Last Spring we traveled through Champagne and Burgundy, on a trip we hosted for the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. There, with our group, we sampled extraordinary Champagnes at Salon and Selosse. In Burgundy, we explored the Côte d’Or, drank Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Volnay among many others. We enjoyed savory Beef Bourguignon with aged Gevrey-Chambertin and took in the sights of historic Beaune.
Just when the trip seemed as if it couldn’t be any better, we stopped at the cellars of Henri Boillot in Meursault. The acclaimed winemaker welcomed us himself and patiently explained the various plots and sub-appellations of his estate. He produces 30 different wines, so there are an infintive number of details to comprehend.
During the tasting, Henri mentioned he’d never visited Louisiana and that New Orleans, in particular, was a city he’d longed to see. Dann and Colette Schwartz, residents of the Big Easy, quickly invited him to visit. Henri eagerly accepted and over the next few months we coordinated a tour that included New Orleans, Alexandria, Louisiana and Austin, Texas — our own hometown.
Almost a year later, Henri finally arrived and we spent five unforgettable days together. Here’s what we learned:
Henri Boillot represents the essence of the Burgundian winemaker. He’s reserved, self-assured, comfortable with his knowledge and experience. Henri is justifiably proud of his family ancestry — he’s the fifth generation of Boillot winemakers and his son Guillaume now vinifies the reds. Of the 30 different wines produced by Domaine Henri Boillot, 15 are Premiers Crus — remarkable to say the least!!!
His wine philosophy for Chardonnay is different from many of the producers in Burgundy. The key word for him is “acidity.” His policy is to pick as early as possible, and he prides himself on the fact that if he harvests on a Wednesday, his neighbors will harvest on Thursday.
Early harvest, the use of stainless steel, neutral oak and short barrel aging (one year maximum for his Grands Crus whites) are key. The result — freshness, minerality and the words he loves best “purity and precision.” We sampled his Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru from Clos de la Mouchère — at 15 hectares, this property is the largest Chardonnay Premier Cru tract in Burgundy. Moreover, Henri owns it entirely, a Monopole. We’re amazed at the freshness and vigor of the ’09 and ’10 Mouchère. Henri chuckles, adding that recently he tasted a 1961 vintage with a Japanese client and the wine was just as young and bright.
Henri is especially vigilant in protecting his Chardonnay from Premox. Premature Oxidation has been a huge problem for white wines in all winemaking regions and Burgundy in particular. An expert on the topic, Henri is writing a thesis for the industry. He believes Premox results from several different causes:
1) Batonnage or stirring of the lees — Many winemakers stir the lees to add flavor and color to the wine. Henri believes that this practice disrupts the protective coating of carbonic gas that prevents oxidation.
2) Late harvesting and overly ripe grapes.
3) 100% new oak – Henri feels Premox always occurs in the barrel through too much manipulation. He uses neutral-aged barrels and has never encountered premox in his wines.
Listen to Henri conversing with Mark Rashap, Director of Wine Education for the Texas Food & Wine Foundation. During the interview, Henri discusses his family history, winemaking philosophy and theories about Premature Oxidation.
Driven as he is achieve perfection with his wines, Henri also has a playful side. He’s an accomplished sailor and keeps a yacht docked in Saint-Tropez. He loves jazz clubs and is a great dancer. He also has a fondness for Italian wines, because of a certain Caroline (!!!)
Take advantage of the few Boillot 2016 we still have left.
In general, the 2016 is considered to be one of the best in Burgundy vintages in many years. The season got off to a brutal start, with a late freeze on April 26th. Grand Cru Le Montrachet, untouched by frost for 100 years, lost 50% of its crop in comparison to the previous vintage. Savigny lès Beaune and Pernand Vergelesses lost up to 90%, as did certain vineyards in Chassagne Montrachet.
The result is one of the smallest harvests in 25 years, but the rest of the 2016 growing season was perfect. The wines are bright and full of energy and will age gracefully. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or call 786-200-6241 to order.
Premier Cru Meursault – Les Charmes. $82.99. 9 bottles.
Premier Cru Meursault – Les Perrières. $109.99. 24 bottles.
Premier Cru Meursault – Les Genevrières. $119.99. 3 bottles.
Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. $179.99. 8 bottles.
Volnay Premier Cru – Les Chevrets. $79.99. 56 bottles.
Volnay Premier Cru – Les Fremiets. $76.99. 51 Bottles.
Volnay Premier Cru – Les Caillerets. 96.99. 38 bottles.
Grand Cru Clos Vougeot. $189.99. 17 bottles.
Grand Cru Bonnes-Mares. $339.99, 10 bottles.
Arriving in Late May
Bourgogne Blanc. $24.99. 300 bottles
Meursault Village. $44.99. 12 bottles.
Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Clos de la Mouchère. $98.99. 96 bottles.
Our sincerest thanks to our friends and customers who helped make Henri’s trip possible. We look forward to his next visit. In the meantime, we’ll drink his wines and fondly remember the five days we shared.