sad losses…

adieu michel andré…

By billn on August 31, 2019 #sad losses...

Michel & Francoise André
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.

Adieu Michel…

RIP Bernard Hudelot

By billn on August 11, 2019 #sad losses...

I never met Bernard Hudelot, and now never will, but I only heard only positive anecdotes about this character.

Bernard who died in the last days, aged 77, had rejuvenated the estate of the Château de Villars Fontaine to over 30 hectares of vines. The château a once important bastion, literally, of the region and also of winemaking in the Hautes Côtes.

say goodbye to william fèvre

By billn on July 21, 2019 #sad losses...

I had always assumed that William Fèvre, of the eponymous grand domaine in Chablis, was somebody who was long lost to this world – but I was wrong.

William was born in 1929 and only departed this world two weeks ago. He established his, I would say, emblematic Chablis domaine in 1959, and with only 7 hectares of family vines. Given the ravages of frost, this was a hard time for Chablis, but a good time to accumulate vineyard land, such that when William sold his domaine to the Champagne house of Henriot in 1998, it had grown to 64 hectares, including 15 hectares of grand cru. Today, still under Henriot, the domaine now stands at 78 hectares plus the equivalent of many more from purchased grapes

The Fèvres have, for hundreds of years, worked the vines of Chablis, predominantly from their base in Fontenay-Près-Chablis, and it remains a large, extended family, including independent producers such as of Nathalie et Gilles Fèvre.

Goodbye William Fèvre…

Chablis yesterday:

au revoir, auprès du clocher!

By billn on June 23, 2019 #sad losses...

I visited Aupres du Clocher this week, an institution for the last years in Pommard, but learned that it is closing in 3 weeks. Probably most famous for their ‘Mousse tiède d’époisses au pain d’épices et sa tartine‘ – or a cappuccino of epoises to you and me – a dish that’s been much copied in the last years.

There will be new owners in Pommard, so the village will still have its restaurant in the church square, but all is not lost for the cheese cappuccino lovers! Jean-Christophe Moutet’s restaurant is moving and changing its name – Au Fils du Clos is the new name and they expect to be opening towards the end of August – but in Meursault!

The new place will be just across the road from Domaine Roulot. I’m looking forward to it!

rip – henry-frederic roch

By billn on November 20, 2018 #sad losses...

logo prieure rochIt seemed almost an apologetic first report of the death of HFR – and then the article was suddenly gone from the publication’s website – had they made a terrible mistake? It seemed to cause sufficient doubt that further reports took some time to surface – but surface they did.

Henry-Frédéric Roch (HFR) died overnight on Saturday-Sunday during the weekend. He leaves behind an iconoclastic domaine, with a very large – 75% finished – extension to the premises in Premeaux. I hope that the domaine has a successor and that the building work will be finished – the latter if-only for his long-suffering neighbours as this is already a three-year construction project. Then there is the question of his successor at the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, HFR being the public face of the Leroy family – half owners of that domaine. I saw HFR a number of times at DRC during harvest times, but I never saw him there during tastings.

I shared a first vintage with HFR – 1962 – and found him a captivating subject for a visit though unfortunately saw him very little after that first visit – simply because I knew my schedule was likely to be destroyed – if he was feeling receptive, you would struggle to depart in less than 4 hours. But he had such a stimulating mind, questioning all that you knew about burgundy wine from a very different standpoint of knowledge.

In the end I tasted with HFR no-more than 3 times, always for his own domaine’s wines, but those interactions are burnt into my memory – what a brilliant character…

goodbye to gilles jayer

By billn on January 30, 2018 #sad losses...

Jayer-Gilles was a producer/estate that I firstly knew as a producer of expensively oaked wines that needed time in the cellar before I should approach them – my last bottle was drunk very recently, over Christmas.

Gilles Jayer, a cousin of Henri Jayer, took on some notoriety last year when his 11 hectare estate was sold for a bold sum to the Swiss, André Hoffmann. It was said at the time that Gilles would remain on hand to help manage the estate as required by the new owner. But it seems that behind those headlines, something was lurking, to which Gilles very recently succumbed. His funeral was today in the church of Magny-les-Villers.

adieu arak…

By billn on August 29, 2017 #sad losses...

I’ve had the fine fortune to have visited the estate of Louis-Michel Liger-Belair and family since 2004, that year to taste 2003s and then every vintage since. An ever-present in this time, has been the family dog – Arak – a large-boned and very noble, almost aloof Weimaraner – pic (right) from the family.

This week, the family lost Arak – I thought I’d share this little anecdote with you.

I drove into the courtyard of the Château de Vosne-Romanée about 5:30pm in the late summer of 2006 – in those days Louis-Michel was less swamped with visitors, so I was tasting alone with him and his 2005s. As I parked, Arak came bounding up to the car, barking. Now if you don’t ‘know’ dogs, or were simply unsure, you would not have got out of your car – Arak was an imposing beast. Right behind him came Louis-Michel, saying ‘Don’t worry about him.‘ I replied ‘Not a problem, it’s just that my dog is also in the car and even in the shade I’ll need to leave all the windows open.‘ “Oh, that’s not a problem” volunteered Louis-Michel “I can close the gates, and the two can play together while we taste!

A nice offer, but I had some trepidation: My 3 year-old boxer, Belle, absolutely loved people – and most dogs too – but there was this 1 in 6 chance that she might take a dislike to Arak – as my neighbour’s dog, only 2 days earlier, might have attested as she flew through the air – though it was never a question of teeth, as Belle’s thick rubber lips would always get in the way! As I opened the tailgate of the car, and noses met, I thought to myself ‘Don’t you dare attack the Viscount’s dog!’ But all was well – a match made in heaven for the pair!

Louis-Michel and I left them to it and we moved to the cellar.

We’d been tasting for at least 20 minutes when one of Louis-Michel’s vineyard workers came down into the cellar with a message for him. Louis-Michel excused himself for 5 minutes as he had something he needed to attend to. A couple of minutes later I heard the piercing wail of a young child – in a very short space of time I put 2 and 2 together and raced out of the cellar – there, in the middle of the courtyard, sat Louis-Michel’s daughter – roughly 2 years old – with a boxer dog licking, licking, licking her face – my instant reaction was ‘Shit, she didn’t attack the Viscount’s dog – she chose his daughter instead!‘ Before I had the chance to say a word, Louis-Michel’s wife, Constance, came out of the front door, saw the scene and (oh so fortunately!) simply laughed, shouting to her daughter “Don’t worry, she’s just saying hello” – the relief! Just a few steps behind Constance, came Henry, their son – perhaps more like 4 years old – Belle had a new target.

It was clear that Henry came from a military family, because rather than sit and cry as he was licked, he stood straight-backed, trying to lift his chin from a jumping boxer’s tongue, and with a small toy gun in his hand, he tried to bang it on her head as she jumped, saying ‘Non! Non! Non!

Arak looked on, bemused…

Red-faced, I decided not to visit again with Belle…

Charles Rousseau (1923-2016)

By billn on May 12, 2016 #sad losses...

Remembering that great character, Charles Rousseau. He was always an ambassador for the domaine that wore his father’s name, remaining on hand, in his office, chatting with all visitors, despite having long stopped working in the barrels…


Armand Rousseau
It has been said that if you want the safest route to a fine bottle of Chambertin, or Chambertin Clos de Bèze, then make sure that the label says…

Charles was keen to extend the domaine’s trade outside their small number of private clients. To that end in 1951 he found himself in London’s Victoria Station, two suitcases by his side. He first visited that very rare thing – an existing ‘foreign’ client – a director of the BBC, before setting about visiting as many companies as possible who might have an interest in his wines. He mainly chose his targets by looking through their windows to see if they already sold wine!
It was tough; his targets were happy, if rather bemused, to entertain Charles in their offices, but anyway they already bought their wine from Drouhin or Patriarche! The top-level négociants in this age were Drouhin, Faiveley, Bouchard Père and Thomas-Bassot – “Jadot was not yet regarded in the top-rank.” Unlike the domaine, the names of those London merchants have pretty much disappeared; Ward & Martinez, André Simon, Christopher & Co., Dolomore, JH & J Brooke, Bonne Portes and the Soho Wine Co. With a smile, and the hint of a wink, Charles says “You know, over the next 10 years or so, one-by-one they all appeared in my office, asking to buy the wines”.
Domaine Profile (2005)

A great example of the man in action – in his office!

Burgundy Report

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