ierre Berlancourt and his family used to live in the Haute-Savoie. But Burgundy and the chardonnay were calling. Since 2008 they run Domaine Berlancourt in Meursault, one of Burgundy’s smallest estates. It is only about one hectare. All vines are in Puligny-Montrachet, but in the regional appellation.
– You have some nice wines in the Haute-Savoie, says Pierre Berlancourt. You have the Mondeuse, the Abymes and the Apremont for instance. But for us it was not very challenging, so we decided to move so we could work with the chardonnay.
Adrien Berlancourt, the son of Gisèle and Pierre, grew up in the world of wine. His father spent a large part of his life being a sommelier, which gave the young Adrien the opportunity to taste many different wines. In the end he decided to go to wine school.
– Today we work together. We discuss everything and we make the decisions together. Most of the time we agree, smiles Pierre Berlancourt. We are a very tight team. Coming here and start from scratch was very tough. It is very difficult to find vineyards. We bought what we could find, which meant Bourgogne vineyards. But we try to make the most out of it. We try produce village appellation quality, if not premier or grand cru.
Yields at Domaine Berlancourt are very low. That is part of the strategy to make the most of the modest appellations of the domaine. In 2011 the yield for Bourgogne, Les Champans was 20 hl/ha. Four years later it was as low as 9 hl/ha. The maximum yield allowed for Bourgogne blanc is 68 hl/ha.
– The élevage at the domaine is very long, explains Pierre Berlancourt. For our 2011s the élevage was almost two and a half years. Our neighbours here do about ten months. We always keep our wine in barrel over two winters.
From their modest holdings they produce four cuvées, three white and one rosé, all regional appellation. All vineyards of Domaine Berlancourt are located in the plain east of the route nationale in Puligny-Montrachet.
– It’s a very good part of Puligny-Montrachet. In Meursault you don’t have any vines on this side of the road, but in Puligny there is a lot. The terroir is excellent and that is why domaines like Arnaud Ente, Sauzet, Romanée-Conti, Leroy etc have land there. A Bourgogne from there is much better than a Bourgogne from elsewhere.
Domaine Berlancourt has vines in two lieux-dits there, Les Équinces and Les Champans. From the former they produce their Bourgogne, Les Équinces and the cuvée Bourgogne, La Demoiselle. From the latter they produce another white as well as their rosé, both called Les Champans.
– The vines in Les Équinces are young, planted in 2002 on very good rootstocks, says Pierre Berlancourt. They don’t produce much. The soil is heavy clay, which makes the vines suffer. The yield is 30–32 hl/ha at the most. Small bunches. Lots of sugar, lots of taste. The soil in our parcel is whiter than our neighbours’, where it is more red.
He describes the wines of Meursault as having two different styles. There is the Domaine Coche-Dury style, very oxidative and expressive, and there is the Domaine Roulot style, very pure and linear.
– In terms of style we are more Roulot, says Pierre Berlancourt. We protect our wines from oxidation, from beginning to end. Our wines are very pale and they can be kept for very long.
– Domaine Roulot is probably the best domaine there is. Very smoky character when the wines are young, but you must wait.
The second parcel in Les Équinces, which is used for the La Demoiselle cuvée, is facing north. It is harvested two weeks later and unlike Les Équinces it doesn’t see any new oak.
– Thanks to the late harvest it gets a fatter character. The skins and pips are riper.
About one kilometre from Les Équinces is Les Champans, still on the eastern side of the route nationale. The vineyard is a gentle slope facing straight south. There are two parcels, one planted with chardonnay and one with pinot noir for the rosé.
– This is our grand cru, says Pierre Berlancourt about the white Les Champans. This plot is so good I think it would merit a reclassification to village appellation Puligny-Montrachet. The soil is not so white there. It contains more iron. The character of the soil is not the same as in Les Équinces. It is more like modelling clay. The vines are 30 years old.
At Domaine Berlancourt all work is done by hand and the annual output is between 4000 and 5000 bottles. Because of the size of the domaine they are not seeking any organic or biodynamic certification.
– Our philosophy is simple, says Pierre Berlancourt. We do everything possible to preserve nature. We do it for nature itself, not so much for the people drinking the wines. We do very few treatments. Only four or five a year. There are organic growers who spray ten to 15 times a year. In the cellar we never chapitalize and we always use indigenous yeast. Certification costs money and since we are such a small domaine that wouldn’t be possible.
© 2016 Ola Bergman