The Story

 

The wines produced by Francis Boulard owe a lot to his grandfather, who would often talk about the importance of the moon on planting and working the soil. Boulard’s three-hectare estate is, therefore, run using age-old methods that are in line with nature and seasonal rhythms. Even bâtonnage, the stirring of lees which takes place every ten to 12 days in this case, is timed to coincide with lunar “fruit days” and “flower days”.

Convinced that the entire estate could and should be converted, Francis proposed this to his brother and sister. His idea was met with heavy resistance and ridicule. After much reflection, he decided that he could work no other way: Francis claimed his three hectares of vines, broke off from his family and started his own estate. His daughter Delphine, who had been working alongside her father at Raymond Boulard for nine years, decided to follow him and together they founded Francis Boulard et Fille in 2009. 

The vines of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are pruned short as a means of controlling yield, and massal selection – the grafting of older vines – is used on the majority of the estate. A light cover of weeds helps keep the soil alive and healthy, and synthetic chemical treatment is avoided. Instead, Boulard uses biodynamic techniques to resist fungal attacks. Aside from a small amount of sulphur and Bordeaux mixture, they are treated with plants like field horsetail, water willow, nettles and silica.

Sugar is also important to the process, with the harvests timed in such a way as to produce it in high concentrations. The grapes are pressed immediately afterwards using a membrane press, which gives precise control over juice extraction. The grapes from the various terroirs, plots and varieties are carefully kept separate from one another, allowing the resulting wines to reach their maximum complexity. The fermentation process is carried out entirely naturally, using only the indigenous yeasts found on the grapes themselves. This fermentation takes place in either wooden vats, half hogsheads or 300-litre oak barrels. This allows for each fermentation to be individually tailored depending on grape variety and plot.

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The People 

Francis & Delphine

Francis Boulard and his daughter Delphine belong to a family of winegrowing winemakers for 6 generations if not more. The oldest member of the family who could be traced was born during the French Revolution in 1792.

"As a simple farmer, I always assumed that the products we were putting on our vines would wash away after a couple of rains, that they would naturally go away. No one ever told us that chemical residue would not only permanently affect the vineyard but actually end up in the wine." Francis Boulard. 

After almost 50 years in the vines, Francis retired in 2017. A dramatic electrical fire in the Boulard cellar in late 2016, coupled with Francis' retirement led Delphine to build a new edifice alongside her new house. The only major stylistic shift is that Delphine now vinifies and ages everything in old Burgundian barrels and a few foudres (Francis favoured demi-muids along with barrels of all sizes).

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The Place

Champagne, France

They work close to three hectares in the Vallée de la Marne and the Montagne de Reims following organic and biodynamic practices. The breakdown of land is essentially a third of what Raymond Boulard used to be in size, with the three distinct terroirs still expressed through a smaller, more artisanal lens: 1.6 hectares are in the Massif Saint-Thierry, 0.5h in Mailly (both sectors of the Montagne de Reims) and the 1.2h of historic family parcels in the Vallée de la Marne.

 

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