Michel & Françoise André, from their domaine’s website.
Goodbye Michel André, Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, who died on the 26th August and was buried on the 29th – he had been profoundly unwell for the last year and leaves a large and extended family in the region.
You may be forgiven for not previously having come across the name, Michel André was very discrete, but he was also one of the most important actors in Beaune’s winetrade for the last 30-plus years. Michel is very-much the architect of the modern wine domaine in Burgundy.
At one entrance to Beaune, close to the autoroute, are some landscaped gardens, a fountain and the large office buildings of André et Associés, accountants to most of the important domaines of Burgundy. This is a business established in Beaune in 1946 and developed by Michel and his brother, Jean-Claude. Michel took his retirement only 3+ years ago, afterwards doing a little consulting, his sons have taken on many of the roles at the accountancy business.
Michel presided over the financial health of some 400-plus domaines from a time when a domaine could hardly support a growing family, through financial crisies of one form or another, to the modern day when previously undreamed of wealth lies within the vineyard land and the wines that are produced from it. Michel also worked behind the scenes helping with transferring domaines to the next generations of families – latterly with much financial pressure from extended families who saw, and sometimes grasped, their opportunites to cash-out of these (now) valuable businesses. Michel was a professional, and his family remain within the business, so without naming names, it is still fair to say that some the most important domaines of Burgundy remain extant only due to the hard work of Michel and his team, structuring the optimum solution for all concerned during such times of change.
But Michel was not just a numbers man, he also loved the vineyards and the product of those vines. So much so that in 1983, when he had the opportunity to purchase a plot of premier cru vines in Savigny Les Vergelesses, he jumped for it. A domaine on the ramparts of Beaune – the Domaine des Tergelesses – followed, along with additional purchases of vines. Sylvain Pitiot was his first winemaker before he left for the Hospices de Beaune, and then later the Clos de Tart. The domaine later took the name of Michel’s wife, Françoise André and is, today, run by Michel and Françoise’s daughter-in-law, Lauriane. It was in this context that I shared many interesting and older bottles with Michel – this being my ‘home domaine’ for harvesting in 2017 and 2018 – I think it will be a more sombre harvest this year in 2019 – but we will try to make it a great one for him.