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“Each climat is different, and every vintage is different,” says Frédéric Weber, the cellar master at Bouchard Père et Fils, speaking of the complexity of the vast vineyard holdings he oversees across Burgundy. “We are always adapting.”
With over 130 hectares of vineyards in over 100 climats, Weber isn’t exaggerating when he remarks on the constant evolution of his work in the vineyards and cellars of Bouchard Père & Fils. Founded in 1731, Bouchard Père & Fils is not only amongst the region’s oldest wine growers and merchants, but it is also one of the most diverse domaines in Burgundy.
“We certainly have a beautiful collection of terroirs,” he says, noting most of Bouchard Père & Fils’ holdings boast Premier or Grand Cru status. “It’s absolutely unique, and for me it’s such a pleasure to be able to vinify so many different expressions with my team.”
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Since purchasing their first vineyard site, Volnay Les Caillerets, in 1775, Bouchard Père & Fils has been a leader in Burgundy, and it’s a trend the domaine continues to this day. For example, for over ten years now Bouchard Père & Fils has spearheaded sustainability initiatives in the region, including transitioning the entirety of their holdings to organic viticulture. The monumental undertaking is demonstrating how conscientious farming can be practiced efficiently, even in Burgundy’s challenging climate.
“After 300 years of history, we have a duty to preserve this beautiful terroir for the next generation,” says Weber, who has led the Bouchard Père & Fils team since 2013. “We have to be humble to try and always make better expressions of the terroir with our wines, yet also transmit a healthy landscape to our children.”
Exploring Burgundy through Bouchard Père & Fils Wines
Built to age across generations, the wines Weber crafts at Bouchard Père & Fils today offer a remarkable view of this special terroir. Examining their classic village cuvées and Grand Cru bottlings is an exercise in discovery of Burgundy’s singular legacy.
Beaune, the geographic heart of Burgundy, is likewise at the core of Bouchard Père & Fils. Since 1820, the estate has operated from the historic Château du Beaune, and their namesake Beaune du Château cuvée offers a crimson snapshot of the Bouchard Père & Fils style.
“The philosophy at Bouchard is to express the terroir, but also to respect the vintage,” says Weber, noting that terroir, vintage, complexity, and color make up the four pillars of his winemaking approach.
Bouchard Père & Fils farms 50 hectares across Beaune, representing 10 percent of the appellation’s vineyard land, and the Beaune du Château red bottling combines 17 Premier Cru sites from around the appellation and five Premiers Crus for the white. Each site is hand-harvested and vinified separately, before Weber combines the lots into a lifted, aromatic final wine. “It is a very nice entryway to understanding Bouchard Père et Fils, which also lets me play with different terroirs,” says Weber of the cuvée, which Bouchard Père & Fils has produced since 1907.
While Bouchard Père & Fils’ Beaune cuvée provides a taste of the elegant, vintage-forward style of the domaine, their Corton and Corton-Charlemagne wines highlight their precise approach to legendary parcels. Bouchard Père & Fils has owned these estate vineyards since 1909, and remains one of the largest and most important landowners in both Corton and Corton-Charlemagne.
In Corton, the vines lie at upwards of 300 meters in elevation and have an ideal southeasterly exposure—granting the Pinot Noir vines ideal exposure to gentle morning sun. “Because of the richness of the limestone here, we get a lot of elegance and beautiful floral expression for Le Corton,” says Weber.
The legends surrounding Corton and its prized hillsides come alive when Bouchard Père & Fils’ liquid interpretation of history lands in the glass. The limestone and clay soils offer up powerful Pinot Noirs, enhanced by a traditional aging regimen in 40 to 50 percent new oak.
“I love it,” says Weber of the 2018 Le Corton Grand Cru currently on the market. “It’s certainly one of the best cuvées we’ve made because of the delicacy of the tannins. I also think the balance is great and there’s aging potential in the 2018.”
Moving into Corton-Charlemagne, the soils are noticeably different—offering a visual reminder that this section of terroir has its own mythical history. This hillside has the least topsoil of any Grand Cru, forcing the vines there to burrow slowly through limestone bedrock to reach water and coax ripeness into their berries. For Weber and the Bouchard Père & Fils team, that means a gentle and precise approach—in the form of restrained oak use and hand-harvesting—are key to bottling pristine expressions of this terroir.
“For Bouchard’s Corton-Charlemagne, there are more white floral notes, acidity, and elegance,” says Weber, noting the easterly exposure and high altitude of the site mitigate overripeness. “The Corton-Charlemagne has more freshness with notes of lime trees and citrus. It is a very elegant wine.”
A Sustainable Legacy
These are also wines that Weber and his team hope to continue making well into the future. Together with the leadership of Maisons & Domaines Henriot and the Henriot family, which has owned Bouchard Père & Fils since 1995, Weber has undertaken the monumental task of converting all 130 hectares of Bouchard Père & Fils vineyards to organic farming while implementing conservation efforts in the cellar. Currently, the domaine is on track to be completely certified organic by 2026.
“The main factor is that we have to adapt to global warming and that is the biggest challenge for us in the future,” says Weber, noting sustainability and biodiversity have always been crucial to great winemaking. “We need to protect nature because we depend on nature for modern viticulture.”
Across vineyard sites, Weber and his team have embraced polyculture to restore a natural balance to their terroirs. “We have developed biodiversity in the vineyard and around all of our plots,” says Weber, noting that planting trees and restoring ancient stone walls in the vineyards has provided increased animal habitat on their properties. “It’s very important for us to create biodiversity and to respect nature.”
But just as valuable a tool as Bouchard Père & Fils’ access to vineyards across Burgundy’s hallowed slopes is the domaine’s prolific wine library. This extensive collection, which includes bottles dating to the 19th century, provides a liquid historical record for Weber and the Henriot team to utilize.
“It’s a huge source of information for us, adding to our knowledge of the style of each terroir,” says Weber. The library assets also include important information such as harvest dates and weather records at various Bouchard Père & Fils-owned sites.
“I have the dates of our harvest in Beaune dating back to 1731, and throughout the 19th century,” he says. “We can see that we only harvested in August three times in the 1700s, but now we are harvesting more often in August and early September.”
The Bouchard Père & Fils approach—equal parts history, sustainability, and adaptation—has set this iconic house apart as a leader in Burgundy. It’s a position the house is poised to retain, to the benefit of Burgundy lovers everywhere.