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When scanning wine lists and scouring retail shelves, most people in the industry have their go-to’s, whether it’s high-acid Riesling, cult Beaujolais, or any other sought-after category of the moment. That’s not to say we do not color outside the lines, but I am certainly an acid hound all the way, and it’ll be a dry to off-dry Riesling for me nearly every time if I have the option. However, I’ll step out of my comfort zone and appreciate all wines, styles, and regions – traditional, minimal, natural; I don’t care as long as the wine is tasty and the winery possesses values I hold dear.
While there are the popular categories with somms and industry professionals, how often do we seek out the varietal Sauvignon Blanc? I’m talking real deal, high quality, conscientiously farmed Sauvignon Blanc? There are plenty of examples from the many reaches of the winemaking realm, from numerous Southern Hemisphere regions to Bordeaux to California. However, none of them have ever held my attention – until now…
The wines of Domaine du Bouchot – a winery helmed by the extraordinarily talented and determined Antoine Gouffier – are the first Sauvignon Blancs to speak to me in a profound, visceral way. They are captivating from start to finish, from general info on the winery to the long-lived finish on the back palate. The wines are acid-forward yet remarkably balanced, with texture, personality, and incredible length.
Domaine du Bouchot was founded by Rachel and Pascal Kerbiquet in Pouilly-sur-Loire in 1987. When it came time to find a successor, Antoine was hand-selected from a group of interested individuals. 2019 was the first vintage he oversaw, but the region of Pouilly-Fumè is far from foreign to the part-French, part-South American man who started working in the local vineyards during his childhood. In 2009, Bouchot was the first winery in the appellation to hold an organic certification, and Antoine completed the domaine’s biodynamic certification in 2020.
Antoine employs eight full-time employees for his ten-hectare estate to ensure every tiny detail is managed with extreme care. The “farm,” as he calls it, is mainly planted to Sauvignon Blanc, but there are a few vines of Chasselas, which are bottled to create a fun, easy-drinking wine that is a perfect lunch or aperitif option. All vines are planted on Kimmeridgian and Portlandian soils, and Antoine showcases both individual soil types in his Terres Blanches and Caillottes bottlings, respectively. Both 100% Sauvignon Blanc, these bottlings both reflect the region and its soils, exhibiting the distinct flinty and mineral characteristics for which Pouilly-Fumè is known.
Cuveè 1955 (or La Vigne de 1955) is produced from the oldest vines on the estate that were planted in 1955. The grapes are in contact with their skins for 24-48 hours after pressing, yielding a bit more body and structure to the wine, and the long and pleasant finish is undeniable. Antoine’s Orange bottling is his most unique offering and is crafted in one to two-year-old barrels. The barrels are laid horizontally twice a day and rolled on a makeshift train track to mix the must, skins, and whole grapes (yes, Antoine adds some uncrushed, destemmed grapes to the mix from the same plot where Caillottes grapes are picked). The mixture stays in barrel for six months before being pressed, and the result is an orange wine that yields close to no orange color due to the grape varieties’ thin skin and pigment. But do not let the lightly colored white wine fool you – it is deeply flavored and complex while also skating swiftly on its feet with mineral backbone and verve.
All of Antoine’s grapes are harvested by hand, and the wines are fermented with indigenous yeast and see no sulfur additions. He avoids racking by allowing the wines to naturally settle on the fine lees with a long aging. Historically, stainless steel has been the vessel of choice, but experimentation with neutral barrels, amphorae, and concrete eggs has ramped up in recent years.
Antoine Gouffier places a strong importance on the benefits of biodynamics and is a consummate steward of the land. He believes less is more and is somewhat of a rebel in an otherwise conventional winemaking region. His dedication to his craft, including his passion for crafting delightful expressions of Sauvignon Blanc, is hard to match. If you have the opportunity to enjoy one of Antoine’s creations, I urge you to take the plunge, as the wines do not disappoint. Cheers!
–JD Wagoner, Martine’s Wines New York Sales