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Domaine Gérard Boulay 2021 - Starlight Express: Sancerre to be measured against the finest whites of France

Domaine Gérard Boulay 2021 - Starlight Express: Sancerre to be measured against the finest whites of France

“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 Boulay’s 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

“I was expecting a brief chat and a tasting, perhaps a few fresh tasting notes to add to this website, but in the next hour or two what I learnt – as we tasted – transformed not only my understanding of the domaine, but of Chavignol and indeed Sancerre as a whole.” Chris Kissack, Winedoctor.com

 

“It’s not a vintage we will forget in a hurry,” Gérard Boulay tells us, referring to 2021. The difficulties started in March when abnormally hot conditions advanced bud break. Then came the frost. Over four weeks, three ferocious bouts hit Sancerre’s vineyards, with Chavignol’s hillsides getting special attention. For example, in Monts-Damnés, Boulay’s yield loss exceeded 70%. Even so, nature was only getting started. Just as the Boulay family were licking their wounds, regular rains and cool weather brought in a wave of disease pressure, requiring regular sprays, even if they were not always effective in preventing further losses. 

Yet sometimes—not always—nature finds a way of balancing things out. Had yields been much higher than they were, the grapes would have struggled to ripen through the cool vintage conditions. So, ripen they did, eventually, with the Boulays waiting until the 22nd of September to commence harvest—a marked contrast to the 2018, 2019 and 2020 vintages. To cut to the chase, the result of all this is a star-studded vintage for Boulay lovers: a year that has delivered a set of pristine, intense and layered Sancerre wines, sculpted with bracing freshness and scalpel-cut precision. For those who have been working with the wines for some time, 2021 marks a return to the more classic, restrained, crystalline Boulay expressions, similar in style to the brilliant 2014s. They are less opulent than the 2020s and a full degree lower, but do not want for texture and mouth feel. 

Having already been in the market since late last year, we probably don’t need to dwell on the tantalising entry-level Sancerre à Chavignol from 2021. The single-site wines from La Grande Côte, Le Cul de Beaujeu, La Côte, and Chavignol’s mineral generator par excellence, Les Monts-Damnés, are stellar; pristine and lucid, bustling with pulpy white fruit, racy citrus, mineral energy and rocky textures. Brace your palates, friends. And finally, we offer Boulay’s most extraordinary (and rare) wine, La Comtesse, from 2020. When he was Inspector General of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée board, Pierre Bréjoux noted that there are some wines of Sancerre that “…one would like to have a throat as long as a swan’s neck so as to taste them better.” Boulay’s 2020 Comtesse is one such Sancerre.

As tempting and mouth-watering as they are to drink young, all the single vineyard wines have the tautness and tension you see in great Riesling, with the ability to improve in bottle over ten to twenty years and even further. If you can, give it a try.

 

For full information on Domaine Gérard Boulay and to see the full range, click here

The Wines

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