Domaine René Bouvier is a truly exciting estate in Marsannay – and one of a handful of properties bringing greater attention to a village once best known for its rosé.
The domaine was founded in 1910 by Henri Bouvier. In the 1950s, Henri’s son, René Bouvier, took over and greatly developed the then tiny estate, handing 12 hectares over to his son, current winemaker and owner, Bernard in 1992.
Bernard has transformed the property, more than doubling the holdings to its current 30 hectares (most recently taking over his brother Régis’s vines in 2019). He has placed more focus on work in the vineyards (which have been organic since 2009 and certified since 2013), built a new winery (in 2006) and tweaked the winemaking, with gentle extraction and sensitive use of oak.
The vineyards are all in the Côte de Nuits, with 23 dedicated to Pinot Noir and seven to white (a little Aligoté as well as Chardonnay). The majority (18 hectares) are in Marsannay, with a little in Fixin, Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-Saint-Denis, and some Bourgogne sites. In total, Bouvier produces 26 different cuvées, including some tiny volumes of Premiers and Grands Crus (Charmes-Chambertin and Echezeaux). In 1998, Bernard purchased Marsannay Le Clos, a three-hectare monopole. Many of the vines are old, with an average age of 40-50 years across the domaine (and some over 90 – including a plot used for the Racine du Temps cuvée), something that Bernard feels is key in bringing character and silky tannins to the wines.
The approach in the winery is to intervene as little as possible, focusing instead on the vineyard, where farming is organic (since 2009). Indeed, Bernard believes that the picking date alone is responsible for 80% of the final wine’s style. The wines are settled by gravity and the fermentations are all native. There’s 50-60% whole-bunch across the range and extraction gentle, with pigeage over 15-20 days. Apart from the Bourgogne Rouge (which has no new oak), the reds see 20% new oak for 12 months (light toast), then six months in tank prior to bottling. The whites are matured in demi-muid (600-litre barrels) to preserve their freshness and fruit. Bottling takes place in line with the lunar calendar, something they feel is key to capture the wines' character.
Bouvier makes “sans soufre” cuvées of three wines – bottlings which see no sulphur dioxide additions. He considers these neither better or worse, just different. These carry distinctively bright labels in contrast to the “classic” range’s white labels.
The domaine produces around 150,000 bottles a year.