Frédéric Magnien's journey as a winemaker has been marked by a relentless pursuit of his dream – to create wines that authentically reflect the terroir of his beloved Morey-Saint-Denis in Burgundy. This dream, akin to an artistic vision, drove him to make significant changes to his winemaking practices, despite the deep-rooted traditions of his winemaking heritage.
Growing up amidst the vineyards of Morey-Saint-Denis, Frédéric was steeped in the traditions of winemaking from a young age. His family's legacy of winemaking, spanning four generations, left an indelible mark on the land. Yet, Frédéric's vision compelled him to challenge these established norms. To gain international experience, he embarked on two journeys to explore the vineyards of California and Australia. At the age of 26, he ventured into wine trading and founded the Frédéric Magnien brand. Through partnerships with local growers and purchasing grapes, he created an extensive range of wines, distinctively bearing his first name.
In 2008, Frédéric took the helm of the Michel Magnien estate, a vast expanse of 18 hectares that resembles a Burgundian continent, encompassing Grands Crus, Premiers Crus, Villages, and regional AOCs. He transitioned the estate to organic viticulture, abandoning pesticides and insecticides. Two years later, he embraced biodynamics, fostering a profound connection between plants and soil. Through practices guided by lunar and solar cycles, herbal teas, and meticulous care for the soil and roots, he nurtured the terroir to its fullest potential.
In 2015, Frédéric embarked on an innovative path that set him apart as a pioneer. He decided to age some of his wines in amphorae and terracotta jars—a technique rarely explored in Burgundy, particularly in the Côte de Nuits. Rows of these small containers, ranging from 160 to 750 liters, transformed the estate into what resembled an ancient Roman farm. His goal was to allow micro-oxidation without imparting any taste, preserving the wine's purest expression of terroir and grape characteristics. This marked a departure from the traditional use of oak barrels, which could sometimes overshadow the wine's natural flavors.
Frédéric acknowledges the influence of past trends, where oak was used to meet market demands for full-bodied, oak-driven wines. However, his pursuit was different – he aimed to produce wines that faithfully reflected the land. To gently introduce consumers to this new taste, he offered tastings of different samples from his 2018 Clos de la Roche, showcasing wines aged in amphorae, jars, and oak barrels. The terracotta-aged wines displayed a direct, clean expression of fruit, in contrast to the veiled aromas of the oak-aged counterpart.
Frédéric's ultimate innovation was a blend, comprising wines aged in amphorae, jars, and oak barrels. This blend struck a harmonious balance, combining the woody nuances with the full appreciation of the fruit.
To stay true to the aromatic character of Côte de Nuits wines, Frédéric Magnien continues to experiment with blending these different aging methods. He believes that even a small percentage of oak-aged wine can provide the desired woody undertones. Occasionally, he produces unicorn wines, such as the Morey-Saint-Denis Monts Luisants 2017, aged entirely in amphorae, yielding only a limited number of bottles each year.
Frédéric's approach to winemaking embraces the notion that when the alchemy is right, the aging process results in greatness. He has committed to a technique that leaves no room for adjustments to rescue less successful vintages. His pioneering experiment is poised to attract followers among consumers and fellow winemakers, with others in Morey-Saint-Denis already embarking on the journey of aging wines in terracotta jars.