We were good and tired by the time we made it from Meursault to Premeaux-Prissey by bike, and ready to take a load off and taste some delicious Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune wines.
Domaine de la Vougeraie is NOT open to the public, but we contacted them via email in advance and they generously arranged for us to tour the winery with François des Moutis, one of the newest (and very handsome) members of the winemaking team responsible for some of the most respected Burgundian wine houses.
Domaine de la Vougerie is another wine house within the Boisset family like Ropiteau Freres in Meursault, and Bouchard Aîné & Fils in Beaune. About 40% of their wines are white, and 60% are red. They have 67 plots on 34 hectares in total. A third of the fruit comes from the Côte de Beaune, and the rest from the Côte de Nuits. In all they cover 33 different appellations with four monopoles in the Côte de Nuits. Though a notable winery with vines throughout the region, many of their wines are considered “micro-cuvées” producing less than a thousand bottles a year.
Tour of Domaine de la Vougeraie
We started in the warehouse where the wines are pressed and stored. The bottling season had just finished so the mood was pretty relaxed and chill, while one of the winery assistants climbed into a steel vat to rinse out any left over juice. One second we could see his tush and legs dangling from the drain and then a second POOF he was gone—swallowed up whole.
François took us to the back of the facility where they store the wood for their barrels. Unlike a lot of wineries, Domaine de la Vougeraie takes pride in really having their hand in the entire wine making process. From owning vineyards and working the fields, to sourcing the wood for their coopering, to working with the fruit and later juice etc. I guess you could say most, if not all, of Domaine de la Vougeraie’s wines are “vertically integrated.” This way they have complete control over the process and can really stand behind the product.
They source their oak from a city near Vougeot, which is also one of the villages where Domaine de la Vougeraie has the most famous of their four monopoles—Clos Blanc de Vougeot. They let the oak dry out on their property for 2.5 years before they send it to a cooper to use in making their own barrels.
Allowing the oak to dry out for an extended period of time, really mellows out the tannins and color it can impart on the wines in the barrel. Domaine de la Vougeraie is always looking for ways to control the process and produce a “pure” wine, and that’s why they’ve reduced the amount of new oak barrels in rotation to around 30%. “The oak should only be there to underscore the wine, not carry it,” wrote a representative in their spring 2016 newsletter. “This is a very subtle process.”
Just behind the back driveway where the barrel oak is curing in the sun is an herb garden.
Since 1999, Domaine de la Vougeraie has embraced organic farming practices. More recently they’ve taken this respect for nature, and balance between the soil, plant and farmer one step further and are now practicing biodynamic viticulture.
The idea behind biodynamic farming is to promote and energize life in the soil—the environment that’s most impactful on the roots of the grapevines where the entire wine process begins. Not only does this naturally symbiotic interplay between the earth and the creatures within it have an impact on the terroir, but biodynamic farming practices also promote the health of the vineyard itself, making it more resistant to diseases, pests, and inclement weather.
Alongside head winemaker Pierre Vincent, François, an enologist with a degree in biological engineering, references centuries old lunar calendars to guide their plantings, harvesting, and treatment of the vines. Depending on the time of year, month, and orientation of the planets, some days are fruit days, root days, flower days, and leaf days. All of the guidance from the orientation of the moon and stars helps them understand when to do what in the fields.
Phytotherapy (herbalism) in the vineyards
When treating the soil, the vineyard teams use tonics made from herbs, plants, flowers and bark grown in the garden François showed us (a herbarium of sorts) where the organic materials are harvested so they can be steeped in boiling water, strained, diluted with fresh water, and then sprayed on the vines within 24 hours as needed.
Some “teas” promote photosynthesis, while others energize the microbial symphony taking place in the soil that excites the roots and promotes growth. For example, elderberry flowers and leaves have fungicidal properties and keep insects away, while a lavender tonic is another natural insecticide.
It was all a little over our heads, but it was nice to see Domaine de la Vougeraie trying to produce a more pure wine by farming and manipulating the vines with natural organic materials only.
Domaine de la Vougeraie wine tasting
Inside we went, and down to the caveau (cave) for our wine tasting among the barrels.
The order in which you taste your wine at Domaine de la Vougeraie is a little different than some of the other wineries and tasting rooms we’d been to in Burgundy. They started us with the reds and then we finished with the whites. Why? Because they’re really proud of the delicate tannins in their pinots and the whites are known for their acidity, which can shock the tongue and make it hard to really get a sense for what makes their reds so amazing. Who were we to argue with the experts?
We tasted nine wines in total that day: five reds and four whites. Seven of the 2014 vintage and two of the 2011 vintage (one red and one white), so we could taste how the wines have aged with three additional years in the bottle.
The bottles we were tasting from weren’t labeled and just had handwritten names on each, and we were encouraged to pour or spit any wines out in a bucket on the cave floor. Jonathan and I poured one or two out since we were biking back to Beaune, but it pained us every time.
Marc wine by Burgundy producers
Marc wine (pronounced like it looks although the French seem to have this way of making the hard C almost non-existent) is a stronger cuvée or “digestif” (ABV greater than 40%) made from fermenting the mash after the initial grape pressing.
It’s often times called the eau de vie, or water of life, which is apropos because a sip will certainly wake you up! Like grappa and calvados it’s great at cutting through some of the richness of a heavy meal.
It can be made from red or white wine mash, the main difference is how it’s stored—barrels vs glass jugs—and how long the remaining juice is left in contact with the skins, stalks, seeds (pips), twigs and leaves etc.
Since winemakers take the residual fluids from the grape mash, batches of Marc wine are usually small, and with such a low quantity the process is typically abandoned altogether.
Marc wine stored in barrels usually comes out auburn or caramel colored like Armagnac, and when it’s stored in glass demi-johns like in the photo above, the final product is clear like grappa.
Domaine de la Vougeraie makes marc wine when the conditions are ideal for their premier and grand cru vines. They made some in 2015 and in 2009 before that. We didn’t have a chance to taste any while on our tour, but were able to try other marc wine back in Beaune.
Buying or shipping wine from Domaine de la Vougeraie
After tasting some of the best wines we’d had on our trip, Jonathan and I were ready to buy a case! François took us back to the main office where I had my tasting notes and credit card ready. Much to our surprise Domaine de la Vougeraie doesn’t sell any wine on the property.
“Désolé Philip,” Sylvie a member of the staff said, “mais tout le vin est déjà vendu.” [Sorry Philip, but all the wine is already sold]
The problem with making a premium product is that it’s already spoken for. Totally deflated after our amazing wine tasting experience and day of biking through wineries, I asked how we could acquire some of the Domaine de la Vougeraie wines?
Sylvie was really awesome and wrote down the name of two premier wine shops in Beaune City Center that carry some of their wines. There was no guarantee they’d have the wines we tried on site (definitely not the same vintages since we were tasting out of unlabeled bottles), but she figured there was a good chance they’d have some.
So we hustled back to Beaune, and visited Athenaeum and Mon Millésime.
Athenaeum wine shop in Beaune
Athenaeum “of the vine and the wine” is a larger wine shop that also sells books, gifts, touristy items, specialty cooking gadgets etc. Think of it as the museum shop at a modern art museum in the sense that it’s a place where you can buy wine, other liquors, and various trinkets and gifts.
It’s across from the Hospices de Beaune on the southwestern side of the city center and easy to find.
Because of its size, they have a wide variety of wines from France, and also enough of an inventory that they can often times open a bottle of something to give you a taste, especially if it seems like you’re going to buy a case, or two, or three.
Mon Millésime wine shop in Beaune
Mon Millésime is a smaller wine shop than Athenaeum, but they have an amazing selection of wines, and ultimately where we could find a variety of the Domaine de la Vougeraie wines. They don’t have the ability to open up bottles and let you taste them like Athenaeum does, but the attention to detail and customer service we received was fantastic!
They also work with Cote D’Or Imports all the time so it was really easy to arrange for the Domaine de la Vougeraie wines to get added to our other shipments and sent to us back in the States.
You been to Burgundy and had the chance to visit Domaine de la Vougeraie? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.