant.
References & Sources:
- Jules Lavalle, Histoire et Statistique de la Vignes et Des Grands Vins de la Côte d’Or (1855)
- M.R. Danguy et M. Ch. Aubertin, Les Grands Vins de Bourgogne (1892)
- Camille Rodier, Le Vin de Bourgogne (1920)
- Clive Coates, Cote D’Or (1997)
- Clive Coates, The Wines of Burgundy (2008)
- Allen D. Meadows, The Pearl of the Côte (2010)
- Jasper Morris, Inside Burgundy: Cote de Nuits
- Marey & Liger-Belair Family Tree – Geneanet
- Thibault Liger-Belair website
- Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair website
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