lways in the shadow of its considerably more well-known neighbour. Chablis is only a 30-minute drive away, but Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse is still a relatively unknown appellation. But things are picking up. Outside growers are showing an interest in the vineyards and there are discussions about a village appellation.
– Our dear neighbours, some of them have noticed that we exist and that there is a potential here, smiles Benjamin Borgnat at Domaine Borgnat.
Like most of the growers in Coulanges-la-Vineuse and nearby villages Domaine Borgnat has a very strong focus on the regional appellation Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse. From a total of 17 hectares Benjamin Borgnat and his wife Eglantine produce three different red cuvées of Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, one white and one rosé. The only other appellations are Bourgogne Aligoté and Crémant de Bourgogne.
– There are of course advantages of being close to Chablis, says Benjamin Borgnat. As long as you accept the fact that you are in the shadow, but I feel there is less and less of that.
Domaine Borgnat is located in Escolives-Sainte-Camille, one of the seven villages entitled to the Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse appellation. Eglantine Borgnat’s main responsibility is the winery, whereas Benjamin Borgnat mainly deals with the vineyards.
– We have three main types of terroir here, explains Benjamin Borgnat. Close to Coulanges-la-Vineuse you have earthy soil and tender rock producing round and fruity wines. The vineyards around Jussy are on steeper slopes, the rock is harder and there is less soil, and they produce wines with strong structure which are very good for ageing. The third type is found around La Cour Barré, which is something in-between the other two others. Both structure and fruity aromas.
Eglantine and Benjamin Borgnat took on the family domaine in 2001. Wine-making has a long history here, but it was not until they arrived that there was a wine-only approach. Previous generations had been working with multiple crops.
– Where we are today used to be the Château d’Escolives until it burnt down in the late 16th century, says Benjamin Borgnat. There was another castle built in Escolives, down in the valley, Château de Belombre. It is still there. This became the winery of the local seigneur. We believe they had about 150 hectares of vines. It all came to an end at the arrival of the phylloxera late 19th century.
The manager at the time, Henri Borgnat, decided to take on the estate himself. After the phylloxera devastation it took until after the wars before wine was produced again. Instead they concentrated on other crops.
Like in nearby Irancy the regulations for Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse allow some césar to be blended with the pinot noir. This grape variety adds some backbone to the wine, but is also quite unpredictable in the vineyard.
– It grows a lot, says Benjamin Borgnat, but it does not always produce as much as we would expect. It has not been selected as the pinot family because its genetics are not as flexible. But we still love our césar. It is part of the northern Burgundy history and probably one of the oldest traces of viticulture in Burgundy.
– In our Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse Château d'Escolives we put ten per cent césar and blend it with our most full-bodied pinot noir, says Eglantine Borgnat. It is a wine which is very good to age. After five to seven years the variety aromas don’t dominate anymore. Instead the terroir begins to show. The variety aromas from the césar are not as fruity as the ones from the pinot noir. More spicy.
She explains that for the basic red cuvée a few years ago they stared pressing the grapes before the alcoholic fermentation. This was in order to keep the fruit and avoid too much tannins.
– For the Château d'Escolives we have cold maceration before the fermentation, she says. By doing that we get another expression of the grapes. More extracted.
– Most of the time the wines from Coulanges are drunk young, says Benjamin Borgnat. The Coulanges vineyards are very good for enhancing the fruit flavours of the pinot noir. But to me, the true character of Coulanges lies in the terroir, the aromas that you get when the wine is mature.
The Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse appellation is for red, white and rosé. At Domaine Borgnat the rosé is made entirely from pinot gris.
– Elsewhere in Burgundy the pinot gris is a secondary grape variety, says, Eglantine Borgnat. You can use around 15 per cent in some red and rosés in Burgundy. When used on its own it produces a very different wine.
– It was only in 2011 that the rules changed, allowing us to use 100 per cent pinot gris, says Benjamin Borgnat. Before that it was tolerated, as was the case with the césar.
– For a long time people believed the pinot gris to be a pinot noir with little colour, but it is a pinot blanc with colour. The size and the shape of the berries and the bunches really are like the pinot blanc. It is the same thing with leaves. Sometimes you can find berries that are half yellow, like the pinot blanc, half grey/pink. Sometimes you find bunches with both yellow berries and grey/pink berries.
© 2013 Ola Bergman