Boulard, Francis

Francis Boulard et Fille

Francis Boulard is a fifth-generation Champagne grower who worked for decades in the vineyards and cellar alongside his father Raymond and his siblings at their family estate, Raymond Boulard. Its reputation was built on terroir-focused wines far earlier than many of its time. That said, when Francis joined the family business in 1973, France was in the midst of an era of widespread conversion from more old-fashioned farming to more conventional, i.e. chemical-based, agriculture. While Francis inevitably adopted some of those newer ways in the vineyard, he always stuck to using only native yeasts in the cellar, the same as his grandparents had done before them. Then in he found himself at a crossroads in the mid-1990’s: a lab analysis showed traces of chemical residue in the wines. Francis was shocked and quickly turned his attention in a more organic direction. 

Then a grower friend in the Loire introduced Francis to Rudolf Steiner’s theory and practices of biodynamics. Although new to him, the approach itself - treating the vines homeopathically, as part of a whole ecosystem, observed and managed in sync with lunar and seasonal rhythms - felt instinctive to him, and in line with the naturally holistic farming traditions of his grandparents. Francis persuaded his family to allow him to experiment with a 1-hectare section of their vineyards. After three years of farming it biodynamically and vinifying that fruit separately from the conventionally farmed fruit of the same site, he was completely convinced by the compellingly expressive quality of the resulting wines; however, he could not convince his siblings to the convert the whole estate to biodynamics, so he took his third of the estate and formed Domaine Francis Boulard et Fille with his daughter Delphine in 2010.

Today, Francis and Delphine work a mere 2.75 hectares (owning 1 hectare + 20 ares) and produce about  2000 cases in a normal vintage. Their main share of the family vines lies in the Massif de Saint-Thierry, the northernmost point of the Montagne de Reims region, where Chardonnay thrives on the sandy limestone soils. Further south, they grow Pinot Meunier in the Vallée de la Marne and Pinot Noir in the Grande Montagne of the Montagne de Reims. The farming is entirely organic and biodynamic (partly certified in biodynamics, with a goal of 100% organic certification for all of their holdings).The vines average 35 years old and are about two-thirds selection massale at this point.  Biodynamic preparations are applied according to the lunar calendar; ploughing by horse is carried out 4-6 times per year to maintain weed cover between rows; and winter pruning is rigorous to restrict yields.

The fruit is harvested by hand at maximum ripeness—Francis feels that this is vital to achieving balance in the wine naturally, with a minimum of or no dosage.  Boulard uses only first-press juice, which is fermented in oak of varying sizes with only indigenous yeasts.  The wines go through malolactic fermentation and remain on their lees with regular stirring. They are put into bottle with no fining, a bare minimum of sulfur and natural yeasts to kick off secondary fermentation. The bottles are hand-riddled and hand-disgorged, after 2 to 5 years sur lattes. Francis bottles about a quarter of their production without dosage; the rest are finished with a small dose of  3 to 5 grams per liter of concentrated grape must to maintain Extra Brut dryness. The Boulard wines are broad and rich, with complex autolytic character, pierced with serious minerality and acidity. They are forward and vinous, yet pure and expressive of grape and terroir.

Click here for an excellent  interview with Francis Boulard on the Louis-Dressner website.

Click here for  Boulard’s informative website and here for Francis’s blog.

 

 

Image PRODUCT Description Country / Region Region Materials

DB8562-09
Organic
Grand Cru Grande Montagne Extra Brut
2009
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. As with Boulard's other non-vintage cuvées, the Grand Montagne consists generally of three vintages with... Read More
France Champagne

DB8563-11
Biodynamic
Les Rachais Extra Brut
2011
Chardonnay
EXTREMELY LIMITED 100% Chardonnay. Francis has made this vintage-dated, zero-dosage Blanc de Blancs since 2002 (first under the family... Read More
France Champagne

DB5663-13
Organic
Blanc des Blancs V. Vignes Brut Nature
2013
Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay. The certified-organic fruit comes from a single parcel called Le Murtet (not on the label) in the Boulards' home village... Read More
France Champagne

DB8564-NV
Biodynamic
Rosé Extra Brut NV (2010)
NV
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier
45% Pinot Meunier/25% Pinot Noir/30% Chardonnay. From biodynamically farmed estate parcels in two locations: the Boulards' home village of... Read More
France Champagne

DB8563-10
Biodynamic
Les Rachais Brut Nature
2010
Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay. Francis has made this vintage-dated, zero-dosage Blanc de Blancs since 2002 (first under the family Raymond Boulard label... Read More
France Champagne

DB8563-09
Biodynamic
Les Rachais Brut Nature
2009
Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay. Francis has made this vintage-dated, zero-dosage Blanc de Blancs since 2002 (first under the family Raymond Boulard label... Read More
France Champagne

DB0649-NV
Organic
Les Murgiers Extra Brut (2013 base)
NV
Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir
65% Pinot Meunier/25% Pinot Noir/10% Chardonnay.  Les Murgiers is the beginning of the Boulard range. Boulard organically farms plots in a... Read More
France Champagne

DB1072-NV
Organic
Les Murgiers Brut Nature (2014 base)
NV
Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Meunier. Les Murgiers is the beginning of the Boulard range. Boulard organically farms plots in a cluster of three Vallée de la... Read More
France Champagne

DB8562-NV
Organic
Grand Cru Grande Montagne Extra Brut
NV
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. As with Boulard's other non-vintage cuvées, the Grand Montagne consists generally of three vintages with... Read More
France Champagne

DB0869-NV
Organic
Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature
NV
Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay. The  Blanc de Blancs is generally composed of three vintages, with reserve wines making up about 30% of the blend; however... Read More
France Champagne

DB0869-NV
Organic
Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature
NV
Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay. The  Blanc de Blancs is generally composed of three vintages, with reserve wines making up about 30% of the blend; however... Read More
France Champagne