Domaine de la Bongran

It’s easy to forget that organic farming practices in the wine industry were not always the case, since it seems as though every winery around today utilises organic farming practices.

Domaine de la Bongran, alongside its owner Jean Thevenet, were one of the pioneers of the organic movement in France and has continued with these practices for the last 30 years.

Domaine de la Bongran has been in Jean Thevenet’s family for generations. The family had been living in the Macon region of Burgundy since the 15th century and the vines were passed down through the many subsequent generations.

It is generally thought that the name of the Domaine, Bongran comes from the local phrase “bon gran” (good grain), which is said when wine is good. However, after doing some digging into his family’s history, Thevenet discovered that at one point, a member of his family had sold their vines to a priest named Bongran. After Bongran’s death, the vines came back into the family’s possession, but kept the priest’s name.

Jean Thevenet never studied oenology, but instead learned everything he knows about wine production from his father. He started learning how to manage the estate at 14, at which point he had to decide whether to continue his studies or follow in his family’s footsteps. Due to his dyslexia, Jean found school very difficult and so joining the family business was a simple choice.

He has now passed the information he learned onto his son Gautier, with whom he now runs his vineyards. Together, they run and manage three different estates: Domaine de la Bongran, Emillian Gillet and Domaine de Roally.

Domaine de la Bongran sits on a small 4.5 hectares plot that overlooks the Saone River. They grow exclusively old Chardonnay clones at Bongran and bottle only one type of wine per year, their Vire-Clesse. Production is extremely low yield, but this only enhances the allure of the wines they release.

Jean Thevenet and his son Gautier use techniques in their wine production that have been passed down through their family. These techniques are seen as organic practices today, but in the 1980s, Thevenet was one of only two producers using such techniques in the region. Since then, these have become common practice, not only in France, but all around the world.

Thevenet believes that terroir and the grapes themselves are king and that technique and experience can only take a producer so far. Due to these beliefs, he intervenes in the wine production process as little as possible, allowing the quality of the terroir and the grapes to shine through.

Due to Thevenet’s non-interventionist philosophy, his wines quite often have a higher than normal level of residual sugar, which in some years has prevented him from being awarded the regional appellation. However, he sticks to his guns, saying that while wines from his terroir always have residual sugar, the wines remain balanced.

In addition, Jean Thevenet believes in a slow, natural vinification process. The wines they produce spend around two years aging on fine lees in vats, before being bottled at the estate. After bottling, the wines are kept in Domaine de la Bongran’s cellar, which the family then releases as they see fit. This means that some of their wines may be released much later than others would release the same vintage. However, this technique is what makes Domaine de la Bongran unique and is a large part of what enables the wines to age well, not to mention what also makes them so popular.

Due to Thevenet’s unique bottling techniques and the residual sugars, the wines from Domaine de la Bongran have a richness of flavour with firm acidity and minerality. They are also naturally high in alcohol. Despite the residual sugar in the wines, the wines do not drink sweet and are rich in body.

For you, we have selected the 2010 Jean Thevenet Domaine de la Bongran Vire-Clesse “Cuvee Tradition E.J. Thevenet”.