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Domaine Gérard Boulay

Diamond-cut Clarity: Sancerre to be Measured Against the Finest Whites of France

Just like any other well-known wine region in France, Sancerre has its own de-facto vineyard hierarchy. Officially endorsed or not, there’s no doubt that Sancerre’s greatest sites (barring an exception or two) are concentrated around the hamlet of Chavignol. Chavignol’s steep, south- and southeast-facing limestone slopes—home to historically revered sites like Les Monts-Damnés, La Grande Côte and Le Clos de Beaujeu—are, without doubt, the most potent terroirs of Sancerre.

It’s no fluke that the top wines from this village regularly draw comparisons to the great white wines of the world. Nor is it a fluke that this tiny village is home to an unusual concentration of Sancerre’s most revered winegrowing families (including of course the feuding Cotat cousins). In Chavignol, the best wines have little (or nothing) to do with varietal character. They are fleshier, rippling, and more textural; the grape simply plays conduit to the mineral freshness of the limestone-rich soils and the sun trapping, south-facing exposition. 

To give you an idea of how coveted this soil is, when Didier Dagueneau decided he wanted to grow in Sancerre, he waited years until a slice of Chavignol became available; he wouldn’t settle for anything less. Dagueneau also wanted to call his wine simply, “Chavignol”—to differentiate it from the rest of Sancerre and because this was the historical label for the region’s wines—but this was not permitted by the AOC authorities. 

Each time you open one of this grower’s wines, expect waves of bell-clear fruit (in the citrus to orchard fruits spectrum), sculpted with the kind of rocky, saline vigour and finessed precision that single Boulay out as one of the Loire Valley’s iconic growers.

The Boulay family has been working this soil a little longer than the Dagueneau clan (since 1380 at least!) and it shows in their remarkable holdings. The Domaine’s current caretaker, Gérard Boulay, is one of the greats of this tiny village, producing some of the most distinctive and sublime wines in Sancerre. The man himself is as focused and intense as the wines he crafts. He is also incredibly humble. His respect for Chavignol and its proud history is evident by his refusal to betray the terroir with lazy viticulture or industrial winemaking. Under Boulay’s charge, the quality of the land and its resultant produce need nothing in the way of corrections. 

Gérard Boulay can trace his wine-growing roots back to 1380, so you could figuratively say that the Boulay family wrote the book on Chavignol. He works predominantly with old vines, all planted by massale selection on quality rootstock (not the high-vigour SO4) and at a higher density than most Sancerre vineyards (7500 vines per hectare). The soil is ploughed, or grass is grown to prevent erosion, and the Domaine has been practicing organics for decades. In the cellar, Gérard works with wild ferments, old oak (his 10- to 12-year-old barrels are sourced from Alphonse Mellot) and very little sulphur during élevage. The wines are bottled without filtration. 

Simply, this is Sancerre to be measured against the finest whites of France—and when compared to the same quality from Chablis and the Côte de Beaune, you'll see them for the serious bargains they are.

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“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, The Wine Doctor

“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



Primary Region

Centre Loire


Winemakers: Gérard and Thibaut Boulay



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