Henri Bourgeois, Sancerre

Visiting the Centre Loire, on the trail of great Sauvignon

Vineyards in Chavignol, Sancerre, where Henri Bourgeois are based

Henri Bourgeois is one of those producers that any wine region would be lucky to have. They combine size and quality, which is important, because it means there's a reasonable amount of wine to go round. Things started small here: this family-owned domaine was founded with 2 hectares in 1935, plus some polyculture. Now it has 70 hectares of vines (64 in Sancerre and 6 in neighbouring Pouilly-Fumé), plus a winery in New Zealand (Clos Henri, with 45 hectares in Marlborough). Overall, they harvest 124 plots, 100 of Sauvignon Blanc and 24 of Pinot Noir, and these are kept separate in the winery.

Looking over the rooftops in Chavignol to the town of Sancerre on top of the hill 

The winery, in the beautiful village of Chavignol, is modern, and has five different levels to enable gravity flow. It was built in 2000 and then some more capacity was added in 2013. I visited for a tasting with Raymond Bourgeois.

Typical limestone-based soils in Chavignol 

Some parcels are machine harvested, while the steeper plots are harvested by hand. Three years ago, Bourgeois tested machine versus hand-harvested fruit from one vineyard, taking thee rows from each and making the wine the same way. Eight out of ten tasters preferred the wine made from machine-harvested fruit, but they think the key is to get the grapes as quickly as possible from the vineyard to the winery when machines are used.

The modern winery: lots of stainless steel, but also some wooden fermenters, plus the latest in presses


The Sauvignon is given 3-5 days cold stabulation before fermentation. This involves keeping the juice on lees and stirring it at very low temperatures (5 C) in order to extract as many precursors as possible. There's no malolactic fermentation and the wine is typically aged on lees for 4-10 months

Temperature control for the wines fermented in barrel is available

The wines here are consistently very pure, fine expressions of their terroir.

montes damnes sancerre
Monts Damnes vineyard, Chavignol

Raymond Bourgeois in the cellar 


Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rouge Le Gravenon 2014 Loire, France
This is a new cuvee, a single vineyard, Le Gravenon, on the red clay on top of the Monts Damnes. Supple and bright with elegant, fine red cherry fruit. There's a lovely stony structure here with lovely stony acidity. Very fresh and expressive with a light body and a hint of cedary, spicy oak. Youthful and expressive. Very promising. 92/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Baronnes 2016 Loire, France
Chalky clay soils, aged on lees for four months in stainless steel. Beautifully aromatic on the nose: some flinty hints as well as aromatic passionfruit and citrus notes. The palate is fresh and expressive with some grassy notes under the lovely fresh citrus fruit. Such a pretty wine. 90/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre La Vigne Blanche 2016 Loire, France
Different composition of parcels at the same price point, for the UK. Aromatic and expressive with lovely citrus fruit core. There's some stoniness here with keen acidity and some green notes. Taut and linear. Lemony and intense. 90/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre La Côte des Monts Damnes 2015 Loire, France
Stainless steel, 8-10 months on lees. Fine, aromatic nose with grapefruit and lemon, as well as fine herbs. The palate has lovely concentration with some tight, focused citrus fruit. Pure and tightwound, this has lots of potential. 92/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre La Chapelle des Augustins 2015 Loire, France
Silex at the top, calcaire below. Crystalline and mineral with lovely concentration and some generous citrus and pear fruit. This has a lively presence in the mouth, and finishes long. A serious wine. 93/100

Henri Bourgeois Pouilly-Fumé La Demoiselle de Bourgeois 2014 Loire, France
20-25% fermented in oak. Kimmeridgian marl soil. From the extremity of the appellation. This is a concentrated yet subtle wine with delicate green notes. Fine herbs and some apple and lemon notes. Lovely acidity here with nice focus. Lovely acid here. 92/100

Henri Bourgeois Pouilly-Fumé La Demoiselle 2010 Loire, France
Mineral and detailed with some subtle nut and apple notes alongside the grassy citrus fruits. Lovely intensity here, with keen acidity. Stony and linear, developing really nicely. Lovely development here. It's still so fresh and expressive. 93/100

Henri Bourgeois Pouilly-Fumé La Demioselle 1993 Loire, France
Still pale in colour, this is fresh and crisp. It's light in body with lovely crystalline citrus fruits. Such a fine, detailed wine with a subtle green minty note. Very enjoyable and expressive. 93/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Jadis 2014 Loire, France
100% barrel fermentation, no new oak. Battonage, no fining, no filtration. Mostly KIimmeridgean marl. Taut, mineral and focused with lovely citrussy acidity. Very linear and fine with lovely weight and focus. Some generosity, but it's just a baby with lovely weight and detail. 94/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre La Bourgeoise 2014 Loire, France
Mostly flint (silex) from Sant Satur. One third barrel fermentation, one third new. Very rounded and textural with lovely freshness and a slightly nutty, waxy edge to the crisp citrus and pear fruit. Real finesse and delicacy here. Crystalline. 93/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Etienne Henri 2014 Loire, France
Burgundy style, 100% in new oak with battonage, started in 1984. There's a creamy, slightly nutty edge to the taut citrus fruit. Nuts spice and fennel here. It's lively and detailed, and carries the oak quite well, although it's clearly present. This will age nicely. 92/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Cuvée d'Antan 2015 Loire, France
Silex. Barrel ferment, no new oak. Complex nose with nuts, fennel and citrus fruit. Bold, textured palate with ripe pear and apple notes as well as a stony, mineral core. Complex, rich and multidimensional with nice weight. Should age beautifully. 94/100

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Côtes aux Valais 2015 Loire, France
Single vineyard parcel, 30 year old vines. 1 hectare plot, chalky clay soils. No oak. Lovely concentration to this wine which has focused citrus fruit with a hint of herbiness and nice acid structure. Very fine and detailed with nice expressive personality. 93/100

henri bourgeois sancerre les ruchons

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Ruchons 2015 Loire, France
From silex soils. Old vines, with a high percentage of old barrels. Very fine, detailed and expressive with some ripe passionfruit and citrus characters. Lovely detail here with expressive fruit and some crisp acidity, as well as some mineral notes. Very fine and expressive. 94/100 

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre La Bourgeoise 2009 Loire, France
Complex nose of ripe figs, pears and herbs. Powerful, expressive palate with melon, pear and apple. Such weight and concentration, combined with freshness and some mineral notes. There's a tangy citrussy edge to the palate, with lovely focus. So bright and powerful. 94/100

Part 1, Henri Bourgeois

Part 2, Villargeau

Wines tasted 03/17  
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