n Meursault you need to harvest the chardonnay a bit early. Because with the terroir of Meursault you will have the fat added to the wine. And if you don’t have enough acidity to begin with it will be a disaster in the end.
Nicolas Bernard at Domaine Bernard-Bonin in Meursault runs a seven-hectare estate together with his wife Véronique Bernard Bonin. It is an all white domaine with all vines located in either Meursault or neighbouring Puligny-Montrachet.
– With the white wines of the Côte de Beaune you have the fat and the minerality, he continues. In order to link the two in an elegant way you need acidity. If you don’t have the acidity you will not have a balanced wine. You need the acidity from the grapes. Adding acidity afterwards only works for wines meant to be drunk immediately.
The majority of the vines at Domaine Bernard-Bonin are in Meursault. The remaining in Puligny-Montrachet. In Meursault there are various village appellation vineyards such as Clos du Cromin, Les Tillets and Limozin. On premier cru level they have Genevrières and Charmes-Dessus in Meursault and La Garenne and Les Folatières in Puligny-Montrachet.
– We took on the domaine in 1998, explains Véronique Bernard Bonin. My grandfather had a domaine, Domaine Michelot, which covered 21 hectares. He had tree daughters. Initially all three worked together with him; it’s the house just across the road from here. Then Jean-François Mestre from Santenay married the youngest of my aunts and he started to work at the domaine too.
– In 1998 my grandfather decided to split the domaine in three. For Nicolas and me it was a good time to take my mother’s vineyards and make our own vines. I didn’t want to work with my aunts and my uncle. The two of us wanted to do something more authentic.
Véronique Bernard Bonin describes the philosophy at Domaine Bernard-Bonin as lutte intergrée, basically a mix between several different methods.
– At each moment we choose which is the method to use, she says. We try to intervene as little as possible. Our philosophy is to be as natural as possible. It is part lutte raisonnée and part organic wine growing. We use some sulphur, but no copper because it stays in the soil.
– We plough the soil a lot, says Nicolas Bernard. Even during the winter. By doing that we cut off the lateral roots. These roots don’t add any terroir to the wine.
The Meursault premier cru Genevrières of Domaine Bernard-Bonin comes from vines both in Genevrières-Dessus and Genevrières-Dessous.
– For Genevrères the growers have never made a distinction between the two parts, the upper and the lower, Genevrières-Dessus and Genevrières-Dessous, says Nicolas Bernard. That has always been the case with Meursault Charmes, where the Dessus part is considered to be better in terms of quality, mainly because the Dessous part is flat.
– The soil in Genevrères is quite homogenous. Perhaps a bit stonier in the upper part. In the lower part you have 50 centimeters of loose soil. When you plough the upper part you hit rocks all the time.
Still, the two plots produce wines different in style, which are blended into one single cuvée. Véronique Bernard Bonin explains that Genevrères-Dessus produces a spicier wine, whereas Genevrières-Dessous produces a more buttery wine.
– We use 25 per cent of new oak for all our wines, says Nicolas Bernard. But once we have bought them we use them for a long time. The ones we buy new we use for a long time. And the barrels are always used for the same wine. A barrel once used for Les Tillets for instance will always be used for Les Tillets.
The vines in Charmes have an average age between 50 and 60 years. At Domaine Bernard-Bonin they never replant whole parcels. Instead, whenever a vine dies it is replaced. Therefore it is a bit difficult to tell the average age of the vines.
– Clos du Cromin in Meursault was planted in 1972, says Véronique Bernard Bonin. That’s our youngest vineyard. When you replant one vine at the time the old vines protect the young ones. If you replant everything at once all your vines are young and vulnerable.
Clos du Cromin is village appellation Meursault in the northern part of the village, just below the camping. Its ten hectares are split between a dozen or so owners.
– The soil in Clos du Cromin is deep, says Nicolas Bernard. It is clay and limestone, but not so much limestone. The soil is deep and the vines can easily absorb nutrients. This always produces structured wines. It’s a real clos, meaning there are still walls on all four sides. The exposure is south east and inside this clos the grapes ripen very quickly. Wait a few days too long and you’ll end up with a wine with notes of quince. If you harvest a bit early instead you’ll have a wine with a more citrusy character, with more minerality and complexity coming from the terroir.
South of Meursault, in Puligny-Montrachet, Domaine Bernard-Bonin is represented in both Les Folatières and La Garenne. Both are premier crus on the Meursault side of the village. La Garenne is higher up on the slope than Les Folatières.
– In Les Folatières there is no soil, smiles, Nicolas Bernard. Ten centimetres, that’s all there is. After that you’re on the bedrock. Our parcel is in the part of Les Folatières called Peux Bois, the southern part.
– It’s very difficult to replant there because of the lack of soil, Véronique Bernard Bonin. The vines are old. On average 80 years old. This parcel always produces very small and concentrated grapes.
© 2014 Ola Bergman