Lauriane André and Jérôme Després at Domaine Françoise André, Beaune, Burgundy.

omaine Françoise André in Beaune has a peculiar past. From the Sylvain Pitiot-run set-up in the 1980s to the duo who has been calling the shots since 2010 – Lauriane André and Jérôme Després. From a hobby project born out of a passion for Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Vergelesses to an eleven-hectare domaine stretched across 19 parcels, from Pommard to the Corton hill, it has been an interesting ride.

– Jérôme was brave enough to start working with a blonde who knew nothing about wine, Lauriane André says with a smile.

Domaine Françoise André, Beaune, Burgundy.It was back in 1983. Michel André, Lauriane’s father-in-law and head of an accountancy company in Beaune, was able to acquire his first vineyard, a parcel in Les Vergelesses, the Savigny-lès-Beaune premier cru.

– He had many winegrowers among his clients, Lauriane André continues. The first time he was offered a glass of Les Vergelesses he fell in love with the terroir. But my parents-in-law were not winegrowers so when they had bought their first vineyard it was a friend of theirs, Sylvain Pitiot, who took care of the domaine between 1983 and 1990. After that he went on to Hospices de Beaune and Clos de Tart. Instead Philippe Senard and his daughter Lorraine helped out.

Corton Les Renardes.Michel and Françoise André have three sons – Frédéric, Rodolphe and Thierry. Lauriane André is married to Thierry and the original plan was that Rodolphe would take on the family domaine. In the end that didn’t happen and the family had to decide what to do with the domaine. Should they sell the wine in bulk? Should they put up the whole domaine for sale? All options were discussed.

– The three brothers did not want to sell the domaine, says Lauriane André. Instead they suggested that I’d take on the domaine. I was very surprised, because I had been studying law and was HR manager at a transport company.

Ladoix-Serrigny, view from Corton Les Renardes.– There is a big leap from liking wine to actually running a whole domaine. I took three months to think it over. Eventually I decided to do it. But not without proper training. In 2009 I was off to the Lycée Viticole in Beaune and in February 2010 we brought in Jérôme. He had previous experience from being régisseur at an estate in the Côte Chalonnasie.

2009 also saw the domaine change its name, from Domaine des Terregelesses to the current Domaine Françoise André. The main goal for the family was to improve quality at the domaine. Since the early years a large part of the production had ben sold off in bulk. This was now about to change and the farming was moving towards organic. In 2012 they were certified and since then all new vineyards have been converted to organic farming.

– The premier and the grand crus were in good shape when we stared, explains Jérôme Després. They had been ploughed and no weedkillers had been used. For the other vineyards, the lesser appellations below the slope, it was a whole different thing. That was a bit complicated. The root systems were all just below the surface. So the first times we ploughed those vineyards we uprooted a lot. It took us four-five years to get those vineyards in working order. Today the vines can take dry conditions much better. We no longer have a problem with yellow leaves and when we have had frost the vines recover better.

Jérôme Després at Domaine Françoise André in Beaune.Domaine Françoise André is the only remaining family domaine to vinify within the ramparts of Beaune. You’ll find a large portion of their vineyards on and around the Corton hill, in Pernand-Vergelesses, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Chorey-lès-Beaune and Aloxe-Corton. The Bourgogne Côte d’Or – both red and white – comes from a vineyard in Chorey-lès-Beaune. It had been abandoned for 20 years when they bought and replanted it. The first vintage in white was 2018 and 2019 for red.

Also in Chorey-lès-Beaune is Les Tue Boeuf, a village appellation Chorey-lès-Beaune northwest of the village, just next to the Beaune-Dijon road.

– It’s thanks to Sylvain Pitiot that we have this parcel of chardonnay in Chorey-lès-Beaune, says Lauriane André. In the past Chorey-lès-Beaune was all pinot noir. Sylvain wanted to experiment with this parcel and had part of it planted with chardonnay, so we were the first to make white Chorey-lès-Beaune. Today there are several others as well.

Lauriane André at Domaine Françoise André in Beaune.Pernand-Vergelesses at Domaine Françoise André is all white, both the village appellation Les Pins and the premier cru Sous Frétille.

– Les Pins is just 0.20 hectare, says Jérôme Després. It’s next to Sous Frétille, but with a southwestern exposure. It’s really a terroir for aligoté. There is still much aligoté planted there, but it suits the chardonnay very well too. You have clay and limestone. Very little soil, of the same kind you find in Sous Frétille. But Sous Frétille is facing straight south.

In 2014 the domaine bought a parcel in Bellisand, a premier cru in Beaune not far from the Parc de la Bouzaize. At the time it was planted with pinot noir, at least to some extent. 60 per cent of the vines were missing.

– When we uprooted the remaining vines we realised it was a terroir suited for white wine, says Lauriane André. Bellisand is small. Just four hectares in total. The same goes for the neighbouring Les Reversés, where we also have a parcel.

– Bellisand is almost flat, says Jérôme Després. You have 25-30 centimetres of soil. Large lumps of limestone. There is never a problem with water, because you have many springs higher up. We are below Clos de la Mousse and Clos des Avaux.

Beaune premier cru, Les Reversés.Then there is the premier cru which started it all – Les Vergelesses in Savigny-lès-Beaune. This is where Savigny-lès-Beaune meets Pernand-Vergelesses. It shares the slope with Île des Vergelesses, the Pernand-Vergelesses premier cru. While Île des Vergelesses is along the road to Beaune, Les Vergelesses occupies the top section of the slope.

– It’s closer to the village of Pernand-Vergelesses than it is to Savigny-lès-Beaune, says Jérôme Després. You have ten centimetres of soil, then you hit the rock. It is very difficult to plough in Les Vergelesses. But it is place which always produce rich and concentrated wines with a good minerality.

– These chardonnay vines are old, says Lauriane André. About 80 years old. The vineyard is facing east, so it gets the morning sun. Thanks to the age and the exposure you always get very good concentration.

Pernand-Vergelesses in Burgundy.The two grand crus of Domaine Françoise André are both on the Corton hill. Corton-Charlemagne on the Pernand-Vergelesses side and Corton Les Renardes on the Aloxe-Corton side.

– The Pernand-Vergelesses side is the cooler side, says Lauriane André. We have 35 ares and the vines are 35 years old.

– We are on the border between Pernand and Aloxe, continues Jérôme Després. Mid-slope. Domaine Bonneau du Martray is next to us and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti just above. It’s an interesting part of the appellation. The grapes do not ripen as early as on the south facing parts of the Corton hill. This part produces a wine which is good for laying down. The Corton-Charlemagnes towards Ladoix are easier to drink when young.

Corton Les Renardes sits above Corton Les Bressandes, touching on the Ladoix border and Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley to north and Corton Clos du Roi to the south.

– Our Corton Les Renardes is a parcel of 25 ares, says Lauriane André. The pinot noir vines are between 40 and 45 years old. As with our Pommard you could easily make a very hard wine, but we try to get the tannins well-integrated. First by punching down, then by pumping over.

© 2022 Ola Bergman