Jean-Luc Bourbon and the New Beaujolais Wines
Beaujolais has a problem. Half its sales are Beaujolais Nouveau, a craze whose days are definitely numbered. The resurrection of the region may well be in the unlikely hands of a 39-year-old truck driver from Nantes named Jean-Luc Bourbon. A self-confessed “non-conformist and agitator” (the precise words from his Domaine Bourbon brochure), Jean-Luc began helping his father Georges make wine after driving a transport truck for 10 years. Before coming home to Beaujolais with his wife Catherine and their two children to take over management of the estate, he studied winemaking for a year in Nantes. While there, he spent six months with a Muscadet grower learning how to make white wine.
“Not many people know how to make white wines in Beaujolais,” he told me while we tasted his wines. This outspoken comment has not endeared him to the winemaking community in his village of Theizé-en-Beaujolais. Which may be why he is not listed among the sixteen wine producers on the village’s website. Or it could have something to do with a heated exchange he had with the president of the local Syndicat at his first meeting. As Jean-Luc tells it, “When I questioned him over some decision he told me to go back to my truck.
Georges Bourbon used to sell all of his wine to Beaujolais’ largest producer, Georges Duboeuf, but his son wanted to have his own name on the bottle. The very first Beaujolais Jean-Luc made won a silver medal at an international competition in Morocco in 2002, beating out the likes of Duboeuf and Jadot.
Since then he has done just about everything to enrage the traditional sensibilities of the local producers. First off, he and his brother planted a vineyard of Syrah and Viognier in the sacred Gamay soil of Beaujolais; then he made the first sparkling Beaujolais, called Jolie Boules. And then he really irritated his critics by labelling his Syrah, l’Anticonformiste, printing a poem he had written on the back label entitled, J’ai Les Boules (slang for ‘I’m angry’) in which he castigated his critics. But while he’s railing against the conservatism of his neighbours, some of them are calling him, on the quiet, to find out just how he makes his Viognier Vin de Paille.
At our tasting in Toronto in May, Jean-Luc poured the following Domaine Bourbon wines:
89 Domaine Bourbon Coeur de Chardonnay 2007, Beaujolais
14 months in old wood. Straw colour; clovey, spicy nose with a fennel note; well extracted pear and apple flavours and a floral grace note; well balanced and satisfying.
89 Domaine Bourbon Jolies Boules Sparkling Gamay, Beaujolais
Deeply coloured, fruity with a sweet raspberry flavour; light and charming.
88 Domaine Bourbon C Mon Rosé Gamay 2008, Beaujolais
Pinkish-grey colour; perfumed, fresh with lively acidity and clean strawberry flavour.
86 Domaine Bourbon Bourgogne Blanc 2007, Beaujolais
Pale straw colour; light, crab apple nose with a floral note and a minerally finish.
90 Domaine Bourbon Claudius Beaujolais 2006, Beaujolais
Named for his grandfather; made from vines 80 to 100 years old. Solid ruby colour; creamy black cherry, pepper and vanilla oak on the nose; very rich for a simple Beaujolais, given another dimension with oak.
90 Domaine Bourbon L’Anticonformiste Syrah 2006, Beaujolais
Deep ruby; spicy white pepper and blackberry bouquet; light and elegant with a floral note, reminiscent of St Joseph.
89 Domaine Bourbon Juliénas 2007, Beaujolais
Ruby colour; light and lively on the palate with a spicy cherry flavour; good length.
These are stylish wines and the citizens of Theizé-en-Beaujolais and thereabouts would be well advised to listen to this non-conformist and emulate his example in experimentation and innovation.
(English translation follows)
Jean-Luc’s poem, J’ai les boules
À tous ces gens bien-pensants, que ma personnalité dérange et qui rêvent que je sois un mouton.
À toutes ces décisions qu’ils prennent et qui m’empêchent de faire ce que bon me semble.
À toutes les contraintes de production et d’agréments auxquelles personne ne comprend plus rien.
À tous ceux qui, un jour, se sont réjouis de mes emmerdes.
À tous, je dédie ce vin qui m’a calmé, qui me console et me rassure, mais sachez tout de même que…
J’AI LES BOULES !!!
Alors, mes chers amis, vous qui allez déboucher et déguster ce vin.
Buvons à notre santé, à notre réussite et à notre indépendance.
Et gommons grâce à ce nectar, les couardises et médisances et ne pensons qu’à ce bonheur immense de boire entre amis.
Jean-Luc’s poem, I Am Pissed Off
To all those narrow-thinkers, who are bothered by me and wish I would follow the herd,
To all the decision takers who hinder my freedom to do as I please,
To all the rules and regulations which only breed confusion,
To all who rejoiced when I was in trouble,
To all, I dedicate this wine which soothed and consoled me.
But, nevertheless, know that
I AM PISSED OFF!!!
So, dear friends who are about to uncork and savour this wine,
Let’s toast to health, success and freedom.
And, thanks to this nectar, let’s forget cowardice and slander, and only think of the joy of sharing with friends.
Jean-Luc Bourbon (Translation by Richard Brodet)