Henri Bourgeois Tasting Dinner, 2014

I would imagine that, with many readers surely very knowledgeable when it comes to Sancerre, Henri Bourgeois is a name that probably needs no introduction. The Bourgeois family are the largest landholders in the appellation, with over 70 hectares in their ownership, and the volume vinified is doubled when you take into account purchased fruit. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Henri Bourgeois also holds the title of largest landowner on Les Monts Damnés, with 3.5 hectares on this vertiginous and highly desirable slope of Kimmeridgian limestone, which itself accounts for approximately 36 hectares of the Sancerre appellation. The facilities in which the Bourgeois family achieve this dominates the village of Chavignol, looking down from the lower slopes of the Cul de Beaujeu. it is not surprising that their wines offer formative experiences for most committed drinkers of Sancerre; the Bourgeois wines were some of the first I encountered from the appellation, and I am sure I am not alone in that.

Over the years I have come to know the wines fairly well, and so I was delighted to be invited recently to a tasting dinner at the Champany Inn in Linlithgow, to see how the wines matched up with, among other dishes, one of the inn’s rightly famous steaks. And as it turned out the dinner was very educational, not least because it also featured the wines of Clos Henri, the Bourgeois family’s vineyard in New Zealand, the wines of which I do not recall tasting before.

Henri Bourgeois

Clos Henri

Although I have known the wines of Henri Bourgeois for a long time, I have never paid their operation in New Zealand, named Clos Henri, much (or indeed any) attention. Unlike the vineyards of Sancerre, which have been worked for centuries (even if things only got really commercial in the mid-20th century), the story of Clos Henri is a very recent one. It was under the direction of Rémi and Jean-Marie Bourgeois, the sons of Henri Bourgeois himself, that the expansion into New Zealand was made. That it was this generation that was responsible does not surprise me; Jean-Marie (pictured above, in the vineyards of Sancerre) is an adventurous globe trotter who still flies throughout the East promoting the wines of Henri Bourgeois.

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