Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Day at Maison Jean-Claude Boisset

It was on a sunny weekday that I went to Les Ursulines in Nuits-Saint-Georges that hosts what is now the cellar of Maison Jean-Claude Boisset.
The maison, started by the courageous Jean Claude Boisset at an age when people hardly know what do in life, is now a big group with a number of brands and domaines acquired over the 50 years of their existence. They also have presence in the United States where Mr Jean-Charles Boisset is overlooking the group’s operations. A few minutes ride from the station, the maison is located in what used to be a convent prior to the French Revolution. While the history has been carefully preserved, the touch of modern architecture with some beautiful landscaping makes the premises a picturesque venue.

A warm welcome with greetings in French immediately put me at ease. As I am joined by Gregory, the maison’s chief winemaker for almost a decade now, we get talking about the subject that had us standing in a common place. He first shows me around the winemaking facility which for this time of the year was expectedly quiet and lacking the activity as otherwise witnessed during the harvest time. As I kept shooting questions at Gregory, he was kind enough to take his time to explain, making sure that none of the queries remained unanswered. What really appealed to me was the philosophy of the group that they called ‘viniculture’ that well reflected in Gregory’s talking. With strong emphasis  on terroir, the philosophy lays as much importance (sometimes even more) on monitoring what happens to those vines in the vineyards to the point when they are finally made into wines. Another noteworthy practice that really impressed me was the minimum levels of interference with nature as the wine begins to evolve into the magic potion. As we walked down into the cellar grabbing our tasting glasses, Gregory explained how he doesn’t believe in adding any yeast strains or culture to their wines and even practises such as lees stirring were strictly forbidden.The idea is to let nature take its time and bring about wonderful changes to the wine. Here, one might get the impression that winemaking is a child’s play and the team at Boisset is just lazy to do enough to make a good wine. Easier said than done, it really is an art how they get the best out of wine which can only come with years of expertise.
At no point does our conversation stop and we talk on a range of topics from handpicked coopers supplying barrels of oak from specified regions to how clever a grape Pinot Noir is, introduction of 450 litres barrels along with the conventional 228 ones and how the current facility was a convent occupied by the Nuns in the pre-revolution era .Though I have already mentioned earlier, one thing that came out again from these conversations was how the maison had not forgotten its Burgundian roots where terroir is possibly the biggest determinant in defining a wine. While the topic still remains debatable, the illustrious examples provide by ‘chef’ were well convincing, only to be verified by the wines we tasted. The wines tried were from the barrels of 2009 vintage, almost ready to be bottled.
The whites:
Côte de Nuits Villages,Single Vineyard
Beaune Premier Cru
The reds:
Savigny-lès-Beaune Village
Aloxe-Corton Premier Cru Les Valozières  
Gevrey-Chambertin Jeunes Rois (‘jeune rois’ means the young King, made from 100 year old vines)
Volnay Premier Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle

While Volnay Premier Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle is really what I would have preferred to buy (my personal opinion and in no way undermining the other beautiful wines I tried), it’ll be difficult getting my hands on a bottle as there are only 2 cuvées of it that have been produced. Its long finish and excellent balance (with an ageing potential upto 10-15 years thanks to the near perfect acidity), still lingers in my mouth. The visit was short, but the conversations never ending. Instead of ‘Au revoir’ I say ‘A bientôt’ only to come back very soon. 
While the sun still smiles upon me, I ride back home.

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