Why the name Passetoutgrain?

As I recently wrote in my previous contributing blog for Keeper Collection, I am learning by experience in the US via my French Internship.

My family, Domaine Michel Lafarge who are located in Volnay, produce Bourgogne Passetoutgrain. During a recent event in Austin, Texas, Master Sommelier Craig Collins asked me what does the term Passetoutgrain mean? So, I decided to write this article that I thought might be helpful to provide some information about Passetoutgrain wine.

Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain

Passetoutgrain is a Burgundy appellation, classified as an “AOC Régionale” (“AOC Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). Passetoutgrain became an "AOC Régional" on the July 31, 1937. This appellation covers 695 hectares, and the production represents about 45 000 hectolitres/year. One may see this appellation written two different ways: Passetoutgrain or Passe-tout-grain.

Currently, Bourgogne Passetoutgrain is produced as a red wine and a rosé wine, in Côte-d’Or, Yonne, Saône-et-Loire and Beaujolais, which is located in the Rhone area of Burgundy. The map above highlights in green the areas where Passetoutgrain is produced.

In Burgundy, this appellation is unique because it must blend at least two grape varieties: Gamay and the Pinot Noir, which is the most common. The regulation of INAO (National Institute of Origin and Quality) requirements outline that the wine must contain more that 30% Pinot Noir and more than 15% Gamay. Although not commonly used in Passetoutgrain, other allowable grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, which must be less than 15%.

During the winemaking process, the Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes are put together in the tank for the maceration.

When making Bourgogne Passetoutgrain Rosé, the “Saignée” method is generally used. In this “Saignée” method, the grapes are first put into the tank at harvest. After a few hours of maceration in the tank, part of the juice, which has a pink color, is removed from the maceration and put in another tank, to make the Passetoutgrain Rosé. After, the Rosé is macerated in the same way as white wines. The remaining part stays in the tank for the production of Passetoutgrain Red. The part that remains for the Red is very important to make a lovely, concentrated Passetoutgrain wine. The Passetoutgrain Rosé is generally more fruity.

Origin of the name Passetoutgrain:

Thanks to an interview with Burgundy Winemaker, Frédéric Lafarge, I learned the origin of this word. Frédéric explained that the name of Passetoutgrain was given to correspond to the mix of two grape varieties grown in the same vineyard. The French word for planting two or more grape varities in one vineyard or parcel of land is called "Complantation". In other words, for Passetoutgrain, it means that there are some plots of Gamay vines and some plots of Pinot Noir vines planted in the same vineyard. This method of planting allows the grapes to mature simultaneously.

Today, not all Passetoutgrain wineries use the traditional method of Complantation. Rather, the two grape varities are planted in different plots separately. At Domaine Michel Lafarge, they have chosen to continue the traditional method with their very old vines planted in the same vineyards to produce Bourgogne Passetoutgrain.

Two American foods, new to me, that pair well with Passetoutgrain are Texas Barbeque and Louisiana Jambalaya. When tasted together, the spice in these two dishes went well with the Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain.