Bourgogne

Domaine Gautheron

Cyril Gautheron is the sixth generation in his family to cultivate vines in Fleys, a village of 160 inhabitants. The winery and family home are located directly across from the 1er Cru “Côte des Pres Girots” vineyard. At one time, the inhabitants of Fleys were called “Gougueys” from the dialect word for the fossilized snails that are prevalent in the area and in fact the Gautherons have some extraordinary examples exhibited in their tasting room. The Gautheron domain is 22 hectares divided among 40 parcels which include a small parcel in Petit-Chablis, 14 hectares in Chablis, 7.5 hectares in 1er Cru Chablis (Les Fourneaux, Mont de Milieu, Vaucoupin, Vaillons, Montmains, L’Homme Mort) and a small parcel in Grand Cru “Valmur”.

Harvesting is done mostly by machine except where the terrain does not permit, in which case the grapes are picked by hand. Cyril has two modern “bladder” presses so that he can limit oxidation by avoiding any wait time for the harvested grapes and allow the grapes to be very slowly and gently pressed. He moves the juice from the presses to the tanks by gravity and throughout the entire winemaking process, he tries to minimize the use of pumps.

Except for the Grand Cru “Valmur”, all grapes are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Cyril does his cellar work and bottling in accordance with atmospheric pressure and moon cycles. The wines stay in contact with the lees for four to nine months after which they are fined, lightly filtered, and then bottled. Despite all of the investment in modern equipment, Cyril takes a traditional approach to making Chablis as exemplified in the simplicity of his methods and the maturing of the wine before bottling. In 2016, he was recognized as the best young winemaker in the Yonne by the C.I.V.B.

Wine has been produced around Chablis since at least the ninth century. For the last hundred years the area of cultivation authorized to use the name Chablis has had controversial and shifting boundaries. The controversy centers around the area’s two geological formations of limestone deposits; the Kimmeridgian and the Portlandian.The Kimmeridgian soils which are soft and marly, are found mostly on the slopes while the Portlandian soils are hard and rocky and are found mostly on top of the hills. The question is whether to restrict the appellation to vineyards on Kimmeridgian soils. There are many opinions on the subject, but no two seem to agree. There is great overlapping of the soils and thus a geological answer is not clear cut and there is also the historical record of where vineyards have been cultivated which further confuses matters.

Today, the basic organization of the appellation gives Grand Cru status to seven vineyards which are contiguous and comprise a total of 112 hectares. It gives Premier Cru status to 40 vineyards comprising 742 hectares which are spread throughout the appellation. These vineyards are on Kimmeridgian soils. The far greater portion of the appellation is divided into Chablis Villages (4420 hectares), largely on Kimmeridgian soils and labeled simply as Chablis and Petit Chablis (1562 hectares) which are largely on Portlandian soils.

Established in 1970, the Domaine d’Elise is located just outside the town of Chablis in the commune of Milly. It was purchased by the current owner Frédéric Prain in 1982. The domaine’s vineyard is situated directly above the south/southeastern facing Premier Cru Côte de Lechet vineyard. It is unusual in that its entire 13 hectares are in one parcel with Frédéric’s house and winery situated in the middle. Interestingly, the appellation laws have divided the vineyard into two equal plots of Chablis Villages and Petit Chablis.The soils are quite poor with an abundance of surface stones, particularly on the top of the hill. A great deal of pruning is done throughout the growing season to limit yields to 45/50 hl per ha. Harvesting is done as late as possible.

Chitry-Le-Fort, as the name suggests, was once a fortified town and in the Middle Ages the main road, La Grande Rue, formed the boundary between the lands of the Count of Tonnerre in Champagne and the Count of Auxerre in Burgundy. In the 19th century wines of Chitry were sold under the name of Chablis and more recently in 1929 the wines were accorded the name of Bourgogne des Environs de Chablis. Today Chitry is one of four viticultural communes of the Auxerrois and wines are labeled as Bourgogne or Bourgogne Chitry.

The Giraudon family has been farming and making wine in Chitry for centuries, and the current proprietor, Marcel Giraudon, follows very traditional methods in his work. Their vineyards are on hillsides of Kimmeridgian chalky marl as one finds in Grand Cru Chablis. Yields in the vineyard are kept modest and harvesting is done by hand. For the white wines, fermentation is carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and for the pinot noir mainly fiberglass vats are used with a “drapeau d’eau” for temperature control.

Paul Garaudet is the 4th generation in his family to make wine in Monthelie. His 10 hectares of vineyards are made up of many small parcels that are spread throughout the appellations of Bourgogne, Monthelie, Monthelie 1er Cru, Volnay, Pommard, Meursault and Puligny Montrachet. Paul has served as the President of the Wine Growers Syndicate of Monthelie. He is a great champion of Burgundy’s wines and carries on in the long tradition of Burgundy vinegrowers who put observation and stewardship of their vineyards at the core of their work. The harvest is made by hand.

Read Paul’s comments in the Burgundy Vintage Reports

Domaine Billard has approximately 26 hectares of vineyards in different appellations throughout the Cotes de Beaune. Their largest holdings are in the Hautes Cotes de Beaune with other small plots located in Saint Aubin 1er Cru, Saint Romain, Auxey Duresses, Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru, Chassagne-Montrachet, Santenay, and Pommard.

When the domaine passed from father to son, Jérôme Billard brought a new philosophy with him. The farming practices changed to eliminate chemicals, rebalance the soils and follow the principles of organic farming. Jerome hired a specialist to work a few of their vineyards with a horse, and in 2019, after seeing the results, the Billards purchased their own horse, which enabled them to expand the number of vineyards they work without a tractor.

In contrast to his father, who sold his wine to the local cooperative, Jérôme developed a market for his wines, and estate bottles his entire production. Yields are kept low by severe pruning and the use of cover crops. The vines are harvested by hand and Jérôme likes to harvest on the “late side,” to give good concentration to his wines. Fermentations utilize indigenous yeasts and a modest amount of SO2 is added before bottling; 25mg/L for whites and 15mg/L for reds.

There are about 20 villages included in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune appellation. These old villages, many of which are barely inhabited, are secluded in the hills and their vineyards are interspersed with woodlands and farms that grow a variety of crops. The Billard family home and winery are located in one of these, La Rochepot, a small village noted for its elaborate 13th century chateau which is set into a rocky hillside.

Anne-Sophie Debavelaere, of Burgundian roots, began her domaine in 1984 with one hectare of land. Over the years, the estate has expanded and now includes 11 hectares divided among seven “climats”. The parcels are mostly in Rully but include small plots in Bouzeron and Beaune. In Rully they have vineyards in four “climats”: the 1er Cru “Les Pierres” and the three lieux dits “Les Cailloux”, “Moulin A Vent” and “Chaponnière.”

In 2014, Anne-Sophie’s son, Felix joined her at the domain. Their vineyards are all worked with respect for the environment. No insecticides or herbacides are used, the ground is plowed but otherwise the use of a tractor is restricted. The winery or “cave de vinification” is a vaulted cellar which was dug from the Rully hillside in 1850. It was originally built by a local negociant who wanted to have a cellar for sparkling wine similar to those in Champagne. Today, it offers Anne-Sophie and Felix a wonderful environment in which to mature their wines.

Read Anne-Sophie’s comments in the Burgundy Vintage Reports

Le Chai Duchet was created in 2013 by Alexis Duchet and his parents. Alexis is the seventh generation to work his family’s land in the village of Viré which is situated in the Haut-Maconnais, 18km north of Macon. In 1928 Alexis’ great grandparents joined with other wine growers of Viré to create a cooperative which enabled them to both vinify and commercialize their wines. Alexis’ parents were working with this same cooperative until they decided to build a small winery, “le chai duchet” so that Alexis could produce estate bottled wines. Before rejoining his parents, Alexis travelled extensively doing winemaking stints in unusual places such as Margaret River and Ontario Lake as well as closer to home in Meursault and the Savoie. He has inherited 9.5 hectares from his parents; 7ha in Viré-Clessé and 2.5ha in Macon-Villages. Additionally Alexis rents 1.5h of old vines in Viré-Clessé. Alexis’father stopped using chemicals in the vineyard during the 1980’s when he saw problems of erosion and for the last ten years he has farmed his land organically despite the fact that the cooperative offered him no extra money for his grapes. Alexis is continuing in the same philosophy although does not want to apply for certification.

In 1937 the wines of Viré sold for the same price as those of Pouilly-Fuisse and when the Appellation D’Origine Controlée was offered to the wine producers of Viré in that year, they refused because they didn’t want to pay the extra tax that came along with the upgraded status. The thinking was that they already sold all the wine they produced at a good price, so why pay the government more money just to have official recognition. In 1963, having regretted their earlier decision they applied to the INAO for recognition and were denied, a decision based primarily on the small size of Viré’s vineyards which totaled 120 hectares. Finally, after many years of pressing their case with the INAO the growers of Viré decided to join forces with the growers in the neighboring village of Clessé to create a joined appellation. In 1997 the INAO voted to accept their proposal and the appellation of Viré-Clessé was born.

At Le Chai Duchet all harvesting is done early in the morning by machine. The wines are fermented with their indigenous yeast and the total SO2 is 50 to 70 mg/L.

Romuald Petit farms 7 hectares in the Maconnais and 5 hectares in Beaujolais. His Burgundy parcels are primarily in Saint-Verand with a small parcel in neighboring Pruzilly. The Beaujolais parcels are primarily in Morgon with smaller holdings in Chiroubles and Saint-Amour. Romuald’s parcels in the Maconnais are typically Burgundian, in that they differ with regards to their soils, rootstocks and the age of the vines. There are young vines (aged 5-15 years) planted by Romuald, and others that are over a hundred years old, planted just after the Phylloxera crisis. Because each parcel produces grapes with very different qualities, Romuald vinifies each separately, only assembling the wines (or not) before bottling. His aim is to create a wine that is both balanced and expressive. Romuald has always farmed without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. In 2019, he officially began his conversion toward organic certification. All wines are harvested by hand and fermented with indigenous yeast.

Read Romuald’s comments in the Burgundy Vintage Reports