I have been tasting and drinking the wines of Henri Bourgeois for many years now. If this opening sentence leaves you confused, or has perhaps caused you to wonder whether it is me who is confused, as this is not a profile of Henri Bourgeois, please bear with me. All, I promise, will become clear.
As I was saying, I have been tasting and drinking the wines of Henri Bourgeois for many years now. And so I am familiar with the domaine’s location, in Chavignol, and the fact that the focus of the domaine is fruit from vines in this village, most notably a very significant holding in the famed Les Monts Damnés. But Henri Bourgeois is a huge business of course, and Jean-Marie Bourgeois and his sons and nephews hold sway over a huge expanse of vines, dotted across all Sancerre, and even further afield. And so, finding myself in the passenger seat of Jean-Marie’s car one day, I wasn’t surprised when we sped out of Chavignol, and headed towards Sancerre itself. I was a little more surprised, however, when we bypassed that town, arriving a few minutes later in Saint-Satur, which lies just to the north-east of Sancerre, right on the banks of the Loire. And then we just kept going, down the D955 which tracks the river; keep going in this direction, I thought, and we will soon end up in Gien. The wines of the Coteaux du Giennois have a place in the Bourgeois portfolio, of course, but I doubt anyone would consider it a jewel in the crown.
And then after a few seconds of ticking indicator and rapid deceleration the car swung left, up a dirt track. We bumped over a rusty railway line and came to a halt just a few metres further on. Before us lay a huge sweep of vines, stretching away into the distance, the east-facing aspect rolling around to a south-easterly slope, and then moving out of view. At the top of the vineyard was a line of trees, the edge of the Bois de Charnes, and at its foot was the aforementioned railway line. To my left, looking along the slope of vines, in the distant haze I could just make out the town of Sancerre (pictured above). I was gazing upon the vines of Le Rochoy, and this certainly is a jewel, in someone’s crown at least. Once a Gallo-Roman quarry, the slope has been planted to vines for generations, and until the 1980s was managed by René Laporte, of Domaine Laporte. But then, because of family circumstances, René had to sell up, and everything went, lock, stock and barrel. The buyer? Jean-Marie Bourgeois, of course.