Ulrich Dujardin: Outsider impacts Burgundy winemaking tradition, Part II

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.”

For Ulrich Dujardin, winemaking is all about paying attention to detail and that includes all aspects of the winery. This gated entrance to the stone building warehouses the winemaking equipment, including the wine barrels stored the 12th-15th century caves below.

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.

Despite his nearly year-round schedule, Ulrich Dujardin, center, takes an hour or two each week to teach about his techniques to groups who visit his domain.

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.

Ulrich Dujardin, left, is the factor, the expertise, that helps marriage the taste of centuries in Monthelie. He has built a reputation on the traditional natural process, without the use of pesticides and herbicides, harvesting by hand.

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.

Domain Dujardin wines are created by a distinct personality and character that distinguish them a part of the Monthelie landscape and culture.

“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.

Domaine Dujardin produces red and white wine, listing 10 appellations from four communes. His Village Meursault white is much sought after in Burgundy.

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).”

–Lynne Hammond

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.

Ulrich Dujardin, left, and Domain Dujardin produce five appellations of white and five of red wines, including two Premier Crus.

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 domaine.dujardin@orange.fr. 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.

Please return to www.talesoftheCork.com or email talesofthecork@gmail.com for updates on future availability of Domaine Dujardin wines.


*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.

Outsider impacts Burgundy winemaking tradition, Part I

Burgundy winemaking is tradition and viewed as a right. Skills and vineyards are passed down from generation to generation, but occasionally a dreamer or upstart gains a foothold and sets root into Bourgogne’s Côte d’Or.

The Beaune Hospice, founded in 1443, was a place of refuge for orphaned children until 1970. Today the Hospices de Beaune are a testimony to its long history, continue to operate 60 hectares of vineyards and host a wine auction the third Sunday of November.

Born in Paris in 1963 to parents who were strangers to Burgundy, Ulrich Dujardin’s father moved the family to Nancy, France (east of Strasbourg, France) soon after for a job opportunities in the petrol industry. Later the family uprooted and settled in Dijon where Ulrich finished his schooling from 1971-1981. However, as he continued his schooling, working towards an education degree, Ulrich met disabled people in Beaune. The impression impacted him forever.

Ulrich’s father introduced his children to wine at an early age; a common practice for Europeans. His parents enjoyed wine and shared tastes with young Ulrich who gained valuable appreciation for its importance. Wine not only shaped dinner choices but cultural and community events they attended. And wine tasting with his father impressed and provided the impetus for Ulrich to occasionally cutting grapes from vines in the vineyards, influencing and honing early skills. But he could never allow himself to dream of becoming a winemaker. Burgundy winemaking was not in his family’s lineage.

I sat down with Ulrich and his wife Catherine one day in mid June to find out how a man born outside of Burgundy could thrive in a such a small town like Monthelie. In the next couple of posts, Ulrich’s story, despite my poor French skills, are what follows. And while Ulrich’s English is limited, Catherine’s struggle to translate French to English is also a part of the story.

“I grew up knowing about wines and vineyards from my father,” Dujardin said in broken English through his wife Catherine. “He gave me some tastes and I cut some grapes from the vine. This I never forgot.”

But as an outsider, Ulrich never felt or became a part of the winemaking community even after he met Xavier Bouzerand in 1986 of Monthelie, Burgundy, in the Côte de Beaune.

Ulrich Dujardin began to work for Xavier Bouzerand in the vineyards of Monthelie in 1986. The small village and surrounding slopes are 5 KM 3.5 miles from Beaune.

After graduating from school, Ulrich increasingly became interested in working with handicapped people after he took a tour of the Hospices de Beaune: a hospital for the sick and disadvantaged from 1443-1970. Ulrich was moved by the passion of the nurses while visiting the museum and decided to become a handicapped teacher.

Four years later, Bouzerand met Dujardin while Ulrich led a class field trip while working at a Center Aide Travail just outside Dijon. As a teacher who worked with adult handicapped people, Dujardin often took groups to work at temporary jobs. Disabled adults worked in places like woodshops and construction sites, assembly plants and repair shops. They also would help with catering and housekeeping opportunities and labor in the vineyards.

When Bouzerand and Dujardin initially spoke to one another, their communication centered on a handicapped member of Bouzerand’s family. Dujardin’s efforts with adult handicapped people at the non-profit agency impressed Bouzerand and the two men seemed to click; they both shared their expertise, keenly interested in what each other shared. A match was born.

Without a family tradition or land inheritance, Ulrich Dujardin decided to cut back to three days part-time teaching adult handicapped people in 1986. The other four days a week he accepted a position at Domain Bouzerand in Monthelie.

Soon afterwards, and upon Bouzerand’s invitation, Ulrich began making trips to work at the Bouzerand vineyards in Monthelie, about 42 km (26 miles) from Dijon, the region’s capital. At first the visits were on weekends and on holidays from his job at the Center Aid Travail. But within a year, Dujardin committed 50 percent of his time to the winery in Monthelie. He spent Monday through Wednesday working with handicapped adults and Thursday through Sunday working along side Bouzerand.

The aspiring winemaker worked seven days a week between the two business until Bouzerand accepted him as a 50-50 partner, changing the label from a single last name to Bouzerand-Dujardin in 1990.

It became increasingly clear to Bouzerand that his own handicapped son was not able to accept the responsibility of taking over the family winery; as a result, Dujardin’s dream began to emerge. He then focused his full-time energy on the winery. Even if he could not own the land, Dujardin was ready to take charge of a reborn Domain Bouzerand-Dujardin and its eight hectares. He retired from his teaching position in Dijon and its guaranteed salary.

He now became a full-time Vigneron.

Please return in the next couple of days for Ulrich Dujardin: Outsider impacts Burgundy winemaking tradition, Part II.

Burgundy winemaker designs new path

A trip to France is not complete without a food and wine experience. I don’t just mean a lunch or dinner at a village or Parisian cafe, bistro or brasserie, enjoying local cuisine and wine. While that is a large part of the equation, I wanted to meet and learn more about the winemakers and their passion to create the bottles of juice the world has on their tables.

So in June I traveled to Burgundy, France, for a week and spent three days wine tasting, talking with vignerons and wine merchants. I decided to hire Burgundy Discovery’s Robert and Joy Pygott to reacquaint me with the area. My visit five years ago gave me a wonderful overview to the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, but I wanted the perspective of someone who lived in the region to reeducate me with the Burgundian appellations and regions.

After studying adult handicap education, Parisian-born Ulrich Dujardin became a respected Burgundy winemaker through personal courage, fortitude and vision. His new wine label broke new ground into the often closed community.

During my 2007 visit to Burgundy, my wife and I met Ulrich Dujardin at Domain Bouzerand-Dujardin. This winemaker exuded excitement and passion for his craft and I was moved by his story. He was not a local landowner nor did his family’s history include winemaking. But Ulrich’s enthusiasm and vision for the craft sparked a cord within me. I wanted to meet Ulrich again and learn more about the outsider who became a winemaker in the tiny village of Monthelie, 5 km or 3.5 miles from Beaune.

This year’s visit included an hour presentation of Domain Dujardin’s winemaking process from beginning to end, including Ulrich’s personal attention to an all hand-harvest and natural wine process. But as he spoke about his passion for winemaking, I heard something I did not catch when I spent an hour with him in 2007. Ulrich’s passionate presentation invigorated me because he obviously cared about the process. But I almost missed his side comments on how he hires disabled or handicapped people to help him in the vineyards. And when I checked on his family heritage, it did not include winemaking.

How did an outsider become a winemaker in a region which favors tradition and heritage over the new and upstart?

My first Burgundian TalesoftheCork will post tomorrow. I want to introduce Domain Dujardin and its owner: Ulrich Dujardin. Please return to read “Outsider impacts Burgundy winemaking tradition, Part I.”


Côte de Beaune introduction

Burgundy is a triangular region in central France. The area includes Chablis, about three hours south of Paris, to Dijon in the North and Macon to the South. The Côte de Beaune appellation incorporates the southern villages of Cheilly Les Maranges and Santenay to northern village of Pernano Vergelesses. Beaune is the largest village. A sub appellation includes the villages of the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. These villages and vineyards are on the plateau above the Côte de Beaune.

Almost every Saturday morning, starting at 7:30, Beaune’s old city center comes alive with a farmer’s market. Be sure to grab a coffee creme and croissant at one of the patisseries or cafes.