Understanding the terroirs of Bourgogne

The beauty of the wines of Bourgogne is the result of the terroir. Each winegrowing area, each vineyard, each vineyard plot will influence the wines. With six estates in Bourgogne, as well as sourcing fruit from across the region, Maison Albert Bichot expresses the terroir in the more than 140 wines they produce as I wrote about in the Napa Valley Register and share here.

Understanding the terroirs of Bourgogne

To understand the wines of Bourgogne, one must understand the concept of terroir, the French term, which is a combination of factors including soil, climate and sunlight that gives wine its distinctive character.

With six estates in Bourgogne, as well as sourcing fruit from other vineyards, Maison Albert Bichot expresses the diversity of terroirs in their wines.

The wine region of Bourgogne, located in east-central France, is small. It is approximately 143 miles from the north to the south and there are fewer than 74,000 acres under vine.

But, within this small area there are five winegrowing areas: Chablis and Auxerrois; Côte de Nuits and Hautes-Côtes de Nuits; Côte de Beaune and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune; Côte Chalonnaise and Couchois, and Mâconnais; and there are 84 flagship appellations within these areas.

With 100 hectares (272 acres) from Chablis to Beaujolais, Albert Bichot is producing wines from estates in every major region in Bourgogne, except Mâconnais, from north to south.

The Bichot family settled in Burgundy in 1350. In 1831, Bernard Bichot founded a wine trading business and his son succeeded him. In 1912, Bernard Bichot’s grandson, Albert, advanced the business, moving it to Beaune.

Maison Albert Bichot has been family-owned from its founding and has been handed down from father to son. In 1996, Albéric Bichot, representing the sixth generation, joined the family business. Since taking over, he converted the estate vineyards to organic viticulture and four estates were certified organic 10 years ago.

Maison Albert Bichot focuses on quality and sustainability and produces more than 140 different wines. Each wine is from a different area or vineyard but maintains the Bichot style.

Understanding the terroirs of Bourgogne

Assistant technical director Matthieu Mangenot who sees these wines from grape to glass, describes the Bichot style as one that reflects terroir. They are wines that can be drunk now or aged. And most importantly, he said, they are wines that “provide good emotion.”

While Bichot makes a lot of wine from both estate fruit and purchased fruit, it is the wines from the six estates they own in the heart of six prestigious sub-regions that I had the pleasure to enjoy.

Understanding the terroirs of Bourgogne

— Chablis: Domaine Long-Depaquit

Founded in 1791, the estate has 64 hectares, of which nine hectares are Grand Cru and 15 hectares are Premier Cru. From this estate, there are six Grand Cru wi

nes produced and six Premier Cru wines, as well as a Chablis Village wine.

2020 Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis – Vinified in stainless steel and aged for 10 months on the less in stainless steel, the wine has a pure, fresh nose of white flowers, citrus, green apple, and flint. 2020 was the hottest vintage in history, resulting in ripe wines with good aromatics. This wine is crisp with an iodine character on the palate.

2020 Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis 1er Cru Montmains – Montmains is a 1.2-acre vineyard that sits at a higher altitude. The grapes are hand-picked, and 65% is fermented in stainless steel and 35% is vinified in 1 to 5-year-old oak barrels. The wine has lovely floral aromas and flavors of toasted almond, but it is the beautiful minerality and complexity that stand out.

— Côte de Beaune: Domaine du Pavillon in Pommard

Located less than two miles south of Beaune, Domaine du Pavillon in Pommard has 16 hectares, including six hectares of white grape varieties. Two Grand Crus, seven Premier Crus and six village appellation wines produced from this estate. In Cote de Beaune, wines show intense aromas with floral, creamy and oak notes on the palate.

Understanding the terroirs of Bourgogne

2020 Albert Bichot Domaine du Pavillon Meursault 1er Cru “Les Charmes” – “Les Charmes” is a Premier Cru vineyard that is less than three acres in size and consists of calcareous clay soils. It is in Meursault, one of the flagship villages of Bourgogne. The Chardonnay grapes are hand-picked, vinified in oak barrels, of which 60% are new, and then aged in oak, of which 25% are new, for 12-15 months. White flowers, lemon, and almond aromas on the nose give way to a creamier, richer wine that is smooth and complex.

2017 Albert Bichot Domaine du Pavillon Pommard “Clos des Ursulines” Monopole – “Clos des Ursulines” is a 9-acre single vineyard is located at the southern end of Pommard, near Volnay. The grapes are hand-picked, fermented in oak and aged in oak, 20-30% new, for 14-16 months. Pommard is thought of as more structured, but this wine is lighter and more elegant. It has a fruity nose of cherry, blackcurrant, and fig, and on the palate, it has ripe tannins and velvety finish.

— Côte de Nuits: Domaine du Clos Frantin

This estate has 9.5 hectares planted, of which four hectares are Grand and Premier Cru. There are five Grand Cru wines produced at from estate, as well as two Premier Cru wines, and three village appellation wines.

2017 Albert Bichot Domaine Clos de Frantin Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Murots” – Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the great appellations in the Côte de Nuits and only Pinot Noir is grown here. Les Murots is a three-and-a-half-acre single plot located on a hill and has shallow soils with small stones. The wine has aromas of red and black fruits, as well as spice notes. It is a robust wine with velvety tannins and a long finish.

— Beaujolais: Domaine de Rochegès in Moulin à Vent

In 2015, Maison Albert Bichot purchased this 5.2-hectare vineyard in Moulin à Vent, one of the crus in Beaujolais. Two wines are produced from this estate.

2019 Domaine de Rochegès Moulin à Vent – The plot is named Rochegès, or gray rocks, for the granitic parent rock visible on the surface of the soil in the vineyard. The Gamay grapes are hand-picked and destemmed and 20% undergoes carbonic maceration. The wine undergoes a long maceration with lees stirring. The result is a wine with ripe red cherry, blackberry and spice aromas and an elegant roundness on the palate.

Albert Bichot also owns Château-Gris in Côte de Nuits, where one Premier Cru and one village appellation wine are sourced, and Domaine Adélie in Côte Chalonnaise, where one Premier Cru and two village appellation wines are sourced.

To understand Borgogne, one must appreciate terroir. And the wines of Albert Bichot express their terroir.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.