• Wine, a family passion or a revelation ?
It is rather a family passion. I am part of the Bouchard family and I have been involved in wine making for a long time. My father took over a family estate in the Côte Châlonnaise (Château de Rougeon) in 1981. I have therefore bathed in it forever. It immediately fascinated me, and I quickly got fully involved in this area.
• What was your professional background ?
I started by doing general agricultural scientific studies in the Côte Châlonnaise. After a DUT (2 years technical degree) in Biology and Agronomy in Colmar in Alsace, I joined the University of Vine and Wine in Dijon. Then I went to do the oenology college of Bordeaux .
I also went to the United States at the age of 15 to benefit from an experience in a Domain . My mission was to top up barrels in a tunnel .
I also had the opportunity to conduct several winemaking experiences in Portugal in my uncle’s winery at Quinta Do Tedo, between the Douro and the Tedo rivers , on a peninsula . It is a heavenly place that offers accommodation and a restaurant. It is very popular within French wine lovers.
• What do you think of New World wines ?
During my first job interviews, recruiters were asking me what experiences I had achieved in foreign countries. It was trendy during these times, everyone went abroad, but suddenly no one stayed in France. I did not want to do like everyone and have a winemaking experience in New -Zeland to move the pipes . But I intend to go there on vacation. There are wines from the New World that are exceptional.
The working techniques are very complementary, we can learn a lot from each other.
• Biodynamic, what do you think of it ?
When I arrived on the domain 12 years ago, we were really going from far away. We were taking over a vineyard that was in very poor condition with old vines, not maintained and had been under 50 years of weeding chemical treatment. I told myself what am I going to do with it?
So I had a huge challenge to take up, it was going to be a colossal job but of real interest because the landscape is magnificent and the terroir is authentic. So the first work he had to do was to restore the soils that were worn by all practices done before . We had organic matter rates of 0.2% when an average soil in France is 2%.
The idea was therefore to put the dynamics back in the right direction , to restore organic matter to the soil, to restore life . We started looking after the vineyard and improve working techniques .
We have been uprooted many vines, and all plots that we chose to replant. We now proceed to a minimum of 5 years soil resting with different cultures and fallow . We have brought back compost and leveraged the rate of organic matter. Over time, the soil has become much more alive, with a lot of flora and very interesting things. During the first analyzes we saw that the PH was very low: by enriching with compost, we no longer need to add lime or correct the soil pH because its pH at 7.5 is good.
We can still correct it but the soil is getting poorer every year. So we manage each plot as an ecosystem , we will reinject the same amount of material that we had to draw from the soil as a result of the grape harvest.
Every year we bring compost. So it asks us to produce a tremendous amount of it. We had to make our own compost with a need for considerable volume because at the time it did not exist for purchase .
We produced 1000 tons of compost each year to fertilize our entire estate and raise the level of organic matter and reach a balance to restore living , dynamic and rich soil .
Our winery owns 120 hectares including 40 hectares of vines. We keep part of the plots fallow because we have to allow ourselves to have plots which for 5 or 6 years will not produce and remain at rest , it is a guarantee of sustainability.
Today it’s fashionable to say I’m organic , now I’m going to go biodynamic. Biodynamics remains a somewhat esoteric culture and the basics are quite dogmatic. Our e goal is organic agriculture that is according to us; the first essential step: working with natural products . There is a very close link between all the earthly elements : minerals, animals,, vegetated stream and lunar forces . These are all aspects of biodynamics . So doing it all at once is a bit complicated and you have to believe in it, it remains a dogmatic discipline with elements that are not always scientifically verified. Our first goal was mastering biological agriculture, soils have very alive and then we worked on lunar rhythms for size and planting. The introduction of animals is a fair return to the sources. They can bring us very positive things and help us to cultivate our plots such as regulating the grass and being a fertilization supplement. Animal life is precious for biodiversity. We have been working with our sheeps for several years. Since last year, we have plots maintained by our hens.
We have other ideas for the future.
We wish to return to normal agriculture as it should always have existed . I think that we should not want to master things too much and adapt the culture according to the terroir.
• Beaujolais = Gamay ?
Beaujolais is above all a terroir where Gamay is grown.
Gamay is a grape variety fully adapted to this terroir, because it is a vigorous grape variety .
It needs to grow in difficult or even stressful soils. It is somewhat equivalent to the aligoté in Burgundy . On granite Beaujolais soils, it expresses perfectly with a great diversity in terms of land on which it is growing. Today Chardonnay also has a real interest, it is a grape variety which adapts, which is vigorous, on which we can make very beautiful white Beaujolais.
• Which style best describes the wines of Château de Poncié ?
Elegance, fine wines with a silky texture.
• Why come to Beaujolais ?
The diversity of landscapes and soils is the most important point. Before working in Beaujolais, I had never been there and I said to myself “whoua” it is an incredible region, made up of breathtaking landscapes with altitudes and completely different exhibitions . And scenery far from being monotonous.
• Your favorite wine ?
I don’t have a favorite wine. Regarding the wines of Château de Poncié, I’m particularly fond of “Les Moriers “. I don’t have fetish wines, I love the wines of my Beaujolais colleagues like
- The Thivin Estate
- Domaine Lapierre in Morgon
- Domaine Desvignes
- Domaine Jean Foillard
- Thillardon Domain
All have very different styles and I particularly like wines from The Château de Julienas for their history.
• Beaujolais is not a wine to be aged, what do you think of this statement?
The Gamay has great aging potential. It has a very good balance between acidity , tannins, this is a real guard grape. For a little history , At the Bouchard Father and Son Estate, we kept wine from Château de Poncié dating from the time when the two families Bouchard in 1924 worked together . We have opened them recently. The purplish color is no longer there but it gave us really superb aromas . Today the 2019, 2010 and 2015 vintages have enormous aging potential. For people who have forgotten a few bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau in their cellars and who drink them a few years later , this can offer nice surprises.
It is the great wealth of Gamay.
We have long suffered from an image of overproduction, but it is by forgetting the news in the Beaujolais vintages. All the studies show that it is a wine that has the greatest ability to please everyone : easy to drink, not hard, too riped, with neither too much alcohol, with a beautiful material and beautiful structure.
There are a lot of young people who have taken up the vineyards of Beaujolais but who come from different regions of France. Because in Beaujolais, we can still acquire a vineyard while in other regions the land has become inaccessible regarding its price. This has resulted in many young people moving to organic agriculture, respecting terroir and resulting in nice variety of wines.
• An essential place to see in the region ?
The view from Mont Brouilly or Madone de Fleurie hare perfect to be in contemplation. You will find the Beaujolais vineyards and as soon as you go up you’ll have the “Green Beaujolais” with specific Mediterranean plants (black pines, wild thyme)
• Any quote you like about wine ?
” There is more philosophy in a bottle of wine than in the books ” Pasteur provided you drink the bottle with other people and not on your own 😉
In a bottle of wine you find a social wealth , a history , so many parameters that create an alchemy.
• The Beaujonomie , what is it ?
The concept is the association of Beaujolais and gastronomy. Beaujolais is a wine for gastronomy . We want to educate restaurateurs to make room for them on the big tables. We are going to organize an event in association with a chef Aurélien Mérot , chef of the restaurant Le Cep in Fleurie. We will associate our wines with the dishes and provide a visit of our Estate, this is an excellent opportunity to come together .
Many thanks to Joseph for this kind interview, there are few more pictures to give you a taste of Beaujolais.