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Average critic rating : 91.5 points
The home estate of one of Burgundy's greatest winemakers, Jean Thevenet, Domaine de la Bongran's 1994 Macon-Clesse Cuvee Tradition is a stunning wine that has to be tasted to be believed. As I have said before when recommending other vintages of this wine, when I have served these wines blind, tasters tend to think they are grand cru white Burgundies from Puligny- or Chassagne-Montrachet. The 1994, which tips the scales at 14.5% natural alcohol, is a light gold-colored wine with a knock-out nose of honeyed tropical fruits (primarily pineapple), medium to full body, gorgeous ripeness and richness, excellent balance, and a long, fresh finish. Much like his Macon-Vire produced under the Emilien Gillet label, this Macon-Clesse is a naked, unadulterated expression of the Chardonnay grape, with no new oak, but tons of fruit and personality. These wines are delicious young, but have an amazing track record for aging 10 or more years in vintages such as 1994. This is one of the top 1994 white Burgundies I have tasted. Jun 1997, www.robertparker.com
Brilliant. Seductive and exotic, a full-bodied, rich, ripe Chardonnay with flavors of peach, apricot, honey, almond, pear, mango and fresh herbs that build up to a formidable, intense, flawless finish that lasts for minutes. Amazing quality for a Mâcon. 1,665 cases made. May 1997, www.winespectator.com
Domaine de la Bongran (Jean Thevenet): The Importance
Jean Thévenet and his son Gautier produce some of Burgundy’s most idiosyncratic, rich, energetic and simply brilliant expressions of Chardonnay, all punching well above their price tag. Almost inexplicably these outstanding wines remain relatively under-the-radar, despite huge critical acclaim…
“These are the wines of a genius.” – Robert Parker
“The quality of what is produced here is mind boggling.” – Allen Meadows
“What are these rich, unctuous wines doing here among their taut, steely, minimalist counterparts?” – Neal Martin
“Wine aficionados like to root for a winemaker who lives and breathes his calling. This is the story of a man who inspires just such support. He is Jean Thévenet, a 52-year-old grower in Burgundy. He’s obsessed with quality and makes terrific, highly distinctive white Burgundy…. Thévenet puts to shame many other producers in the Mâconnais.” – Wine Spectator
"One of Burgundy's greatest winemakers... served blind, tasters tend to think they are Grand Cru white Burgundies from Puligny- or Chassagne-Montrachet." – Robert Parker
As proof of just how idiosyncratic these wines are, Neal Martin admitted in 2014 that: "I misjudged the wines from Domaine de la Bongran. I thought I would just come out and say it. You never get everything right... I requested a tête-à-tête not just to re-examine the wines, but to do so after learning and discovering the modus operandi and motives first-hand. And as I expected, perhaps as I hoped, I departed with a completely different outlook upon Thévenet’s wines" He concluded that these wines are a "revelation" that "deserve cellaring."
Domaine de la Bongran (Jean Thevenet): The Insight
Bongran's wines are truly unique. Nobody in Burgundy makes wine the way the Thévenets do on their traditional organically-farmed 15 hectare estate planted on white marl in the hamlet of Quintaine, just north of Clessé. Grapes are left to hang on the vines until they are ultraripe and even botrytised. The grapes are then gently squeezed in a Coquard press until every ounce of flavour and all the intensely honeyed aromatics have been harvested. The wines undergo ultra long fermentation and ageing on the fine lees, and are held back in the cellars at the domaine's expense, only being released when they are deemed ready to drink or as Wine Spectator put it: "mature and ready to be enjoyed."
Henri Jayer once said that a winemaker needs a chair. Less intervention, more reflection. This is somewhat mirrored in Jean Thevent’s motto: “Terroir is to wine what a composer is to music. The winemaker being only the conductor.” In the cellars of Domaine de la Bongran intervention is minimal, with fermentations sometimes taking up to two years. The grapes are harvested late, and the rich, sweet juice is then given all the time it needs. The wines are never released before they are deemed ready to drink, and have the structure and balance to age for decades. Easily a match for the best of Puligny or Chassagne-Montrachet, they are examples of the heights that can be achieved with traditional winemaking methods. FINE+RARE is proud to be their key UK importer.
Domaine de la Bongran (Jean Thevenet): The Background
Domaine de la Bongran is a family winery created several centuries ago and passed from generation to generation. They requested certification in organic farming from Ecocert in 2008 and produce wines “aimed at a clientele of wine lovers.”
The Viré-Clessé, also known as Cuvée Tradition, is the most popular wine offering rich complexity, freshness and power with finesse. Cuvée Levrouté (or Levroutee) is made from grapes at the stage of botrytisation, adding honey and truffle to the flavour profile. Cuvée Botrytis is rare and rich, coming from partially or fully botrytised grapes.
The Thévenets have a second Mâconnais domaine, Emilian Gillet, founded in 1988. These wines are on vines planted on chalkier more limestone-rich soil than the Bongran vines, and are more mineral, and crisper as a result. Gautier Thévenet also runs Domaine de Roally, purchased fromHenri Goyard, in Viré overlooking the Saône plain, which produces citrusy wines sold in the US and Japan.
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