Wines By Region / Burgundy / Macônnais / Viré Clessé / Domaine André Bonhomme
|Charles Neal Selections||
domaine andré bonhomme
Charles Neal Selections © 2018
|Charles Neal Selections||
domaine andré bonhomme
This is a true benchmark producer of the region. The humble domaine was founded in 1956 by André Bonhomme. Back then, André's father Joseph owned 4 hectares of vines that were sold under the Mâcon-Viré appellation. Through careful vine growing and vinification, André received enormous respect from his colleagues. He was not only the co-founder of the Independent Winemakers of the Saône-et-Loire; he also was one of the principal initiators of the new, higher quality Viré-Clessé appellation in the 1990's. André has since passed the torch to his daughter Jacqueline and her husband Eric Palthey. They were later joined by their son Aurélien who acquired an oenology degree in 2007 and his brother Johan who subsequently completed his wine studies. The domaine presently covers 11 hectares located on the clay and limestone soils of both the Viré and Clessé communes.
As far as work in the vineyards go, not much has changed since André took over from his father: all vineyard work is organic, and the family attempts to keep even its organic sprays to a minimum so that the plant can defend itself. No chemical weed-killers are used between the vines, and certain strains of hay are planted between the rows (which aerates the soil and brings it valuable nitrogen). Insecticides: taboo! In fact, the family actually encourages certain predators that they feel create a natural balance in the vineyard. Yields are kept low. Grapes are picked by hand, and are delicately pressed with their stems in a balloon press. Parcels are vinified separately using only their indigenous yeasts. The wines are lightly filtered before bottling so that they are clear and brilliant, and minimal sulfur is added. Underneath the winery is a very humid, dark cellar, whose moist walls are stained black with mold. Certain cuvées spend up to 24 months in barrels in these slow-maturing conditions.
The domaine bottles each wine only once per year, and releases its bottlings much later than many other producers in Burgundy. Even after such extended aging, they often wait six months before putting their wines on the market. Time moves slowly at Chez Bonhomme.
Incredibly Ageworthy Wines
And speaking of time moving, we'd like to mention the incredible ageability of these wines. Some might say that wines from the Mâconnais don't age, but during one of our early visits to the domaine, Aurélien opened an unlabeled bottle that showed beautifully with almost no oxidation or lack of fruit. Blind tasting it, our guesses were 1989, 1986, 1985 and 1981, but it was actually a Mâcon-Viré 1969! So how does the family do it? Aurélien thinks that Viré-Clessé's proximity to the Saône River enables its producers to make wonderful sweet wines. Perhaps this particular microclimate even gives the dry wines a wonderful exoticism and age-worthiness. These are white wines that taste great on release, but have what it takes to endure. So don't be afraid to hang on to some bottles; you will be rewarded for your patience.
Domaine André Bonhomme Mâcon-Villages
The family owns a couple of hectares outside the Viré-Clessé boundaries, from which they make this wine. It is aged in tank for 18 months, and shows floral and citrus aromas and flavors. They recommend it with goat cheese, charcuterie, seafood, frog's legs or escargots.
Domaine André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé “Les Pierres-Blanches”
This comes from 2 hectares of parcels 6- to 30-years old that are planted on clay and limestone soil with a high quantity of small stones throughout the vineyards. It is higher than most of their other vineyards at 340 meters. Yields are 50 hl/ha. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless-steel for 18 months. This wine is fresh and fruity, with notes of pineapple and honey. It is a great accompaniment to seafood or on its own as an aperitif. 12,000 bottles made.
Domaine André Bonhomme Viré Clessé “Cuvée Spéciale”
This comes from a number of different parcels (totaling 3.5 hectares), aged between 28- and 70-years old, on clay and limestone soils. Part of the wine is vinified in stainless steel and the other part in oak for a year. Both are then blended together and aged in larger oak barrels for another year. This is classic Viré-Clessé, with its exotic and mineral flavours, and its rich flavors and textures. It is ripe and round yet elegant with flavors of green apple, mango and citrus fruits.
Domaine André Bonhomme Viré Clessé Vieilles Vignes
As its name suggests, this comes from vines that have an average age of 80 years. The yield is slightly lower than the other cuvées (35 to 40 hl/ha) giving it slightly more concentration, elegance and aromatic complexity. Like the Cuvée Spéciale, part is aged in stainless-steel and the other part in oak before being blended together and aged for another year in larger barrels.
Amazing with fleshy white fish, veal sweetbreads or scallops. 16,000 bottles made.
Domaine André Bonhomme Viré Clessé Le Coteau de l'Epinet
This comes from a particular plot in the far north of the appellation called l'Epinet that was planted in 1923. This wine is barrel-fermented and aged in oak for 24 months, and possesses more profound fruit and minerality than the other cuvées. Although somewhat austere in its youth, this will easily last for ten years. Only 800 hand-waxed bottles available.
Domaine André Bonhomme Viré Clessé Les Prêtres de Quintaine
Made from vines nearly 100 years-old from a plot called Quintaine, between the communes of Viré and Clessé. This plot has unique soil comprised of Bath limestone and Oxford marl. The slope faces east and southeast, facing the Quintaine Chapel. Like the preceding wine, it is fermented and aged in oak for 24 months, yielding a racy, mineraled and complex wine built for the long haul. The label is one of the first that the domaine ever used in the 1950s. Annual production is only 2,000 hand-waxed bottles.