“Unambiguously Impressive”: 2017 Henri Boillot Pre-Arrival

Posted on: 01/15/19 6:19 PM


I won’t beat around the bush here: Henri Boillot is a name familiar to us all. Ripe, rich, opulent wines that retain a freshness and rigor uncommon for wines of such hedonism. Serious Burgundy collectors know that this is an address that you can bank on in any vintage. In a vintage where finesse, elegance and balance are the catchwords, Boillot is a name you want in your cellar.

I suspect the demand here will be mad, frenzied even. Nonetheless, here’s some information on the Domaine, from previous campaigns: Henri’s story is complex, long and full of obstacles overcome and triumph achieved. The condensed version: Henri Boillot was set to take up a place in the family business at Domaine Jean Boillot. But, dissatisfied with what he felt were mediocre practices at the family Domaine, he struck out on his own with a modest négociant business in the early mid ‘80s. Critics took immediate attention, because, at the time this was considered a relatively “revolutionary” action, to essentially revolt from his father and turn négoce from Domaine.

“I have heard Henri Boillot described as an iconoclast but in my opinion this is not entirely accurate. Rather, I would describe him as a vigneron who both preaches, and practices, extreme rigor. He believes that there are no shortcuts and that nothing is free. Work properly and seriously and the results will be there.” – Allen “Burghound” Meadows on Henri Boillot

Fast-forward 20 years to 2005. Henri is now considered one of the top Burgundy producers, making a range of Villages, 1ers and Grands Crus that have become “must haves” for any serious Burgundy collector year in and year out. Now, finally, after decades of acclaim, success, striving and attention to every detail, the family agrees to sell out their holdings to Henri, thus giving him access to a broad swathe of Domaine and négociant holdings, representing one of the grandest sweeps of Burgundy’s profound terroirs from Côte to Côte, Beaune to Nuits.

The formula for Henri’s success is simple: rigor, attention to detail and a striving for perfection at any cost, both in the vineyard and the cellar. Viticulture is lutte raisonnée and the quality of the fruit is of the greatest importance, so there is severe and attentive sorting in both vineyard and at the cellar door. After that, it’s a pretty straight forward, traditional and natural fermentation. The one unusual variation on the traditional Burgundy régime is the usage of 350L barrels, rather than the 225L Burgundian pièce.

“The real joy [of Henri Boillot’s wines] is in discovering the extent to which the Bourgogne and village-level wines outperform their appellations, often because of the significant presence of declassified fruit.” – Antonio Galloni on Henri Boillot

Up and down the range, from Bourgogne to Grand Cru, the wines are stylish, full and suave, with great concentration, and density. Terroir shines through the entire range, and each wine bristles with energy and verve. I tend to think of Henri as a fantastic white winemaker, crafting some of the finest Corton-Charlemagne, Pulignys and Meursaults available. It’s easy to forget just how good the Volnays and Grands Crus Rouges are. Henri is indeed one of those rare winemakers who excels in both colors, making exceptional wines, no matter whether they be Pinot or Chard.

2017 is looking to be a barnburner for the whites and a mixed bag for the reds. From what I have tasted so far, the critical reaction has been mostly correct. And while the reds are more heterogeneous in character, there is no doubt that many excellent wines were produced nonetheless, especially among the elite growers. And Henri Boillot is certainly elite.

I’ll leave you with the Wine Advocate’s William Kelley:

“Boillot’s 2017 portfolio is unambiguously impressive. Many of this year’s red wines were fermented in barrel, a labor-intensive practice that hasn’t always convinced me, but there is no arguing with these gourmand and fleshy Pinot Noirs which display uncommon depth and intensity for the vintage, even when they hail from bought fruit. The whites—all of which are fermented and matured in larger, 350-liter barrels—are simply exceptional and worthy of a place on any shopping list: they will certainly be on my own!”

Posted in Burgundy List By Ian Halbert