Bouzeron - Burgundy’s Top Secret
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
An appellation that spreads on only one village, only one variety. Bouzeron AOC was born in 1997 thanks to the efforts of insistent winegrowers and especially Aubert de Villaine. If you want to learn what does Aligoté has to offer at its’ best, go for Aligoté Doré from Bouzeron. It’s the only place where this variety gets the best slopes.
Long history of a young appellation
Aligoté used to be ‘ruling’ in Burgundy, on the prestigious slopes of Côte-d'Or in Meursault and Pernand-Vergelesses.
But tastes change, and grapes that are more known internationally - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, pushed out Aligoté to the vigorous flat land, where it was destined to be a high yielding and inexpensive wine.
The potential of this variety almost vanished in time.
Bouzeron is the only village that produces Aligoté exclusively on the slopes.
But there was one village with probably very stubborn people that never gave up Aligoté. It was in Bouzeron that they fought for an appellation dedicated to Aligoté. In 1979 a separate AOC status among Bourgogne Aligoté was gained, in 1997 a fully independent Bouzeron Appellation d'Origine Controlée was born.
Today Bouzeron is the only village that produces Aligoté exclusively on the slopes. And probably the only village where you can find centenary Aligoté grapevines, as this is the only place where producers are not into high yields of this variety.
History & Terroir of Bouzeron AOC
I took a morning train to Chagny that is 5 km away from Bouzeron and, obviously, walked these 5 km through the picturesque vineyards between two villages. Both are part of Côte Chalonnaise region and neighbour with Santenay and Chassagne-Montrachet, Rully and Mercurey.
a nutrient-poor, marly, brown limestone-rich soil that naturally limits the yield
As is the case in Burgundy, winegrowing was started here by monks, monks of Cluny in our case. The terroir is unique and exceptional. Yield is naturally limited by soil composition - it’s a nutrient-poor, marly, brown limestone-rich soil. On the other hand, the warm microclimate in the valley helps to achieve perfect ripeness of the grapes.
The oldest vines are trained in traditional ‘Gobelet’ style, that helps sap regulation in these very precious grapevines. I said precious because a private nursery is established in Bouzeron that focuses on researching the genetic diversity of the old Aligoté vines, identifying the best and reproducing them.
How is Bouzeron Aligoté wine made?
There is nothing special that they do in the cellar, according to all, without an exception, winemakers that I met from Mâcon to Chablis :) The role of a winemaker is to preserve the traditions while being open-minded (but also critical) to new technologies. Which means enhance, refine, perfect traditional approaches with new technologies.
It takes patience to let the grape express nuances of each terroir.
To allow Aligoté to express the best qualities of the variety and the exceptional terroir, the next few steps are inevitable:
Manual harvesting to deliver whole grapes in excellent condition to the winery.
Strict sorting of bunches.
Natural vinification, which means yeasts native to the grape, no harsh extraction, no added bacteria for malolactic fermentation. It takes patience to let the grape express nuances of each terroir.
A combination of maturing techniques is used (I’ll specify for each wine separately in a moment). Moderate and careful use of new oak, partial fermentation in oak, using oak casks of different sizes as a general idea.
A Good Morning wine tasting at Maison Chanzy
you never leave a village in Burgundy without finding a place to taste wine!
To be honest, Bouzeron was the first appellation that I planned to visit after completing my WSET course in Château de Pommard (I visited Pouilly-Fuissé before the course started). Tired and a bit disappointed that none of the wineries I contacted replied (summer is very busy time for small wineries that don’t have extra staff for just touring you around and chatting during a tasting).
Well, Bouzeron is a small, tiny appellation. Overall 20 producers, but in fact, if we take only the ones that are ‘headquartered’ in Bouzeron village - it’s 6-7 wineries.
But despite all these, I didn’t give up and said you never leave a village in Burgundy without finding a place to taste wine!
I gave a slight peek to the locked doors of renowned (at least in Burgundy) Domaine de Villaine. Aubert de Villaine is the ‘patron’ of Bouzeron AOC, he did a lot for the appellation to be born. Besides that, he’s the co-owner of the world-famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conte (that also has tightly closed doors, obviously).
However, it was 10 am and I knew I’ll find my luck. A few more steps and I saw Maison Chanzy with its’ entrance widely open. Well, the tasting room and shop was locked, but once you let me in a winery, I won’t get out without finding what I want.
So I found the staff next doors and had my Aligoté tasting right away!
Bouzeron Le Trois 2015 - this is a blend of three parcels - Les Clous, La Tournelle, Les Cordères. It’s aged in stainless steel, bottled in June 2016. Although Aligoté is suitable for ageing due to its’ high acidity, 2015 was a bit too hot to produce a white wine for long years. I was recommened to drink it in the next 2 years.
This wine is refreshing, it’s pure joy to drink it in summer, well chilled.
Clos de la Fortune Monopole 2016 - the vineyard is divided on 3 parcels with vines of different age - 90+ years old, 45 years old and young 4 years old vines.
The soil is clay and limestone with some marl.
At Chanzy they have vats and barrels of all sizes - 220 l, 300 l, 600 l and 2050 l. Clos de la Fortune goes partially to oak, partially to stainless steel.
Grapes are gently pressed with a pneumatic press, the must is left for debourbage for 2 days.
One part (20%) is fermented and aged in oak, the rest - in stainless steel.
On the label you’ll see written ‘Monopole’ - just as everywhere in Burgundy, historical plots, climats, or lieu-dit, have their own names. In this case, it’s Clos de la Fortune, where ‘clos’ states for the stone wall around the vineyard. ‘Monopole’ means that the whole climat/vineyard is owned by one producer, in our case - Chanzy. This is very rare in Burgundy, where plots are not even measured in hectares but in ouvrée (land that a man can till manually in one day - a pre French Revolution term).
Salty and lemony, can’t imagine a more straightforward match with oysters. Fish, poultry and wheel in cream or cheese sauce would benefit of its’ acidity. Some happens when pairing it with most of the types of goat cheese or pre-dinner aperitifs.
Bouzeron 20 Ans 2017 - Bouzeron AOC celebrated its’ 20th anniversary in 2017, so at Chanzy they decided to produce a festive cuvee. Just two barrels of this wine were produced. All made of the best old vines (90+ years) from their Bouzeron vineyards.
The oak is also special. They bought two barrels from Austria. Burgundy also seeks diversity, and in a region known for its’ cooperages, they do sometimes use Austrian oak, as it has a very high reputation in France.
The barrels for this cuvée were previously used at Chanzy for 1 year. Pure new oak, when you make only two barrels of wine would be too overwhelming for sophisticated Aligoté. Aged a bit longer than the other two wines, bottled in September 2018, right before harvest.
There is a lot of ripe apples and pears on the nose, with vanilla and lots of autolytic (bready-yeasty) aromas. Once you taste it - it’s crisp as a perfect Aligoté, has medium acidity, quite creamy and will impress with a bitter grapefruit finish.
Chanzy that used to be a family estate was recently spread between 300 shareholders. They’re positive about this change, as all the 300 shareholders automatically became the most efficient ambassadors of the winery. 40% of their production is exported mainly to Belgium, Netherlands and England.
Goal achieved, I tasted Bouzeron Aligoté in the heart of Bouzeron village. Next stop - Santenay!
...If you're too far away to visit... then start by watching this not only informative, but also very emotional movie about Burgundy on Wine Masters.
Read about the first wine trip in my Burgundy Adventure. It will take you to the wineries of Pouilly-Fuissé.