Domaine Boyer-Martenot in Meursault goes back four generations. The new millennium has seen the young generation – Sylvie Boyer and her brother Vincent Boyer – taking charge. After some years together they are now taking the next step, separating Sylvie Boyer's négociant business from the family domaine, that Vincent Boyer is running.
– After three-four years I feel that this is not working very well, Sylvie Boyer explains. It is very difficult to speak for both companies. People get confused. They don't know which one is which. That's why we have decided to separate the two. So I can get more of my own identity.
Together with her brother she is sitting in the office of Domaine Boyer-Martenot on Rue de Mazeray in the eastern part of Meursault, right by Place de l'Europe. The new premises for her négociant business will be on Rue des Plantes at the other end of the village, close to Auxey-Duresses. They both agree on that this will be the last interview they do together for a long time, just to avoid further confusion.
– My first vintage was 2003, Sylvie Boyer continues. That was when I started my own business. At the same time I was handling the marketing for the family domaine. I did a website under my name, with the family domaine included as a subsection.
After a brief period together with their father Vincent Boyer is now in charge at Domaine Boyer-Martenot.
– Working with my father wasn't a good idea, says Vincent Boyer with a smile that explains it all. So in 2002 I did everything myself.
But did they both agree on this?
– Oh yes, chuckles Vincent Boyer. I like my father very much, but it is not really a good idea to work together.
Boyer senior was happy to step down, letting his son go ahead on his own.
Today Domaine Boyer-Martenot covers 10 hectares, while Maison Sylvie Boyer's annual output is 6000 bottles. When the domaine was founded by Lucille Boyer in the late 19th century the situation in Meursault was quite different. Vincent Boyer explains that most winegrowers had to rely on other crops as well in order to survive. And since the wine business wasn't flourishing land wasn't particularly expensive either. Thanks to this she could buy some nice pieces of land, such as Le Cailleret in Puligny-Montrachet (right north of Montrachet, above Les Pucelles).
– She lost her husband when she was only 25, says Vincent Boyer. At the end of her life the domaine covered 17 hectares. This was then divided between her two sons.
– One of them was our grandfather – Fernand Boyer, continues Sylvie Boyer. He married Juliette from Puligny and she brought some Puligny vineyards with her. They had a son, our father. He married our mother, who also had a wine estate – Martenot-Ropiteau. So she brought more premier cru, such as Charmes, Genevrières and some Pommard.
Before returning to the family domaine after wine school both Sylvie Boyer and Vincent Boyer did internships in several places around the world.
– Everything is a good experience, says Vincent Boyer. I was in Napa Valley for three months at a really small domaine – Truchard Vineyards. It was really interesting. I also went to Australia, to Yering Station. I wanted to do more internships, but there wasn't time for it. I needed to work.
– I had been to California, to Nalle Winery, when a friend called and asked if I wanted to go with her to Australia, says Sylvie Boyer. Australia was interesting, because the winery where I worked used 8000 tonnes of grapes and had two teams working, one for the day and one for the night.
Since Sylvie Boyer's stay there Miranda Wines has been acquired by McGuigan Simeon Wines. In 2004 the company crushed 245 000 tonnes of grapes from company owned and contractual vineyards from regions including the Upper & Lower Hunter Valleys, Cowra, Mudgee, Barossa Valley, Limestone Coast, Riverland and Sunraysia.
– The people I worked with didn't know very much about wine and the winemaker and the oenologist were very difficult to approach. The people working with me were only smoking marijuana and drinking beer.
– It was a good experience…, she smiles. But not for the winemaking.
She is much happier with the year she spent at Black Ridge Vineyard in Central Otago in New Zealand. She got many good friends and learnt a lot. Since then she is trying to go back every year, back to what she describes as a small Burgundy.
– The winemaker of Black Ridge is coming to Burgundy every year for the harvest.
– New Zealand is interesting because they are beginning to talk about terroir. They are working very carefully with their parcels. It is very interesting to work with them. We've got to respect each other. When I go to New Zealand I am always very welcome and they show me everything.
The internationalisation in winemaking has made its mark in Burgundy. In the young generation many travel abroad to learn more about winemaking. Experiences are shared between regions and countries. And the international competition has not passed unnoticed either.
– It's harder to sell the generic wines from Burgundy (such as Bourgogne rouge or Bourgogne blanc), says Vincent Boyer. For Meursault it is different since the production is fairly small and the demand big.
– We had some difficulties a few years ago, says Sylvie Boyer. But now with the younger generation taking over the family businesses things are changing. They have new ideas about marketing etc. And because of this I think we can do well in the competition.
© 2007 Ola Bergman
Note: Since the interview Sylvie Boyer has decided to call it a day with her négociant business and has moved on to other projects.