Until the 1970s, this was the main economic model in Burgundy and often the only way for farmers to access the market. The largest producers have been bottling and selling their own wines for some time.
Louis Latour Cuveri Corton Grancy / Photo courtesy of Louis Latour
In the 1980s, more and more small farmers began bottling and selling wines under their own label. A few decades later, this practice changed its destiny and a flowering of quality and stylistic diversity ensued.
When these wines became available in the cellar, they were the subject of much media hype. That’s it. For some reason, the big transactions seemed less exciting.
Some Negroes had a bad reputation because they traded only in the name of Burgundy and did not maintain its quality. Those who languish while others focus on uncompromising quality. The best among them have an excellent track record and impressive vineyards throughout the region. They are called citizens or Negro merchants, who make wine from their own vineyards and buy the grapes.
Today, wines from these distributors can offer excellent value for money, especially since bottles from the most sought after small vineyards have become incredibly expensive and are only sold through distribution.
Burgundy has 3,577 wine growers who bottle their own wine. They are spread across 84 different appellations and 74,260 acres of vineyards, which can be very confusing. A good place to start is to learn about the four historic blacks and why they are important to the region’s past and present.
Consistency is the key for Louis Latour
The Latour family has owned vineyards in the region since 1731 and founded the house in 1797. She also continues her legacy as a staff member. The family continued to acquire vineyards and by 1860 was exporting Burgundy wines far beyond the United States, to Argentina and England.
Due to this success, Latour became a pure company in 1867.
Today it is managed by Louis-Fabrice Latour, who heads the 11th generation. Generation of family represented in the stands. He said Louis Latour owns 119 acres of vineyards in 24 Gold Coast appellations and buys grapes from 2,470 acres in 130 different appellations. All this gives an annual production of five million bottles.
In particular, the company owns over 62 acres of cruise vineyards.
The challenge is to keep the style and quality of the range consistent, he says. Contrary to what you might think, making a really good Burgundy Pinot Noir by selecting different wines from different producers is not an easy task.
The fact that the company produces wines from all over Burgundy, including lesser-known appellations, and distributes them through the Latour brand is also valuable to producers.
Latour is the name on the label, whether it’s a vintage or a name, and we have to be about quality, Latour says. Our customers are more willing to buy an unknown name because they know Louis Latour, they know our style.
Louis Jadot 1915 Chambertin bottles / Photo courtesy of Louis Jadot
Hands of approach in hands of Maison Louis Jadot
Pierre-Henri Gaget, president of Maison Louis Jadot in Beaune, explains that the house was established from the beginning, in 1859, with a small and inadequate vineyard, forcing Mr. Jadot to buy grapes from other owners to produce enough to sell on the market.
Since then it has been a neo-socialist, well represented in the state since the 1940s through a partnership with the Kopf family, founders of the Kobrand Corporation. Today he owns 346 hectares of vineyards with 80 appellations, as well as six cellars, from Chablis to Maconnais.
The opportunity we have with significant scale is to offer our customers regional appellations and rustic wines in sufficient quantity while being able to sell them everywhere, says Gagey. Our goal is of course to guarantee to all these wines produced in large quantities, authenticity with a precise character and high quality. This forces us to be very attentive, to have a team that goes to the vineyards, to work with the vintners who provide us with their grapes and, of course, to vinify as much as possible to respect the identity of each of our wines.
To this end, Jadot has his own vineyard and does not use herbicides in the vines. There is only one way to really show these intermediate steps.
We try at all costs not to make wines that have a house style, because we believe Burgundy is great when each terroir can express itself, says Gagey.
Vignoble Maison Albert Bichot Clos de Ursuline / Photo courtesy of Flor Deronger
Fast home working Albert-Bichot
The Albert Bijo Haus, founded in 1931, is the only neo-Greek with an organic certificate awarded in 2014.
The company owns 395 hectares of land in 51 appellations and buys grapes from a further 865 hectares, producing three million bottles a year. Alberik Bijo, whose grandfather was the first to export to the United States, is the sixth generation to run the family business. He says the house bought wine, not grapes.
Things have really changed since the early 2000s, he says. We decided to switch to a winemaking model to better control the supply and have better options in terms of style.
Under the family umbrella, the wines are named after individual vineyards in the region.
Domaine Long-Depaquit in Chablis, Domaine du Clos Frantin in Nuits-Sain-Georges, Domaine du Pavillon in Pommard and Cuvérie Colbert in Beaune [which is unique under the Bichot name], he says. We have a dedicated winemaker and team in each establishment.
Bijo has an appropriate formula for describing the visual identity of a house.
Origin plus freshness plus drinkability plus elegant structure plus energy equals Albert Bijo, he says. It is an immense privilege to be able to vinify, year after year, such a variety of appellations throughout Burgundy and to discover new secrets of certain terroirs. We also learn a lot about winemaking from them, thanks to our loyal grape suppliers.
Photo courtesy of Bouchard Pere et al.
No rules for Bouchard Per and Phila
According to Gilles de Larouzier, president of Maisons & Domaines Henriot, this conglomerate unites four houses that symbolize their region. They are Bouchard Père & Fils, founded in 1731 in Côte d’Or, William Fèvre in Chablis, Champagne Henriot and Beaux Frères in Oregon.
Everyone embodies the values and culture passed down in the family, he says. Bouchard Per & Fils operates 321 hectares of noble vines, planted on 142 plots in 100 different locations. To solve such a puzzle, a lot of knowledge and experience is of course needed.
Bouchard has owned the vineyards since 1775. Two-thirds of his possessions are firstborns and grandchildren, which is quite unusual. He buys grapes from another 321 hectares and produces 2.3 million bottles a year.
We are motivated more by terroir than house style, de Larouzier says. Every climate is unique. Each wine is an individual, almost a living being, with its own personality, character and behaviour. Listening and observing take precedence over action. An oenologist is a cellar master, not a winemaker.
He quotes the cellar master Friedrich Weber as saying: The rule is that there are no rules.
The Larouzier emphasizes a perspective that comes from deep roots in the past and a plan that looks to the future. It takes on the character of the custodian, not the owner.
To this end, the vineyards are being converted to organic viticulture.
By 2024, 321 hectares of land will be certified organic.
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