On the main N74 in Gevrey-Chambertin and close to the traffic lights, you will find a large, well-maintained building that wears discrete plaques on either side of large wooden doors; P.Bourée Fils and Vallet Frères are the names on those plaques.
In a world that now panders to point-chasers, and where the requirement is for young wines to be instantly friendly and easy to appreciate, the Bourées are something of an anachronism – that’s not an uncomplimentary remark, rather it is a comment to their style and their retention of a very ‘traditional’ outlook – or as they would prefer to say ‘authentic’.
Although headquartered in Gevrey where they have an extensive warren of cellars, the Bourées have their main winery in Chambolle. This is a reasonably large operation that mixes domaine owned vines with grapes and (occasionally) must sourced from other growers. Their cellars can and do accommodate up to 500 barrels per vintage.
The Bourées were originally a familly of lawyers from Dijon and Chalon sur Saône. With a smile, the familly tell the story of Pierre Bourée, married and living in his grandmother’s house, finally tiring of having to take his ‘orders for the day’ from grandmother so packing-up and leaving with his wife for Gevrey. Here was founded the firm of M.Pierre Bourée in 1864 by purchasing the assets of another producer – Thomas de Pellery.
De Pellery already owned vines in Beaune and Gevrey, to these Pierre made careful additions as the market allowed. One such addition was the Clos de la Justice, that abbuts today’s main N74, purchased at the end of the 1800’s. This was a very depressed time in Burgundy – phylloxera had ravaged the vineyards – land was cheap so one assumes that the Clos de la Justice was bought for a song given that it was left fallow at the time.
Two of their vineyards are worthy of special attention: The 2 ha Clos de la Justice is a monopole and interesting in that it is completely enclosed by walls within the very much larger lieu-dit of La Justice – found on the eastern side of the N74. For many years the label bore only the name Clos de la Justice – no mention of Gevrey – partly after AOC, and completely following the 2nd world war were labelling conventions respected. Equally interesting is their small plot of Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux; this is at the northern extreme of Gevrey, with very stony and often terraced ground, typically a little cooler here than for the rest of Gevrey’s 1er crus. Their 2 ouvrées (see picture above) is in a depression, completely (save for one small gap where a gate might be appropriate) enclosed by dry-stone walls of up-to 2 metres high. This has the effect of creating a tiny, warmer microclimate vs surrounding vineyards – the wind simply blows over the top. The only negative for the domaine is that it is impossible to get any machinery into this plot, hence, this is the one vineyard where they spray against weeds. Given it’s position, the family are actively considering if some special designation (eg Clos de Champeaux) could be agreed with the authorities – maybe even a monopole badge.
Pierre was succeded by his son Bérnard, whose name still stands proudly over the gate into the Clos de La Justice. Bérnard was the uncle of Louis Vallet who has now passed the day-to-day control to two of his sons Jean-Christophe and (again) Bérnard Vallet, there is one more son and a daughter. Although no-longer at the helm, Louis (who I guess to be in his 70’s) is a great host who likes nothing better than to give visitors a tour of his favourite vineyards and an insight into their production philosophy.
They use no ‘labels’ for their approach – bio, lutte raissonée et cetera, rather they pragmaticly do what ever is needs to be done, always trying to avoid excess. The don’t believe in a green harvest: ‘the vine has already expanded energy producing thoss bunches, so what is the benefit of cutting them off afterwards(?)’. The approach is to have a very short pruning, resticting yields right from the start e.g. their village yields vary between 25 and 40 hl/ha whilst targeting 35. As mentioned before, vineyard maintenance is mechanical – no herbicides are used.
Moving into the cuverie, this is where Bourée stand out from the crowd; the grapes go through a triage table (like many domains) but then without destemming they go into vats and are left to soak for days – real (i.e. human) pigeage is made without pumping over, and there is no temperature control – if a cuvée reaches 35°C or higher, then so be it. A bare minimum of new oak is used, only enough to replace older barrels, so in the order of 10-20%. There is only a very occasional racking, the wines will spend as much as two years in barrel vs today’s conventional approach of 14-18 months. Finally the wines are bottled, typically without filtration.
The main markets for these wines are the UK, Canada, Japan and the US; smaller parcels find their way into several other countries. At one time The Vallets had two different distributors in the UK and to avoid ‘competing with themselves’ on price introduced the label Vallet Frères. Regardless of the label – the wines are identical. Whilst 8 different AOC are owned, each year you will find 30-40 different labels producted mainly from grapes sourced from long-term relationships.
Few people make wines like this today; from an aromatic perspective the special profile that derives from the stems will instantly have your mind wandering in the direction of l’Arlot or Dujac – let me be honest, the concentration is not on a par with the wines of those domaines, neither (at least from the barrel) is the elegance, yet slightly more mature bottles show both restraint and plenty of silky elegance. Perhaps it is the extra time in barrel that gives this rough edge and, hence, the balancing need for cellaring. Regarding their 2004’s the Vallets picked much later than most other domaines (in September) so I can’t say that it is any lack of ripeness from the stems that could be blamed for this measure of austerity.
The 2004’s below were tasted at the end of June, yet were still in barrel – some 4-5 months longer than most producers. However, the Vallets planned to have everything in bottle by the end of July. All these wines (with the exception of the Meursault) come from vineyards owned by the family.
These wines need – indeed beg – time in the cellar, and from what I tasted their blend of elegance and aromaticity deserves to be successful – I only hope that there is still sufficient patience in today’s marketplace for Burgundy wines that need to be cellared.
Medium-pale colour. A sweet and fresh red-berry nose set against an initially subtle smoky background. The smokey stem element grows but never overpowers – quite interesting. The wine is fresh and tasty with a little grab from the tannins. Quite light but also interetsing.
This wine is an assemblage of several small parcels from around the village. Again the wine is medium-pale in colour. The nose is a little disturbing as it seems rather volatile and estery, somehow smothering the red fruit that seems to lie behind. More interesting in the mouth – though that estery effect still shows – more concentrated, with good acidity. The tannins have some grain and also a slightly astringent edge. Today this doesn’t seem so succesful.
Medium-pale colour. A total transformation vs the last wine; smokey stalks, sweet red fruit that grows in intensisty – almost confiture – I could sniff this for hours – lovely. A lithe and fresh palate with much better texture than the previous wines though the tannins still show an edge of astringency and grain. Interesting and worth buying.
Medium-pale colour. The nose is less forward than the Clos de la Justice, still sweet and stemmy, just more understated. Much finer tannin is my instant impression, the fruit is perhaps also a little riper. Good mid-palate concentration and an obviously much longer finish vs the village appellations.
Medium-pale colour. The stem aspect is much more to the background with this wine, initially showing faint red fruit and a floral aspect – slowly the volume of fruit increases in the glass. There seems to be more wine here, not particularly from a concentration aspect, rather it is the more forward interplay of flavour. Long finishing too – a very good wine
Medium colour. High-tones, slightly floral, complex yet understated – not so much of the stems. Bolder flavours and like the Cazetiers it’s not about extra density, rather extra complexity and interest – then the concentration builds on the mid-palate before falling into a long finish. I erxpect this will probably gain a little weight in the bottle, but i very much like the presentation as it is.
Medium-pale ruby-red core moving through salmon to clear at the rim – looks delicate. The nose is anything but delicate – like its younger sibling this has a very forward presentation – intense red confiture surrounded by much interest, plenty of stem aspects too. Has a very lithe stance – typical of many from 1996 – super acidity and very silky tannins. Certainly no need to rush your drinking, but this was a lovely bottle today.
Medium-pale colour. Very much like the 1996 the nose has tons of complexity – again that core of red fruit shining through – lovely just to sniff. The palate is not dense, yet manages to be packed with flavour and complexity. In some respects it is still a little unruly, and certainly needs a few more years of maturation for ‘charm’ but was anyway great fun.
Made from purchased must. Bernard said that they opened a bottle for their bankers the week before, which wasn’t as good – the cork had allowed a little oxidation – but with a smile said it was still good enough for the bankers! Where the reds are light in colour, this is already quite deep golden. The nose is fat, slightly creamy and sweet – perhaps with a trace of nutty oxidative aspects – not a fault, that’s just the style. The palate is lush, sweet and creamy, yet held together very well by a good core of acidity. It’s not about minerality, rather opulence, and is a very ‘comforting’ presentation. Whilst I prefer a wine with minerality, I can very much appreciate a glass like this.
Pierre BOUREE Fils
11-13 route de Beaune (Route Nationale 74)
Tel. +33 (0)3 80 34 30 25
Fax +33 (0)3 80 51 85 64
Email : email@example.com