Guffens-Heynen wines haven't been in the US for over a decade, however they have remained as one of the most sought after domaines for Burgundy lovers. We had enjoyed various vintages in Europe and Japan, but due to the 10 year gap of not having a US importer, we wanted to seek out the wines and understand them a bit more. William Kelley, being a close friend, introduced us. Arriving at the estate for the initial visit, we spent nearly 9 hours conversing about wine and life.
Interestingly enough, we talk about focusing on young winemakers who are helping to re-define the future of winemaking. Winemakers who are making bold yet smart changes, and practicing healthy viticulture. It may not seem that Jean-Marie fits into this category, but he does in more ways than one! Jean-Marie and his wife Maine settled in Vergisson in 1976. Despite making wine since 1980, the rest aligns pretty closely. We never claim to be an importer of "organic or "biodynamic wines", but try to put a focus on the term healthy viticulture instead. We don't believe you need a certification to achieve something remarkable in the vineyard. Jean-Marie feels just the same wayfrom the appellation system and regulations to the term biodynamics.
After arriving in Vergisson from Belgium, they immediately emerged themselves into learning about winemaking and acquired their first plots of Pierreclos in 1979. Since the early 80s, Jean Marie has been pushing to prove that great chardonnay doesn't solely come from the Côte de Beaune. Nor does it have to have a 1er cru or Grand cru designation on the label. His first official vintage was 1982 with the wines from Vergisson, followed by starting the Negociant label- Verget in 1990. Verget is his project with purchased fruit from Chablis and Côte de Beaune
VITICULURE | GUFFENS-HEYNEN
Guffens believes in making honest wines. We often discuss producers and speak about who they have learned from or have philosophies similar to. Maybe the most controversial view is his dis-belief in the term terroir. This statement is easily misunderstood or questioned, but when you hear him speak about it- it makes more sense. He wants to do what is best for each vineyard in regards to farming and picking. Ultimately it takes a human, not just terroir, to make these decisions. The decision of when to plant, what to plant, how to manage the vineyard and all of the decisions to make at harvest. Although he isn't one for terms- he has created some of his own, non-cultivation. He works the soils only once a year, but only very shallowly. He uses a mower to control growth of grass and weeds with the idea that this limits nitrogen production and soil compaction. He does not deleaf or hedge his vines, as all of these things tend to support more vegetative growth and lower acidity in his grapes. He harvests late with pretty ripe grapes. The berries are typically smaller as are yields. If ripening is varying in the vineyards, it is time to harvest. Usually multiple passes happen each harvest, something not typically practiced in Burgundy. In total, the Domaine wines’ now consist of 5.65 hectares in Vergisson, Pierreclos, and Davaye.
VINIFICATION | GUFFENS-HEYNEN
As important as picking ripe grapes is in the vineyard, pressing may be one of the most crucial parts of winemaking to Jean-Marie. The grapes are lightly crushed before being pressed. In the winery a modified coquard press is used (also uncommon in Burgundy). The first press and free run juice is a crucial part of their pressing. This is the juice that is lower in PH and provides the incredible acidity we find in the Guffens wines. When done correctly, it is quite magical. All of this is what Jean-Marie really thinks makes the major difference. It is different from vintage to vintage and vineyard to vineyard, it’s usually slow and meticulously done. It is more the person working the press than the press itself. The wine is then transferred for fermentation- various size barrels and concrete depending on the vintage.