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Domaine Gérard Boulay

‘Pristine wines to behold.’: New ’23 Releases and ’22 Big Guns
Domaine Gérard Boulay
It was great fun pouring these wines at our recent Loire Valley jamboree. This was the first time many in our audience had the chance to taste one or two of the top single-vineyard wines from one of the superstar growers on one of the greatest terroirs of northern France—Chavignol. It’s safe to say many were left astonished by the quality and style of the wines they tasted, which is about as far as you can get from typical modern-day Sancerre without ending up in Chablis. It’s also safe to say that many were equally fascinated by the centuries-long past of this producer and its revered vineyards. It’s not every day you get to taste a wine from a vineyard that first appeared in documents dating to 1328, as with Boulay’s Le Clos de Beaujeu.

A bit of history helps us understand what makes people consider Chavignol’s wines the highest expression of Sancerre and sui generis Sauvignon Blanc. Despite its proximity to the town, this small village (about one-third of the size of the Chablis Grand Cru) has a proud identity. For centuries before the advent of the Sancerre appellation, the Boulay family and their peers had long bottled their wines under the name Chavignol. In 1956, Pierre Bréjoux—a high-ranking official at the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine—noted in his Les Vins de Loire that the name of Chavignol on the grower’s label seemed to take on greater importance than the name of Sancerre. Indeed, the Boulay’s famed Comtesse vineyard on Monts-Damnés was only grafted after 1945, making it France’s last ungrafted white-grape vineyard, as La Romanée-Conti was for red grapes. Many years later, when Didier Dagueneau finally acquired a slice of Chavignol after years of waiting, he wanted to call his wine simply ‘Chavignol’ to differentiate it from the rest of Sancerre.

This place commands such renown inside and outside the village because the steep Kimmeridgian terroir transcends the variety grown here: the wines are more fleshy, opulent and less varietal. In the hands of the best growers, a Chavignol is a wine with a rippling Chablis-like texture—perhaps unsurprising as they share the same soils—and characteristics of stone fruit and ripe citrus shot through with fresh-cut herbs and steely minerality. They are wines with enormous, seductive, earthy appeal, even for those not typically fans of the grape. They are Chavignol first, Sancerre second and Sauvignon third.

The Wines

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Clos Beaujeu 2022

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Clos Beaujeu 2022

Le Clos de Beaujeu is one of Boulay’s thoroughbred historic sites. Boulay farms two parcels in this terroir, including one within the original clos of this vineyard, established by the monks of Beaujeu in the Middle Ages. This parcel is historically known as Le Grand Clos. For this reason, Boulay names this wine Clos de Beaujeu rather than the more ubiquitous Cul de Beaujeu. In his book Le Vignoble de Chavignol, Thibaut Boulay notes that this vineyard first appears in documents dating to 1328 as the Clausus de Bellojoco, indicating this terroir’s age-old origins. 

Vines on this slope of Kimmeridgian limestone and clay (terre blanches) sit between 30 and (a remarkable) 110 years old. The soils here are particularly rocky—limestone-rich and strewn with fossils—making this parcel difficult to farm. A second, even steeper parcel at a 60% gradient lies closer to the village. These southeast-facing plots make the Clos de Beaujeu the source of some of the domaine’s most structured and nervy wines. This cuvée ferments spontaneously and rests in large, upright cask (60%) and three- and four-year-old 300-litre barrels (40%) for 10 months.  

The 2022 season has yielded a special Clos Beaujeu that promises to age for decades. Right now, there is a racy, floral and mineral attack underscored by citrus oil, while the palate is long and seamless, wreathed in sea spray and Mirabelle plum favour with a savoury edge. Closes with exceptional focus and grip on the long and still quite reserved finish. Fabulous. Gerard Boulay recently opened a 2001 for us that was singing. This wine also has decades ahead of it, yet is so well-balanced that those curious can certainly drink it in its youth with great pleasure. 

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Clos Beaujeu 2022
Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Comtesse 2022

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Comtesse 2022

This rare bottling comes from just 0.4 hectares of 70-year-old vines in the Comtesse lieu-dit at the chalky epicentre of Les Monts-Damnés. For hundreds of years or more, locals have considered this vineyard the finest single terroir of Chavignol. According to Thibaut Boulay, the first mention of the ‘Montdampni’ appeared in documents held by the Abbaye de Saint-Satur in 1252. In his Le Vignoble de Chavignol, Thibaut then reminds us that at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878, the Comtesse lieu-dit was already considered a true star of the Sancerrois, its wines served on the most renowned tables of northern France. As another marker of its historical reverence, the Comtesse parcel was only grafted after 1945; before that, it remained the last ungrafted white vineyard in France, as La Romanée-Conti was for red grapes. 

The soil composition is pure Kimmeridgian limestone and consists of a miserly 30- to 40-centimetre layer of topsoil over solid limestone bedrock. This brings intense minerality and warmth as the rocky soil absorbs the sun’s heat and re-radiates it at night. Yet it is also a cooler, less exposed place, so it always produces fully ripe fruit and intense freshness while also finer and more restrained than a typical Monts-Damnés—hence, the historical fame. 

This has diamond-cut clarity allied to perfectly ripe fruit intensity that are the hallmark of this release—and there’s also something more elemental. Again, the sunny season has done nothing to blunt the razor-edge precision of this grower’s Sancerre. Marked by the soil rather than the sun, this wine often incorporates the greatest elements of all Boulay’s vineyards. It has a seductive texture and nectarine-like fruit, yet also thoroughbred restraint, great line, mineral clarity, and box-office chalky length. A Grand Cru in all but name, 20 years will not weary this astonishing young Sancerre. 

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Comtesse 2022
Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre La Côte 2022

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre La Côte 2022

First made as a single parcel in 2010, La Côte comes from the majestic La Grande Côte vineyard (sometimes referred to as La Côte d’Amigny), a south/southeast-facing hillside on the outskirts of Chavignol. La Côte has quickly become one of the heavyweights of Boulay’s range. This is the domaine’s coolest terroir and the last to be picked. The site’s pure Kimmeridgian limestone soils and the late picking date deliver density and absurd precision on the palate. Vinified and aged in three- and four-year-old barrels, the terroir gives a more expressive style than Monts-Damnés, yet one that still bristles with tension and mineral notes.

If the vines are still relatively young by this domaine’s standards (a good 20 years all the same), they nevertheless express the mineral essence of this limestone terroir with incredible intensity. As always, La Côte is the most open of the single-vineyard wines, this year leading with ripe citrus—in the orange/bergamot spectrum—and crystalline passionfruit aromas. The palate is deep, complex, radiant and focused, with a great core of spicy fruit, driving acids and lovely purity, tapering to a super long, chalk-licked finish. It has everything to go toe-to-toe with a top Premier Cru Burgundy. 


Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre La Côte 2022
Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Rosé Sibylle 2023

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Rosé Sibylle 2023

Given its size, Sancerre is home to a disproportionate number of France’s great rosé wines. Think, to name a few, Alphonse Mellot, Cotat and Vacheron. We have only been shipping this rosé in recent vintages because (to be honest) we didn’t know it existed until then. We asked Gérard why he hadn’t offered us the wine before. “You didn’t ask,” he replied. There’s a lesson there. Anyway, this gorgeous rosé is drawn from 35- to 50-year-old Pinot Noir vines—explicitly grown to make rosé—on the steep hillside of Chavignol. Boulay selects from roughly 0.8 hectares, sometimes across a little more in vintages that are difficult for reds (which 2023 wasn’t).

This fruit was hand-harvested and macerated for 24 hours. The press wine and free-run juice were fermented wild (vinified separately). Boulay blocks the malolactic conversion to keep tension, and no oak is involved. The new release opens with mineral-accented red berries, juicy, mouthwatering watermelon, mint and orange peel. Bustling with clarity and crunchy vibrancy, the palate is pure silk, with an array of pretty red fruit and grape-skin flavours punctuated by crunchy freshness. Great length, too. A serious and seriously delicious Chavignol rosé. 

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre Rosé Sibylle 2023
Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre à Chavignol 2023

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre à Chavignol 2023

Jumping straight in at the deep end, Boulay’s entry-level is drawn from mature, 35- to 50-year-old vines rooted entirely in the limestone soils of Chavignol. The multiple sites are largely slopes on the Chavignol hillside terroirs of Les Chasseignes, Les Longues Fins and La Rue de Veaux. This is quite distinct from most Sancerre derived from the plains, with more fertile and productive soils. Importantly, Boulay also includes fruit from younger vines on the “star” terroirs of La Grande Côte, Clos de Beaujeu and Monts Damnés.

The juice ferments spontaneously and rests for eight months in tank, on lees, with a small volume also fermented in a single large wooden cask. This is the only blended cuvée in the Boulay lineup, yet even here, we can taste the finesse, texture and stony/earthy/salty minerality that has made this humble grower one of France’s most respected vignerons. 

It’s a fleshier release than last year, and you can look forward to flavours of intense candied citrus, sweet herbs, Kaffir lime and white stone fruit intertwined with a lovely rocky texture alongside deliciously salty, mineral vibrancy, caraway spice and mouthwatering phenolic structure. It finishes with stony definition, chalky cut and great length. The first wine in the range is already one of the finest expressions of Sauvignon Blanc you are likely to find.

Domaine Gérard Boulay Sancerre à Chavignol 2023

“To my palate, Gérard Boulay is undoubtedly on the top tier of producers in Chavignol…in terms of purity and daringly racy, I do wonder whether he shouldn’t be placed at the very top of the tier. I certainly find his wines sufficiently exciting, breath-taking in their assured poise, to suggest this might be the case.” Chris Kissack, Winedoctor.com



“Another great of Chavignol, the Boulays’ first record of farming grapes there date to 1380, when the Clos de Beaujeu was already recognized as a great white wine. It still is today. Wines from these Kimmeridgian-soil vineyards often have the density and earthiness of Chablis.” Rajat Parr, The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste



“The Boulay style is a world away from the regular refreshing but forgettable norm... it should really be compared with a white burgundy in terms of its rewards and complexity.” Jancis Robinson MW



“Boulay is focused on showing the greatest respect for the terroir, and he achieves wonderful purity of fruit from higher-density planting, the absence of herbicides/fungicides and pesticides, and hand-harvesting of all vines. Boulay is revered by many yet remains humble – and driven to produce the finest expression possible of the land and grape. These are pristine wines to behold.” Andy Howard MW, Decanter Magazine

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