My first experience of the Bouzereau family was arriving to find Vincent, complete with mischievous countenance and cigarillo in mouth, parading through their courtyard carrying a naval sized union jack flag. Domaine Vincent Bouzereau is the first of two Burgundy domains I will be calling home for a month, the second being Domaine Lignier Michelot. If we’re talking stereotypes, and Bordeaux is known for its business-like approach, then Burgundy must be for its tradition, community and enigmatic nature; but I am already finding truth in this stereotype and there is a definite familial vibe around Meursault. As the vendange (harvest) does not begin for a few days my first day is spent bottling the 2012 Meursault Blanc of Domaine Jean Marie Bouzereau, Vincent’s cousin. Domaine Vincent Bouzereau creates 20 different wines - 10 white, 10 red - from Bourgogne to 8 1er Crus and 2 Grands Crus. Strangely enough neither of them believes that having the experience of making so many different wines has made them better winemakers, and both disagree with my proposition that it must be an advantage over their Bordeaux counterparts who may produce only one Grand Vin annually. There is no pomp or ceremony here and both Vincent and Jean-Marie work shifts “mise en bouteille”; it is a remarkably repetitive job and processing around 7000 a day I found myself longing for ever approaching vendange.
The flag was the first of many eccentricities; the whole family harbours a very playful sense of humour which is probably necessary in the raising of 6 children. When, over a dinner of Mont d’Or cheese, potatoes and Vincent’s fine 2009 Meursault Les Poruzots, I ask if the son Antoine plays any musical instruments, he replies “Piano, guitar…” and one other I did not know the translation of. When I ask him what this is he shares a look with Vincent and they both leave the table and room; not 30 seconds pass before there is a thunderous trumpeting from the living room, the remaining family are in hysterics at my confusion, and I follow the noise to find both utterly florid-faced and holding les “Trompettes de Chasse”, traditional French hunting horns… After a minute of booming noise I tell them that their neighbours must hate them - Vincent simply replies “My family have been here for 400 years. They will have to deal with it.”
After several days of bottling, to my delight and relief, I am reassigned for “enlever les agraffes” (the removal of the vines guidance clips for easier access to the grapes). I was warned by my family that working in the vines was backbreaking work; I didn’t believe this was literal but after 9 hours in the vines, bending to knee level – not to mention being a man of a decent height at 6’3 – I realized that this was an entirely justified turn of phrase and it is a wonder that Burgundians aren’t dwarves out of necessity! It was very enjoyable work due to the fantastic weather, the kind that would have British tabloids railed up into venturing onto the international meteorological scene for competition with exotic countries (albeit in their winters).
Sunday as the day of rest was spent driving around with the family in a 1937 Citroen Traction and a 1927 Citroen B14, old motor vehicles being the family passion outside of oenological pursuits, and visiting a gallery at Chateaux Pommard. Being Catholic, the family attended mass on Sunday and when they returned had a few fellow Vignerons around for an ‘aperitif’ which consisted of several good bottles from the domaine including a Meursault Narvaux from my birthyear - 1995. I later found out that they use a good Meursault for the local communion wine: as a result I am strongly considering attending next Sunday.
The food has been excellent and the wine ever present and always delightful. The family definitely buy into one of Vincent’s favourite phrases: ‘if you work hard you must eat and drink well’. Today we finished enlever les agraffes and begin the vendange tomorrow.