This blog continues to follow Ulrich Dujardin’s change from an adult handicapped teacher in Dijon to a traditional Burgundian winemaker. Please look for the first post in the series: Outsider impacts Burgundy winemaking tradition, Part I.
Wine merchant and writer Kermit Lynch reflected on the French wine aesthetic in a 1998 Food and Wine article that underscores the importance of the region to the wine making process. He wrote that in order to understand the French wine culture, one must interpret or acknowledge the ‘goût de terroir.’ It “refers to the character or style or personality a certain vineyard site gives to its wines.”
While this affects most bouteilles de vin de Bourgogne, I believe Ulrich Dujardin’s personality, character and style distinguish Domaine Dujardin, creating the distinctive features and flavor of his wine. Dujardin bet his future through the day-to-day operations and willed himself to become a vigneron, despite no family ties to Burgundy. He implemented his passion for reinvigorating the lives of disabled people. Ulrich took a personal interest in their lives through “hands-on” education. This zeal corresponds to his love for the land and winemaking.
For the next 18 years, Dujardin poured himself into the Bouzerand winery. However, the vinification process gradually became more and more the product of Ulrich’s growing desire to own and vinify in an all-natural process rather than prized ways of the past. He insists on traditional methods, including nurturing the vines while avoiding pesticides or herbicides. He also oversees, and personally participates in, a completely hand-harvested crop. In fact, he continues to hire handicapped adults in the Domain Dujardin vineyards. He took over all aspects of the domaine, including a hands-on approach to pruning, harvesting, winemaking and marketing of all eight of the domaine’s appellations.
With the domain revived due to Dujardin’s attention to detail, Bouzerand* decided to sell Ulrich his half of the domaine in 2008.
The Parisian-born outsider, and now full-fledged Burgundian, redrew a new label, this time without the Bouzerand name for the first time. Ulrich now owns and operates Domain Dujardin as a sole proprietor on the slopes of Monthelie. The 12th and 15th century caves are now his to use and store the nine different appellations, including wines from four different communes: Beaune, nearby villages of Auxey-Duresses, Meursault, and of course, Monthelie.
“I am a committed to being a part of each stage of the (winemaking) process,” Ulrich said in French and translated to English by his wife, Catherine. “I trim vines, sorting in field, harvest grapes, and manage process from bunches to barrels and bottling.”
Catherine, shaking her head in agreement, also added that Ulrich was also available to other winemakers in the area to help them with their production. He also teaches winemaking techniques to groups who visit his domaine.
“Ulrich is always helping others,” Catherine said. “He still hires handicapped people to work in the vineyards and spending time with others who need help.” She paused and then added, “He works too much.” Catherine repeated the last sentence in French. Ulrich smiled, shrugged his shoulders and shook his head in agreement. He said something in French that I didn’t catch and Catherine didn’t repeat it.
Catherine did emphasize one last point before we finished dinner.
“Ulrich has a drive for people to like and appreciate what he does,” Catherine said. “He is so good; he always wants to help out others with their work, including in the fields, but he does not ask for any help himself. He has a big heart.”
As the evening drew to a close, and I finished the chocolate torte Ulrich’s daughter, Margaux, made, I asked him about further plans to grow the domain as his appellations usually sell out. His answer is simple. “Why, I already have enough?” His smile sent me adrift as he gestured to his home, the vineyards through the open window and family at the table.
According to Burgundy Discovery’s Lynne Hammond, Domain Dujardin has already made a name for itself in French wine competitions and are currently sold in some Parisian wine shops.
“The Domaine’s (Dujardin) Premier Cru wines are regularly cited in the French publications: Le Guide Hachette des Vins (The Hachette Guide to Wines) and have been awarded 16 medals in the last few years, including five gold from the (Concours de Paris (General Agricultural Competition: Paris), Concours des Grands Vins de France de Mâcon (The Committee on Fairs, Competition National Fair of Wines and Macon) and the Burgundia d’Or Councours (Burgundy Wine Competition).”
Dujardin is also a member of the select group of Vignerons Independants (Independent Winegrowers) that typify the small, family domaines that dominate French winemakers.
“We’ve known Ulrich for 10 years,” Hammond said. “He was one of the first growers we met when David [husband] and I moved here from the UK to set up our business in the world of Burgundy wine. He is a passionate and caring man – about his family, friends, lifestyle and wines. This passion truly comes through in his wines, which are expressive and well-balanced. We always say passionate winemakers make passionate wines!”
In the same FoodandWine.com article listed above, Kermit Lynch describes that a French wine seems to “taste of centuries.”
“Goût de terroir is the result of complex interactions between many factors, such as grape variety, geology of the soil, climate and microclimate, topography, native yeasts and microbes, nearby vegetation and vinification. The genius of the French wine culture is founded on the ideal marriage of all these factors (and probably more), marriages perfected in each locale over centuries of trial, error and experience. The genius of the French wine culture is founded on the ideal marriage of all these factors (and probably more), marriages perfected in each locale over centuries of trial, error and experience.”
I believe Ulrich Dujardin is the factor, the expertise, that helps marriage the taste of centuries in Monthelie. He has built a reputation with a personal stake in the community and a sincere love of all human beings. Dujardin is willing to give more than he could ever get in return and exudes a sold-out attitude and desire to create masterpieces from his own backyard that are sure to outlive him.
Come and meet Ulrich, with Lynne and David Hammond’s Bringing Burgundy to You wine weekend event alongside France’s largest Wine Fair – Salon des Vins des Vignerons Independants. This fair takes place in the old Flemish city of Lille, around 60 minutes north-east of Paris, between Nov. 16-19. Each year, 600 growers taking part, all of whom are Vignerons Independants. Meet Ulrich, taste his wines and enjoy a private gourmet dinner hosted by Ulrich, David and Lynne.
Ulrich Dujardin lives in the village of Monthelie with his wife, Catherine, and three children: Paul, Margaux and Luc.
For more information on Domaine Dujardin, visit the web site, check out Monthélie Vignerons or email Ulrich at firstname.lastname@example.org. While it is difficult to get Domain Dujardin wines from the winery, often they can be purchased at local wine shops in the villages of Santenay, Meursault and Beaune.
For more information on Burgundy wine classifications, read my previous post.
*Bouzerand: After Xavier Bouzerand retired from the domain in 2008, he opened a wood carving studio in Beaune where he can still be seen creating works of art with wood.