The discreet charm of Henri Bourgeois

Posted on: February 10th, 2015 by Andrew No Comments

A buying trip to Sancerre

I had never been to Sancerre, so Paul, with whom I was travelling, suggested that on our trip to Mâçon, we make a small detour to Chavignol and pay a visit to Henri Bourgeois

Arriving across the plateau from Bourg, the road takes a precipitous right turn down the face of the famous Mont Damnés which was my first view of the village nestling towards the top of a narrow valley. Bourgeois’ Chais is the first building you come to, a modern complex of rectangles cut into the hillside We parked up and walked down the street to the Export offices where we met Alban, the export Manager. A lot of the buildings on both sides of the street were owned by the estate, housing some of the old cellars and offices as well as the tasting room and sales outlet. Chavignol is steeply sloping and small, 120 people live in the village, most of them being wine growers and their families; Bourgeois, with 70 hectares in Chavignol, St Satur and in Pouilly is the largest producer.

The Quality Factor

Sancerre and Pouilly straddle the Loire in a valley in the eastern Massif, with the town itself on a conical hill rising from the flood plain. Looking east from Chavignol, the hill and town of Sancerre fill the view, with St Satur to the north and Pouilly on the far bank The valley is folded with plenty of slopes affording optimum growing conditions. The soil is mainly of three types, Kimmeridgian clay, Clay with Flints and Clay with Limestone. Additionally around Sancerre town there is some gravel. Bourgeois’ have vineyards or work with growers on all three. Alban was keen to point out which vineyards produced which wines and a vantage point on the roof of their new winery was a good place to do it, despite the biting cold. Additionally, in Chavignol, the slopes of the Mont Damnés, south facing and steep, are considered to make the finest Sancerres and much of Bourgeois’ top wines come from grapes grown on those slopes.


Bourgeois has invested heavily in their new winery,which being built on a hill is entirely gravity fed. A little gentle pumping is allowed for their red wines to extract colour but gravity does the rest.

All production is temperature controlled, including the barrel-fermented wines. Here each barrel can have a water fed thermostatic system lowered through the bung-hole to asist in temperature control if necessary. Bourgeois oak-age quite a few of their whites as well as their top reds, and are experimenting with different oak sources and barrel size, including Austrian oak, to best suit each wine type.


The wines

Bourgeois’ wines fall into two main categories;

  1. wines bought in from other growers with whom they work, eg Petit Bourgeois, Menetou salon
  2. Wines made from their own vineyards in other parts/neighbouring appellations and wines from their own vineyards around Chavignol.

They have a third category which they are quite proud of, their output from Clos Henri in Marlborough, New Zealand

Wines from other growers/vineyards


1)Petit Bourgeois 2013 Val de Loire

This is the current vintage and already a favourite. From selected vineyards outside the appellation to the North west, downriver, this is iconic Bourgeois style. Crisp, very fresh with good acidity, aroma and fruit. House Wine for the Sancerre aficionado

2) Petit Bougeois Pinot Noir Rosé 2013

Clean and very fresh with a hint of raspberry fruit. Very fresh and immediate, Lovely

3) Côteaux de Giennois 2013 Blanc

From vineyards around Gien, again to the North West. This is flinty and dry, like a mini Pouilly Fumé. Very obvious in this vintage and thus good value

4) Ménetou Salon 2013 Blanc

Crossing from Bourges, one passes through Menetou, thus it is further from the river and on clay and limestone soils. Bourgeois has worked for many years with the same grower and makes a fruitier more rounded style, even in this less than perfect vintage. A lovely drink now.


5) Sancerre Vignes Blanche 2013

This is Bourgeois’ entry-level Sancerre which is from grapes grown on some of the lower slopes and also bought in from other growers. This is our main Sancerre and it ticks all the right boxes. In this vintage it is crisp, aromatic and elegant, charming even. I love it even if it was such a poor vintage

6) Sancerre Vignes Blanche 2014

This was a tank sample but reflected the much higher quality of this vintage With more complexity than the 13, this shows enormous potential, minerally, long and very good

7) Sancerre Les Baronnes Rosé 2013

Perfectly balanced with ripe rounded fruit. Dry, pale and poised.

8) Sancerre Jeunes Vignes 2014 Rosé

Delicious more-ish, crisp elegant wine. Lighter than the Baronnes and more immediate. Lovely

9) Sancerre Rouge 2011 Les Baronnes

Nicely balanced wine that benefits from 8 months in oak. Well made with ripe fruit and a long dry finish

Classic Vineyards

10) Pouilly Fumé Demoiselle 2012

Flinty, dry with steely mineral fruit. This is from vines grown on Kimmerdian clay and has had 8% small oak maturation. The wine shows great quality but to my mind a little closed.

11) Sancerre MD 2013

Very ripe full extracted wine – really fine for this vintage. Very much a benchmark for Bourgeois. This is from the Mont Damné vineyards and reflects their quality factor

12) Sancerre la Bourgeoise 2010

Huge ripe rich full flavoured wine. Very dry and almost savoury. Long. 40% oak fermented

13) Sancerre Jadis 2012

100% oak aged with 10% new oak. The wine is unfiltered and is very rich but still completely closed. The majority of the grapes were grown on Kimmeridgian Clay which with the Oak produces a layered complex style.

14) Sancerre D’Antan 2012

This is from the family vineyards on the slopes above St Sature. Fuller flavoured than the Javis, the flinty silex soil gives a unique lemon oil note to the wine adding to its complexity. A lovely wine.

15) Sancerre Etienne Henri 2012

This is produced on flinty soil and has the rich full style associated with this soil type. With 25% oak maturation in new wood, this is layered and well structured. A little young yet.

16) Sancerre Rouge La Bourgeoise 2012

Pitch perfect Pinot from the master. In my book this comes close to faultless. Delicious just in the tasting room but sublime with food when drunk over lunch. Awesomely good red

Clos Henri, Marlborough, New Zealand

17) Petit Clos 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough

Ripe and very clean, this has the more open generous fruit associated with marlborough but with a tight complex mineral finish

18) Petit Clos 2013 Pinot Noir

Tightly made wine with a hint of a vegetal nose. Good fruit balance on the palate, and dry on the finish. Good value Kiwi Pinot

19) Clos Henri Pinot Noir 2012

Slightly less well balanced than its younger brother. Perhaps a bit closed, fruit is showing on the finish. Good


An extensive tasting of most of what the family has to offer overwhelmingly demonstrates that good wine making is not reserved for the better vintages, but with attention to detail and a striving for excellence, producers like Bourgeois can make sublime wines in any conditions, elevating them to the level of some of the greats. I loved it. And no, it wasn’t just the lunch after or the fact that I stock some of them,  These are some really great glasses of wine. If you haven’t already, try some for yourself.


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