Domaine de la Bongran is no ordinary Mâconnais estate. Since Jean Thévenet took over the domaine in 1972, this Viré-Clessé producer has become a cult name – with Jean a pioneer of organics and minimal intervention, as well as the estate’s unique wine style.
Based in the village of Quintaine – a hamlet between Viré and Clessé, Jean Thévenet and his son Gautier (who has been involved since 1996, at the helm since 2000) produce distinct wines that offer astounding value. They pick later than many of their neighbours, producing a richer style of Chardonnay. The wines are naturally generous and full-bodied, but with incredible concentration and amazing freshness. The Thévenets assign the latter to the estate’s white marl soils, which they feel enable the fruit to retain its acidity even when super-ripe.
The “dry” Cuvée E.J. Thévenet (previously known as Cuvée Tradition) has a touch of residual sugar (normally between 2 and 4g/l). This meant that for several years that the wine had to be declassified to Mâcon-Villages, as Viré-Clessé was – until 2003 – only permitted to have up to 2g/l residual sugar. After the warm 2003 vintage, a year in which many producers made wines with more than the permitted residual sugar for the appellation, the INAO changed the rules and Domaine de la Bongran could officially put Viré-Clessé on their labels once more.
The estate produces two other wines: the Cuvée Levroutée is an off-dry style (typically with around 18g/l residual sugar), only made in exceptional years with part-botrytised Chardonnay; the Cuvée Botrytis is a stunning sweet wine, made with botrytised fruit when the vintage conditions allow it.
They only release the wines when they feel they are ready to drink, often around four years or so after the vintage for the Cuvée E.J. Thévenet. The wines, however, age beautifully – often peaking after a decade in bottle.
The Thévenets have two other labels – Emilian Gillet and Domaine de Roally, working with different terroirs for each, but employing a similarly traditional approach in the winery.