I first met Jean-Max Roger a few years ago, on a harvest-time visit to Sancerre. It was early morning, and I was en route to see how François Crochet was getting on with the harvest, and so I was hotfooting it down through the streets of Bué. The usually sleepy village had sprung into life, and I was desperately trying to steer clear of the harvest traffic. There were a motley array of vehicles heading out into the vines, cars and vans crammed with pickers, their jaded faces testament to the good times of the night before. And despite the early hour there were already some vehicles heading back into the village, towing trailers laden down with crates of freshly picked grapes. Distracted by one particularly fine trailer-load of Pinot Noir, I rounded a corner and bumped – literally – into Jean-Max.
Some might say a more remarkable story would be to come to Bué and to not bump into someone with the name of Roger. Like Crochet, Roger is another name deeply woven into the history of this village and its vineyards. And seeing Jean-Max (pictured below), I was reminded that I had not written a profile of this domaine, something I concluded – just as another trailer of grapes rumbled by – that I should put right.
Fast-forward to 2017 and I again found myself careering through the streets of Bué, this time sitting in the passenger seat of a battered old MPV, one which I had probably been dodging during that harvest visit. Inside, every surface was caked with dust and dirt, and the floor and dashboard were strewn with the detritus of a vigneron’s life, everything from business cards and fuel receipts to oddly shaped pieces of hardware (left over from the last time the press was fixed, perhaps?) and an old mobile phone, its screen having clearly seen better days. Outside the car, meanwhile, sweeping vistas of vines flew by; Le Grand Chemarin, Le Petit Chemarin, Le Chêne Marchand, and more. My chauffeur was none other than one of Jean-Max’s sons, Thibault Roger. It had taken a few years, but at last I was honouring the promise I made myself that day.