Thévenet/Domaine de la Bongran/Domaine de Roally

  • Mâcon, Burgundy, France

This estate was one of Joe Dressner's and Denyse Louis's first additions to their nascent import book: they tasted there in 1987 and were smitten with these unusually rich, complex white Burgundies. Jean Thévenet and son Gautier produce Chardonnay from three different family sites in the Viré-Clissé appellation in the Mâcon region of Burgundy: the original Domaine de la Bongran (4.5 ha) and two other nearby properties, Roally and Emilian Gillet, totalling 10 hectares. The heart of the estate is Bongran, which lies on a limestone ridge overlooking the Saone River and which Jean’s father began piecing together after World War I. It consists entirely of old Chardonnay clones on chalky clay marl soils, farmed organically and meticulously by hand. The name "Bongran" has been attributed to a couple of different sources, but Jean's research revealed it to be a reference to a priest by the name of Bongran who once owned some of the vines.

Gautier has stayed true to his father’s and grandfather's winemaking practices, which have long distinguished Bongran wines from all other Viré-Clissé producers: later harvest and thus greater ripeness of the fruit with touches of botrytis at times; minimal intervention in the cellar, including a very slow pressing, lengthy settling and a slow, spontaneous fermentation lasting up to two years; and years of bottle-aging in the Thévenet cellar before release. Domaine de la Bongran bottles only one wine, a uniquely old-fashioned their Viré- Clessé that includes a bit of residual sugar, a result of the Thévenet hands-off approach. While the wine does not drink sweet, it does have an extraordinary richness of flavor and texture along with its characteristic firm acidity and minerality. In certain vintages, Bongran also produces a touch of fully-botrytized, sweet Chardonnay called Cuvée Botrytis.

Domaine de Roally is separate from the home Bongran estate but no less important to the Thévenet family. The proprietor of Roally was Henri Goyard, an old schoolmate of Jean's and a similarly minded vigneron. When Henri decided to retire after the 2000 vintage, Jean's son Gautier took over his 4 hectares, which are farmed and from which wine is made just like all things Bongran. The main difference is that the Roally Viré-Clessé is aged for "only" two years in bottle before release versus four years for the Bongran. Neither wine ever sees any wood for fermentation or aging. 

It is worth noting that when the Viré-Clessé AOC was created in 1999, the regulations mandated a maximum of 3 g RS, so neither of Thévenet's wines made that cut AOC; they were downgraded to Mâcon-Villages as a result. But the sweltering 2003 vintage led to the entire region's ending up with RS in their wines, so the restrictions were loosened and the Viré-Clessé label became possible for Bongran and Roally. The idea of sweetness in a dry white Burgundy may sound strange but to Jean Thévenet's and his generation's way of thinking, a touch of residual sugar was part of the expression of the grape in this terroir, which lends itself to full ripeness, completely natural and balanced by vibrant acidity and minerality of the limestone-rich soils.



Image Producer PRODUCT Description Country / Region

Thévenet/Domaine de la Bongran/Domaine de Roally Bongran Viré-Clessé Cuvée E.J.Thévenet
100% Chardonnay. Bongran is Thévenet's original home estate (Domaine de Roally, also in Viré-Clessé, was added later). Cuvée Tradition is...

Thévenet/Domaine de la Bongran/Domaine de Roally Roally Viré-Clessé
100% Chardonnay. Domaine de Roally is a newer but no less important part of the Thévenet estate, separate though it is from the original...