Caroline Bellavoine at Domaine Caroline Bellavoine in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain, Burgundy.

t was either Burgundy or Costières de Nîmes. Caroline Bellavoine grew up in Paris, but ended up in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain in the Couchois area of Burgundy.

– Wine has always been my passion. What I did for a living did not involve wine and I really wanted to make my own wine. So I signed up for wine school. Burgundy and Costières de Nîmes are two regions I’m very fond of. They are very different and I wanted to have my own vineyards. In Burgundy it is very hard to find vineyards to buy. In the Costières de Nîmes it is very much focused around co-ops and I felt it wasn’t my thing.

Saint-Sernin-du-Plain, Burgundy.So Burgundy it was. In 2003 Caroline Bellavoine settled in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain, a village with slightly less than 600 inhabitants. The Couchois area, centered around the village of Couches, is at the top of the Côte Chalonnaise, west of Bouzeron, Rully and Mercurey. It is one of the lesser known parts of Burgundy. The only appellation around here is the regional, red only, Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois. It’s a small appellation. Just eight hectares in total and some growers, Caroline Bellavoine included, just put Bourgogne on the label, with no mention of the Couchois.

– When I had completed my studies I registered with all the different organisations that help young winegrowers to start out, explains Caroline Bellavoine. I also decided to become an oenologist and by 2007 I had passed my degree. There was a grower here in the village who had two daughters and a son, but none of them was interested in taking on the family domaine.

Saint-Sernin-du-Plain, Burgundy.– I visited the domaine and I liked it a lot. There were many old parcels, but the vines were still in good shape. At the time the domaine covered nine hectares. Since then I have sold some parcels and acquired some new ones. Today I have six and a half hectares.

The domaine was originally the property of the abbey of Saint-Sernin-du-Plain. In the village there is a handfull of winegrowers. Most of them produce a range of wines including appellations such as Bourgogne, Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Maranges and Santenay.

– Around Saint-Sernin-du-Plain you’ll find very different soil types, says Caroline Bellavoine. You have different soil types suitable for different grape varieties. There is schist for the aligoté, granite for the gamay and clay-limestone for the pinot noir and the chardonnay.

Domaine Caroline Bellavoine in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain, Burgundy.Coming from a non-winegrowing family means you have to start from scratch in many respects. You have to create your own domaine and there is no previous generation to fall back on when you need help.

– My great-grandfather was a farmer further south in Burgundy. He had some vineyards. When I started out with my domaine my great-uncle told me my great-grandfather would have been proud, because wine was his passion. It took me about 15 years to really become accepted and part of the village.

The Bourgogne aligoté of Domaine Caroline Bellavoine comes from a slope close to the village. The vines are between 25 and 30 years old.

Saint-Sernin-du-Plain, Burgundy.– I use whole bunches, she says. At harvest we use small cases for the grapes. I press gently using an old Vaslin press. Fermentations are completed only with the indigenous yeasts and there is only a light filtration.

The Bourgogne rosé is a blend of gamay and pinot noir, with slightly more of the former. The white Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune comes from Dezize-lès-Maranges, a ten-minute drive to the northeast from Saint-Sernin-du-Plain.

Many of the parcels for the Bourgogne rouge have reached a respectable age, well above 50 years. They are located up on the slopes as well as on the flatter parts near the village.

Les Varennes, Dezize-lès-Maranges, Burgundy.– One of the slopes is mainly clay and limestone, says Caroline Bellavoine. The other is schist, which I like because it produces softer tannins. It is more stony, which forces the vines' roots to grow deep, while the clay-limestone parcel has deeper soil. Together, the two make a nice blend. Depending on the vintage I change the proportions.

This Bourgogne rouge could be labelled and sold as Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois, but since the appellation is not particularly well-known, neither in France nor abroad, Caroline Bellavoine feels it is easier to put just Bourgogne on the label.

Caroline Bellavoine at Domaine Caroline Bellavoine in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain, Burgundy.There is also some Bourgogne blanc on its way. Chardonnay vines have been planted in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain and 2021 will be the first vintage.

Maranges is the village appellation shared by the three villages of Dezize-lès-Maranges, Sampigny-les-Maranges and Cheilly-les-Maranges. The Maranges of Domaine Caroline Bellavoine comes from Les Varennes, a lieu-dit to the immediate west of Dezize-lès-Maranges.

– The soil in Les Varennes contains some schist, says Caroline Bellavoine. It gives the wine a certain lightness that I like. It’s at the bottom of the slope and the vines are 35–40 years old. Maranges is an appellation which has an image of being a bit austere. The new generation of growers has changed this. Today the focus is more on fruit. Some people are very surprised when they taste this kind of Maranges, expecting something much tougher.

Since 2007 she has also been making a Crémant de Bourgogne. It is a blend of pinot noir, gamay and aligoté.

– For the base wine I use barrels from Chassagne-Montrachet which have already been used for two wines. I keep the wine there for a couple of months in order to round it off.

© 2020 Ola Bergman