A Visit to Henri Bourgeois, 2017

It is only a year or so since I last called in on Arnaud Bourgeois, at Henri Bourgeois, but there was good reason to pay him another visit when I found myself in Chavignol (again!) recently. The obvious excuse for knocking on his door is, of course, the opportunity to taste the latest vintages of all the top cuvées, such as Sancerre d’Antan, Jadis and Etienne Henri. That still stands. But I had also heard whispers that Arnaud and his team were ready to release a new range of single-vineyard wines, created from four distant plots scattered across the Sancerre vineyard, in white and red. Who could resist a little investigation?

The Single Vineyards

Arnaud and his team have pulled together a mini-portfolio of four single-vineyard cuvées, three white and one red, with a focus on mainly Kimmeridgian terroirs. The first vineyard to be featured is Les Côtes aux Valets, a 1.06-hectare parcel planted with Sauvignon Blanc in 1986. The vineyard is located in Bannon, near Vinon, which lies to the south of Sancerre. Bannon is an interesting little village, located on a south-facing slope bearing an isolated square of vineyard, with pasture on the slopes on either side, pasture at the foot of the slope, and woods at the top. The terroir here is classic Kimmeridgian, with Calcaire de Buzançais (Lower Kimmeridgian) on the lower half of the slope, and as you head uphill this is replaced by Marnes de Saint-Doulchard (Upper-Lower Kimmeridgian boundary) on the upper half of the slope, with superficial clay. The cuvée Les Côtes aux Valets thus features Kimmeridgian limestone.

Henri Bourgeois

Another vineyard featuring a Kimmeridgian terroir is Le Cotelin (the only one of the four wines I was not able to taste), but this time the focus is on Kimmeridgian marl. This lieu-dit is located in Sury-en-Vaux, in Maimbray, a region that is dominated by a less frequently discussed Kimmeridgian soil type, Marnes et Lumachelles à Exogyra virgula (Upper Kimmeridgian), a mix of marlstone with conglomerated fossils (a lumachelle) dominated by Exogyra (today more correctly referred to as Nanogyra) a comma-shaped fossilised oyster which typifies Kimmeridgian stone. Here Henri Bourgeois have 1.23 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc planted in 1989.

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