Meeting with Jean-Dominique Vacheron
This month, we followed our cellar master Hugues Forget to Sancerre. A dynamic region with great potential, it has many renowned estates, like Vacheron, which is run by two passionate cousins: Jean-Dominique and Jean-Laurent. Discover the history of this family vineyard shaped by three generations of producers, whose wines are part of our favourite selection.
Left to right: our cellar master Hugues Forget visiting the Vacheron estate with Jean-Dominique Vacheron.
As cellar master, why have you chosen to take us to the Vacheron estate in particular?
H. Forget: I often compare our wine selection to a colour chart. We try to offer varied and complementary styles to satisfy all our customers. The Vacheron estate has been quick to stand out in this respect. Over the years, Jean-Dominique and Jean-Laurent have developed a strong identity that is noticeable in their flavour palette and in their wine-making methods. They are also keen to improve. This is reflected in their high quality wines, despite some difficult years.
Jean-Dominique, you have run the estate with your cousin for the past 16 years. Can you retrace its history for us?
J-D Vacheron: The Vacheron estate is above all a family business inherited from my grandparents, who grew a variety of crops at the time. My grandfather passed on his passion for wine to my uncle. As presidents of the Sancerre appellation, they both made a significant contribution to defining it.
In the 1970s, my father and uncle took over the farm and decided to devote themselves entirely to cultivating grapes. They cleared and replanted inherited land that was unworkable as it was, expanding the area from 1 to 49 hectares.
I succeeded them in 1993 and my cousin Jean-Laurent joined me full-time in 2000. We have continued to develop it together. Our priority was of course to preserve the human scale of the farm doing all the work ourselves, both in the vineyard and in the cellar.
What are the main features of the Vacheron estate?
J-D Vacheron: We are lucky to have a magnificent piece of land, with beautiful hillsides and interesting places. We have always tried to cultivate our differences. For example, we were the first in Sancerre to believe in biodynamics and gradually converted the whole estate.
Our philosophy has always been to give priority to working on the vines. Each plot is an individual to us, defined by its exposure to the sun and the quality of its soil. This means we constantly have to adapt.
In the cellar, however, we intervene as little as possible. We stick to ancient practices and reduce inputs to a minimum.
The yields are therefore smaller but sufficient for us to supply nothing but the best.
How would you define your style?
J-D Vacheron: It has developed over time and through the generations. Our wines are quite pure and direct, but with plenty of body. Sancerre is often denoted by a hollow mid-palate, a characteristic of Sauvignon. By choosing not to clarify the wine, we have given it more body while retaining its airiness and freshness. The Vacheron style is the result of a long process of observation and apprenticeship, but also constant research. We never hesitate to question everything with every vintage. Our know-how is never static, it is constantly evolving.
Tell us about your wines, which are among our cellar master’s favourites.
J-D Vacheron: Our whites are taut, direct but with body and complexity. The 2017 vintage is a particularly fine wine, well-balanced, with good overall acidity and body. It is very reminiscent of a 2011 in its structure and finesse.
H. Forget: This vintage can be enjoyed now or kept for several years. In the mouth it reveals freshness, minerality, beautiful notes of flowers, juniper and citrus, yet without any hint of acidity. The wine is very easy to drink, ideal as an accompaniment to a starter or dinner with friends, with fish or shellfish for example.