Famille Bourgeois, 2018 Update

03 Avril 2018

I suppose I should start with the name. This is a tasting report on the latest releases from an extensive Sancerre domaine that grew from the few parcels of vines once tended by a hard-working 20th-century vigneron who went by the name of Etienne Henri Bourgeois. Up until recently this domaine has always gone by the name of Henri Bourgeois, a nod to the man himself. With the 2017 vintage, however, the Bourgeois family have taken the decision to update their brand to reflect the domaine as it is today.
There are three generations of the Bourgeois family engaged in the running of this domaine, not a common phenomenon, most domaines being passed gingerly from the older generation, eager to retire, to the younger generation. It is not unusual to find that the latter first tried his or her hand at some other vocation, before returning to their roots. Here, however, grandfathers, fathers and sons are all present in the vineyard and at the press, and the new name of Famille Bourgeois is a reflection of the multi-generational nature of the team. I will have to update my profile of the domaine, this being the raison d'être of Winedoctor; books on the Loire Valley and Bordeaux are quickly out of date (and some of them aren't particularly useful even when freshly published), but here existing profiles are regularly updated, in an effort to keep things as fresh as possible.
That's the name-change infomercial over. Now let's take a look at the current range of wines from Famille Bourgeois.

The Wines
There may be multiple members of the family running the business, but as usual it was the dynamic Arnaud Bourgeois that I met up with to check out the latest vintages here. Arnaud poured a broad range of wines, including entry-level cuvées in the 2017 vintage, already published in my 2017 Central Vineyards report, and the emblematic Bourgeois cuvées such as Jadis and Etienne Henri. It was also another opportunity to take a look at the new single-vineyard cuvées, including Le Cotelin which I did not taste when I visited last July, as well as a couple of red wines.
After an attractive 2016 La Côte des Monts Damnés and 2015 La Bourgeoise, two classic cuvées from Kimmeridgian and flint terroirs respectively, the 2015 Jadis showed brilliantly, classically Bourgeois in style, with notes of box tree and flint, but also richer tones of peach, perhaps reflecting the richness of the vintage, or perhaps the 40% Sauvignon Gris shining through. Whatever the reason, there are few examples of traditional Sancerre that could overshadow this wine. Having said that the 2016 Sancerre d'Antan, a wine for which I have long held a soft spot, provides a similarly joyous experience, the creamed and concentrated fruit carried by a flinty base, and the 2015 Etienne Henri was even more impressive, showing superb concentration, ripe fruit and also the structure that comes from vinification in oak. The 2010 Etienne Henri, tasted alongside, would seem to back up my feelings about the 2015, but it is my experience of the 1990 Etienne Henri, tasted last year (not here), that really tells me what potential may be hidden within this wine.
When I visited the domaine last year I had the opportunity to taste three of the family's new single-vineyard wines, Les Côtes aux Valets from a classic Kimmeridgian terroir and Les Ruchons from flint in white, and Le Graveron from the Kimmeridgian marls of Chavignol in red. On this occasion I revisited these wines, and also had my first opportunity to taste Le Cotelin, from the Kimmeridgian marls of Maimbray, to the northwest of Sancerre. Those wines I have tasted before seem to have broadened out somewhat since I tasted them last July, showing more substance now, and less incisive structures. The 2015 Le Cotelin, aged in the barrels once used for the famed Le Chêne Saint-Etienne cuvée, very much slotted into the same broad, substantial style, with texture and grip aplenty. As far as the white single-vineyard cuvées go, on the whole these are very good wines, with some potential to age. The 2014 Le Graveron, the only red in the range, may well have the same capability, although it has more than enough charm and character to be drunk now, with pleasure.


Famille Bourgeois, 2018 Update: Tasting Notes
The wines below were tasted with Arnaud Bourgeois in February 2018. All my notes on the wines of this domaine, including all those below, are collated within my Famille Bourgeois profile.

Sancerre, White - 93/100 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Blanc La Côte des Monts Damnés 2016

From a Kimmeridgian limestone terroir, and vinified in stainless steel. A really quite smoky nose here, with more prominent minerals than when I last tasted it, along with some green apple fruit. This reserved style continues onto the palate which shows bitter apple skin and grapefruit pith character, very taut and restrained, with a firm acid backbone, and a sappy finish. A fairly serious and energetic structure here, and a wine that still needs a few years to show its true merit. The potential is here though.

Sancerre Blanc La Bourgeoise 2015 - 94/100
This comes from flint, a blend of three parcels on the south-facing slopes around Saint-Satur. The vines are more than 45-years old. After pressing the juice is left on the sediment for three or four days, then it is racked for the fermentation. One-third is fermented and raised in barrels, while the remainder is vinified in stainless steel. The wines remain on their fine lees for one year prior to blending. It has a polished and confident nose, with floral and citrus fruit character, and a flinty confidence. The palate shows a really elegant composition, with a supple and almost plush texture, reflecting the warmth of the vintage, with a charming flinty freshness underpinning it. This is confident, with depth and a tangible substance to it. It is very finely balanced too though, with real presence in the finish, with some length too. An impressive composition.

Sancerre Blanc Jadis 2015 - 95/100
This originates from Kimmeridgian marl in Chavignol, the vines mostly Sauvignon Blanc although there is some Sauvignon Gris in here as well. The vines here were planted by Etienne Henri Bourgeois, who propagated them by sélection massale. The vinification was in older barrels for 50% of the blend, the other 50% was managed in stainless steel. This has a quite lovely nose, a very pure style, with box tree edging to the apple and peach fruit, and a polished confidence. The palate is fresh, showing a fine depth, with lots of lightly bitter phenolic character, and a fine bitterness in the finish. An impressive, imposing, textured and substantial wine, with pithy confidence, leading into a long and phenolic finish. Great acidity too.

Sancerre Blanc d'Antan 2016 - 95/100
This comes from a flint terroir, on the slopes above Saint-Satur, not far from the new single-vineyard Ruchons cuvée. These vines are situated a little further south. The fermentation and élevage are both carried out entirely in oak, using barrels aged between three and six years. I get creamed white peach and greengage on the nose, in a gently smoky, bright and yet ripe style. It feels well-polished, very concentrated, with a great phenolic substance, good depth and fresh acidity too. An impressive composition and balance from this vintage, with a long, grippy finish, and a flourish of ripe fruit.

Sancerre Blanc Etienne Henri 2015 - 96/100
Again from flint, this cuvée comes from vines in the central part of the Bourgeois vineyards above Saint-Satur, the oldest vines in a fully south-facing section. The soils are stony with less clay, and Arnaud says the terroir gives a wine which benefits from the use of oak. The 300-litre barrels used for the fermentation and élevage are 40% new, 30% second-fill and 30% third-fill, and they are sourced from five different coopers. This is filled with concentrated white peach and greengage on the nose, with a pithy note. The palate shows this confident fruit character, but with polished oak substance wrapped around it, bringing notes of liquorice, fennel and aniseed. It culminates with a firm and grippy character in the finish. An impressive wine but it needs a decade to come good.

Sancerre Blanc Etienne Henri 2010 - 94/100
An older vintage, for comparison, although I know from first-hand experience that this cuvée can age for decades rather than just the few years that this has seen. Back in 2010 this cuvée saw a little more oak than it does now, so this was vinified in 60% new barrels, a mix of 300-litre and 228-litre sizes, the rest on their second or third fill. Arnaud and team were in the process of transitioning to the larger vessels at the time, as they preferred the results using 300-litre barrels. The aromatics here are all white flowers and white truffles, with some lightly desiccated citrus fruits, and perhaps a little blanched almond. The palate is very fine, poised, carrying elegant flavours matching the aromatics, with a fine central substance, and fresh acidity. It is bright, poised, imposing in terms of structure, but still fresh, and showing a vibrant citrus vivacity. An impressive result, with good length too.

Sancerre Blanc Les Côtes aux Valets 2015 - Single-Vineyard Wine - 93/100

This cuvée comes from a vineyard of softer clay and chalky soil, planted in 1986, located near Vinon, which lies to the south of Sancerre. Both the fermentation and élevage are conducted purely within stainless steel. The aromatics feel very classic, very fresh, with the scents of box tree, pine needle and white chalk. It has a richly polished palate,but showing a very pure, fresh and bright character, with softer acidity, a nice phenolic grip, showing chalk, lemon balm, verbena, green apple and box. This has a charming and rather more taut style than the other single-vineyard wines, Le Cotelin and Les Ruchons, tasted alongside

Sancerre Blanc Le Cotelin 2015 - Single-Vineyard Wine - 94/100
This comes from a vineyard planted on Kimmeridgian marl in Maimbray, just above the cemetery. The aspect is south-facing, the main distinguishing feature of the terroir being the subsoil, which has more clay compared to the slopes of Les Monts Damnés, which has a steeper slope. The fermentation was one-third in very old 600-litre barrels, two-thirds in stainless steel vats. The barrels were those previously used for Le Chêne Saint-Etienne cuvée. It is rich in creamed white peach and tangerine fruit on the nose. The palate is really substantial, with a lightly desiccated concentration to the peach fruit, with a very fine and pithy-bitter substance to it, as well as a very correct acidity. An impressive, structured style, with plenty of grip. A very smart and appealing wine.

Sancerre Blanc Les Ruchons 2015 - Single-Vineyard Wine - 94/100
This is the flint representative in the single-vineyard portfolio, the soils particularly rich in flint stones and rocks. The vines are situated at top of slope, above Saint-Satur, close to the other Bourgeois flint vineyards, facing southwest. It is vinified one-third in barrel, using 50% new and 50% second-fill barrels, the remaining two-thirds being managed in stainless steel. The stainless steel component is racked, but not the wine from barrels, which get are treated to seven months of bâtonnage. It was blended in September 2017 and bottled thereafter. It is filled with the scents of crushed green apple and tangerine on the nose, with a little edge of box tree to it. There is a good energy and confidence on the palate though, with challenging bitter fruit alongside, all wrapped up in layers of soft white peach and tangerine, with an orange pith bite, and a long, savoury finish. Impressive. A very good style.

Sancerre Rouge La Bourgeoise 2015 - 93/100
This comes from the oldest vines planted on flint above Saint-Satur. It feels quite closed on the nose, but it does show some red cherry and floral fruits. A pretty style on the palate, very polished, fresh and pure, with red cherry and red rose-petal fruits. A supple texture, underpinned by ripe, tight and finely grained tannins. It is broad, savoury, full of grip, with a lightly tannic finish. Quite primary still, with very fine but confident structure, and clearly set up for five years at least, probably rather longer.

Sancerre Rouge Le Graveron 2014 - Single-Vineyard Wine - 94/100
This cuvée is sourced from vines planted at the very western end of Les Monts Damnés, near the top of the slope. There is a 45% incline here, and in the upper section of the vineyard the movement of soils down the slope from the plateau has covered the Kimmeridgian marl in an iron-rich clay. Both the malolactic fermentation and élevage are conducted in 228-litre barrels, using one-third new, one-third second-fill and one-third third-fill. A charming hue, fairly translucent, in the glass. It has an intriguing nose, smoky with praline and truffles, already showing some enticing evolution, over and above a base of polished dark-cherry fruit and a faint twist of chocolate. It has a delightful palate, fresh, with polished fruit, dark cherry with a leather and truffle edge. A very harmonious style, supple and balanced, with a lightly peppery, bright finish. Good grip here.

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