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Boisset: The Giant

With strongholds in three continents,
the Boisset Family is investing
In Chile, Uruguay and the South of France
Stressing the originality of the terroirs and biodynamic farming
Veranda - Viña Progreso and Château La Croix Martelle

By Simone Zarmati Diament

Boisset, a family-owned company created in 1961 by Jean Claude Boisset, and managed by his son Jean Charles and his wife Nathalie Bergès-Boisset, is today the third largest wine company in France, number one in Burgundy with important properties in the Côte D'Or, and is established from the northern region of Chablis down to the southern region of Languedoc, acting as a "viniculteur" (a cross between a winegrower and a winemaker) that is deeply rooted in the vineyards.

Boisset America, based in San Francisco, represents: J. Moreau et Fils in Chablis, Domaine de la Vougeraie in Burgundy, Françoise Chauvenet, Charles Viénot and Jean-Claude Boisset in the Côte de Nuits, Bouchard Aîné & Fils and Jaffelin in Beaune, Ropiteau Frères in Meursault, Mommessin and Thorin in Beaujolais, Louis Bernard in the Rhône Valley, Meditéo in the Languedoc and Charles de Fère French Sparkling Wines. The Californian wines, Joliesse Vineyards, Lyeth Estate and Wheeler Winery constitute a balanced portfolio geared toward the U.S. market. All fully owned by the Boisset Family.

For the past five years, the Burgundian négociant Boisset has created the "Domaines Boisset" involving the the Boisset Team - including Pascal Marchand, VP and head of winemaking and viticulture; Bernard Zito, head vinyeards manager, and Swan Hamel, Biodynamic specialist - in joint ventures with France, Uruguay and Chile.

Veranda - Chile

In Chile, a country with a strong reputation for its great terroirs, the Burgundy varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow alongside the 'traditional' local varietals of Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The grapes for Veranda were selected and vinified by the wine making team of Domaine de la Vougeraie (Pascal Marchand, Bernard Zito and Jacques Devauges) in association with their Chilean partners, including Chilean viticuluralist Constanza Schwaderer.

VerdandaChardonnay 2002, Casablanca Valley ($17)
The grape for this wine was grown in Casablanca Valley, 50 miles from Santiago on the western slope of the Coastal Range, where the proximity of the sea allows fresh, moisture-laden breezes to blow in. Thus creating an environment suitable for producing wines of great character with high fruit content. The vineyards are located in the cooler area of the valley, planted in north facing slopes. The low fertility of the sandy soils of granite origin and the cooler growing conditions of the region limit the yields so that they do not exceed approximately 8 tons per hectare. Aged 10 months in 25% new oak barrels, this pale gold, well-structured 100% Chardonnay has good acidity, delicate yet well-balanced aromas of tropical and citrus fruit, with hints of vanilla and butter and a long and creamy finish. Drink now. (1500 cases)

Veranda Cabernet Carménère 2002 Maipo Valley ($17)
This single-estate red from the Maipo Valley, a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Carménère, has an intense dark red color, with violet hues, a complex bouquet with notes of ripe cherry and cassis, with a touch of spices, and black pepper. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak, this wine has elegant blend of tannins of Cabernet and Carménère is tempered by the exuberant flavors of cherries raspberry and chocolate with tones of toast and spice. The finish is long and velvety. The Maipo Valley has a Mediterranean climate. Because of its altitude and exposure to the sun, it is cooler than other regions in the Andes and ideally suited for this Cabernet Sauvignon-Carménère assemblage. Pair with roasted lamb and meats or smoked cheese. Do not drink with salty foods which can impair the balance between Cabernet and Carmenère. (1500 cases)

Veranda: Pinot Noir 2002 Casablanca Valley ($17)
Medium Bodied with mineral flavors; this 100% Pinot Noir it typical of the Casablanca terroir where the sandy soil is favorable to concentrated red fruit flavors. It has cherry, strawberries, red currants aromas with hints of roses, sandalwood and spices. Smooth and with gentle tannins, it is an elegant wine with a long finish. Pair with osso buco and pastas.

Viña Progreso - Uruguay

From Uruguay comes Viña Progreso run by the Pisano family. The Pisano domaine, lying as it does in the best wine-growing district in the country, is rated as one of the most prestigious, and is part of a small group of family-run domaines where traditional small-scale methods produce wines that bear the imprint of the terroir.

The celebrated Tannat was first introduced into Uruguay in 1870 by Basque immigrants. Perfectly adapted to the Uruguayan soil and climate, the tannat quickly became the "national grape." It gives colorful and powerful wines, with tender but very present tannins. Rich and vigorous, it develops great complexity when aged in bottle for many years.

The new joint venture between the Pisano family and Boisset from France produced a rustic young tannat. Its smoky, plummy, tannic fruit needs a year or two to mellow; or serve it now with a generous cut of beef.

Viña ProgresoTannat 2002 ($20)

This Intense purple tannat is a full-bodied and lush wine with a good nose, great density in the mouth and robust taste of ripe cranberries and blackberries, combined with complex and concentrated tannic aromas of mushrooms, ripe dark plum and spiced wood. This big wine goes superbly well with "Asado" or barbecue, sausages, sharp cheeses and meat casseroles.

Viña Progreso Pinot Noir 2002 ($20)
Elegant and magnificent, the Pinot Noir competes with the Cabernet Sauvignon for first place amongst the noblest French grapes. Here, one of the traditional and unique varietals of the great Burgundy reds is displayed with an intriguing Uruguayan identity.

With a brilliant ruby red color, it is a deep, complex and elegant wine with a well defined raspberry and floral nose of violets and spices. Delicious and well-balanced on the palate this wine is smooth, with layers of plum and anise, silky, long tannins, and flavors of raspberry jam and black cherry that stand up to a slight acidity and a smoky note. It works well with Grilled salmon, tuna, mushrooms, roasted duck, pork, Brie, Cheddar, Camembert, and Roquefort.

Château La Croix Martelle - France

The recent acquisition of Château La Croix Martelle in Languedoc-Roussillon, gives Boisset a firm foothold in the Minervois district, cradle of great wines. The Domaine's proprietor, Caroline de Beaulieu, has been making wine in this area for over twenty years, strongly believing that only great wines could be made here. The Burgundian background of the Boisset Family could only complement the local skills already deployed in the Minervois La Livinière appellation.

Château La Croix Martelle is a domaine of 70 hectares situated in the heart of La Livinière, the most prestigious of the Minervois appellations (163 hectares total area, established 1999).

To date, 20 hectares of the domaine have been planted up according to the tenets of biodynamics, a philosophy which takes account of telluric, lunar and astral influences. Pascal Marchand, now manager of Le Domaine de la Vougeraie, together with his "other half", head grower Bernard Zito, will be working with Caroline de Beaulieu, oenologist and co-owner of La Croix Martelle, and her head grower Jacques Gervasi, in partnership with Nature, to produce wines of exceptional quality from low-yielding vines growing in healthy living soils. It is a demanding task involving minute attention to each individual plot throughout the vegetative cycle - work that has been going on under the watchful eye of Bernard Zito at Le Domaine de la Vougeraie for the past fifteen years.

The situation of La Croix Martelle gives it a magic all of its own. The rugged countryside hills, an ancient crossroads where history, geography and cultures mingle, harbors paleolithic sites, dolmens, prehistoric and historic remains from the Celts, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Franks, Saracens, and the armies of the Albigensian crusades.

The landscape of the domaine itself is typically Mediterranean with a Roman road running through it. The vineyards are enclosed in drystone walls and the landscape is dotted with "capitelles" - stone shepherds' huts. There are olive trees and cypresses among the scrub vegetation of the "garrigue". Running water is present in abundance, giving life to the varied flora of a self-contained ecosystem.

Only pesticides permitted by the rules or organic cultivation are used, and old "peasant remedies" such as infusions of nettles, dandelions or thyme play an important role. The rule here is to work with nature, not against it, and so to live from

This natural diversity has given birth today to: Petit Frère Pinot Noir, La Livinière Grande Réserve and La Réserve de Sirus. In addition, high quality olive oil is made from the fleshy and much sought-after "Lucques" olives, typical of the district.

Château La Croix Martelle Petit Frère Pinot Noir 2001 ($24)
This Pinot Noir grape - originally from Burgundy - expresses itself just as sublimely as it does in its native soil. The vines are cultivated in gentle harmony with the forces of nature; the hand-picked grapes are vinified the Burgundy way in open wooden vats and matured in oak casks. It already has an intense ruby color and complex nose of mineral and balsamic notes with fruit appearing after opening. In the mouth, aromas of cherries, red currants with notes of spices. Its elegant structure is supported by silky tannins. (500 cases)

Château La Croix Martelle: 2000 La Grande Réserve ($26)
Produced from a blend of varietals: Syrah (44%), Grenache (30%), Mourvèdre (20%), Cinsault (6%), grown in the heart of Minervois La Liviniere, The 2000 vintage Grande Réserve was separately vinified and placed in Burgundian-style open wooden vats for 18 months. Ample and well-built, it is a wine whose elegant, velvety tannins give it great aging potential. It is dark red with brilliant violet highlights, a nose of fresh raspberries, spices and thyme. In the mouth red fruits, sweet blackberry, raspberry and layers of spiciness and supple, velvety tannins giving it good structure, balance, and a long pleasant finish. (300 cases)

Château La Croix Martelle Réserve de Sirus 2001 ($17)
The grapes for the Réserve de Sirus come from younger vineyards located in the heart of the Minervois appellation where the expression of the terroir is less marked, allowing the varietal characteristics of Cinsault (30%), Syrah (20%), Grenache (35%), Mourvèdre (15%) to emerge. Produced from biodynamically grown grapes, each parcel of vines is harvested by hand and separately vinified and placed in Burgundian-style open wooden vats for six months in 30% new oak casks. With a dark cherry color it's nose is complex with intense aromas of red fruit, cherries and cassis. It's subtle mix of milk chocolate, dark plum, red fruit and spice are hard to resist. This is a well-structured wine with a balance of silky tannins and flavors of ripe fruit. that should be a good match for roasted poultry, pork, beef, hard and soft cheeses, pâté. Drink now. (5,000 cases)

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