Tag Archives: Vincent Girardin

Keeping Up With The Joneses of Burgundy — Girardin Edition

For this installment of Keeping Up With The Joneses, we’re looking at the various Girardin estates based in the Côte de Beaune. We’re going to give them the same treatment that we did exploring the Leflaive, Coche, Boillot, Gros and Morey family connections.

Photo taken by self and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as User:Agne27 under CC-BY-SA-3.0

A village-level Chassagne-Montrachet from Vincent Girardin.

Our primary tools for this sleuthing include:

Remington Norman and Charles Taylor’s The Great Domaines of Burgundy
Clive Coates’ The Wines of Burgundy
Clive Coates’ Côte D’Or: A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy
Matt Kramer’s Making Sense of Burgundy
Bill Nanson’s The Finest Wines of Burgundy
Benjamin Lewin’s Burgundy (Guides to Wines and Top Vineyards)

While some of these books are getting pricier as they fall out of print, several of them are still available used from Amazon for $8-40. They are well worth the investment for budding Burgundy geeks.

One other book that I’ve been lusting to add to my collection is Jasper Morris’ Inside Burgundy. Morris recently did a fantastic interview with Levi Dalton where he noted that the 2nd edition of Inside Burgundy is on the horizon.

I hope that the release of that new edition will mean used copies of the original become a little more affordable. From everything I’ve heard, this 656-page tome is an exceptional resource.

But with that, let’s dive into the story of the Girardins.

The Girardin Family

The Girardin family has been in Burgundy since at least 1570. However, their modern winemaking history dates to the 20th century.

After World War II, Jean Girardin founded his eponymous estate in the village of Santenay. Not long after, Armand Girardin took over his family’s domaine in the northern part of the Côte de Beaune in Pommard. Unfortunately, I couldn’t determine the exact relationship between the two men. For the rest of this article, I will consider Jean the patriarch of the Santenay branch of Girardins and Armand the head of the Pommard branch.

Jean would continue to grow his domaine with the acquisition of additional parcels, including Château de la Charrière. Following his retirement in 1981-1982, he divided his holdings among his four children with his three sons, Yves, Vincent and Jacques, each receiving 3 hectares and starting their own domaines.

Vincent has been the most prominent member of the family, starting a negociant firm to go along with his estate vineyards.

A few mysteries.
Photo by GFreihalter. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

A stone cross marks the entrance of the Pommard premier cru vineyard Les Rugiens.
Aleth Girardin’s great-grandfather planted vines here in 1906 that she still tends to today.

Armand’s daughter Aleth began taking over her family’s estate in the late 1970s and then completely in 1995.

I did find one noticeable discrepancy in my research on this domaine. Remington Norman and Charles Taylor’s profile of Aleth in The Great Domaines of Burgundy list her parents as Henri and Hélène Girardin.

However, the vast majority of resources describe Aleth as the daughter of Armand, a former mayor of Pommard. Apart from websites copying Norman and Taylor’s blurb, the only reference I could find to a Domaine Henri Girardin is a 2001 newsletter with a tasting note for a 1990 Pommard Les Grands Epenots Premier Cru.

I’m curious if Henri is perhaps another child of Armand and a sibling to Aleth? Or it could be an earlier ancestor with Aleth’s website noting that her family has been in Pommard for at least six generations. I found several references to her great-grandfather (but no name) planting some of the parcels in Rugiens back in 1906.

Another mystery comes from Clive Coates’ The Wines of Burgundy. Here he lists Dominique and Anne-Marie Piguet-Girardin as growers in Auxey-Duresses with no other details. Their relationship to either branch of the Girardins has not been easy to determine. Allen Meadows of Burghound has tasting notes for a 1993 and 1999 Santenay Premier Cru La Comme made by Domaine Piguet-Girardin. It is possible that this could be related to the 4th child of Jean Girardin. However, I could not confirm that through my research.

Girardin family tree

Current Girardin Estates

Domaine Aleth Girardin (Pommard)

In 1988, Aleth married actor Michel Le Royer. When she took over her family’s domaine in the mid-1990s, she started bottling several of her wines as a Domaine Le Royer-Girardin. When they divorced some years later, Aleth changed the estate name to its current incarnation.

Prime holdings: Pommard 1er cru Les Epenots (0.53 ha), Pommard 1er cru Les Rugiens (0.41 ha), Beaune 1er cru Clos des Mouches (0.35 ha)

Domaine Vincent Girardin (Meursault)

After founding his estate in 1982 when he was just 18, Vincent Girardin moved his domaine to Meursault in 1994. That same year, he founded his negociant firm, Maison Vincent Girardin. The success of his negociant operation gave him the income to expand his vineyard holdings significantly with the purchase of many of Domaine Henri Clerc’s parcels.

In 2010, Vincent and Véronique Girardin expanded into Beaujolais with their acquisition of La Tour du Bief in Chénas. Today, 80% of Girardin’s production is white wine with around 300,000 bottles produced from their Côte d’Or holdings and another 200,000 produced at their Beaujolais estate. Since 2007, Girardin has farmed his estate parcels biodynamically.

Prime holdings: Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.46 ha), Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.18 ha), Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.18 ha)

Domaine Yves Girardin (Santenay)
Photo by http://www.kvins.com. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

A bottle of village-level Chassagne-Montrachet made by Yves Girardin bottled under the Château de la Charrière label.

Yves has expand his domaine with vineyard holdings in Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet and Pommard. Today he farms around 21.50 ha with his son, Benoît. Before joining the family domaine, Benoit spent some time working in Bordeaux as well as at other Burgundian estates. In 2003, Yves Girardin reacquired Château de la Charrière and produces wine under that label.

Prime holdings: Beaune 1er cru Clos des Vignes Franches, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru Clos St. Jean (Chardonnay), Santenay 1er cru Les Gravières

Domaine Jacques Girardin (Santenay)

In addition to his inherited parcels, Jacques and his wife Valérie have added holdings from Savigny-lès-Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet and Pommard. In 2012, management of the domaine passed on to their son, Justin. After taking over, he has been steadily converting the domaine to organic viticulture.

Prime holdings: Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru Morgeot (Chardonnay and 0.17 ha Pinot noir), Santenay 1er cru Clos du Rousseau (1.92 ha), Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er cru Les Peuillets (0.53 ha)

Domaine Justin Girardin (Santenay)

Since 2015, Justin has been bottling more wine under his own name while still managing his father’s estate.

Prime holdings: Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru Morgeot (Chardonnay and 0.17 ha Pinot noir), Santenay 1er Cru Beauregard (0.93 ha) and Santenay 1 er Cru Maladière (0.66 ha)

Additional Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy

The Boillot Familly
The Morey Family
The Gros Family
The Coche Family
The Leflaive Family

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

Getting Geeky with Tablas Creek Vermentino

Back in January I wrote a post called Wine Clubs Done Right which detailed my discovery of Tablas Creek’s Wine Club program and ultimate decision to join it. As I noted in that post, I don’t join many wineries’ wine clubs because they rarely offer (to me) compelling value and I don’t like being committed to buying quantities of wine that may eventually shift in style due to changing winemakers/ownership, etc.

However, while exploring the Tablas Creek story and all they had to offer I found many compelling reasons to pull the trigger and join. Much to my surprise, the folks at Tablas Creek were actually interested in my tale and offered on their blog some cool behind the scene insights into their own thought processes in how they set up their wine club programs.

You usually don’t see that kind of receptivity and transparency with many wineries but, as I’ve found out in the nearly 8 months since I’ve been a member of Tablas Creek’s wine club, that is just par for the course with them. It’s not marketing or show, these folks are really just wine geeks through and through who clearly love what they are doing and sharing that passion with others.

If you are wine geek yourself, I honestly can’t recommend a more exciting winery to discover.

Beyond their hugely informative blog with harvest and business details, the Tablas Creek website also offers a fantastic vintage chart of their wines that is updated regularly and an encyclopedic listing of grape varieties they farm complete with geeky history, winemaking and viticulture details.

Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes is still my holy writ (and I really like Harry Karis’ The Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Book chapter on grapes) but when I’m away from my books and want to check up on a Rhone variety there is no better online source than the Tablas Creek site. Plus, the particular winemaking details they cover in the entries is often stuff that you won’t find in many wine books because it comes from their decades of hands-on experience working with these grapes between themselves and the Perrins’ Ch. Beaucastel estate.

Photo taken by self and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Counoise vine outside the tasting room at Tablas Creek.


But enough with the effusive gushing and let’s get down to some hardcore geeking over the 2017 Tablas Creek Vermentino from the Adelaida District of Paso Robles.

The Background

Tablas Creek Vineyards was founded in 1989 as a partnership between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands. As I noted in my 60 Second Review of the 2000 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Perrins have been in charge of the legendary Rhone property since 1909.

Robert Haas established Vineyard Brands in 1973 as part of a long wine importing career that began in the 1950s working for his father’s Manhattan retail shop M. Lehmann (which was eventually bought by Sherry Wine and Spirits Co. to become Sherry-Lehmann). After World War II, he was the first American importer to bring Chateau Petrus to the United States. Haas also helped popularize the idea of selling Bordeaux futures to American consumers.

In addition to Beaucastel, Haas represented the importing interests of the Burgundian estates Domaine Ponsot, Henri Gouges, Thibault Liger-Belair, Jean-Marc Boillot, Etienne Sauzet, Mongeard-Mugneret, Domaine de Courcel, Thomas Morey, Vincent & Sophie Morey, Vincent Girardin and Vincent Dauvissat as well as the Champagne houses Salon and Delamotte. Haas would go on to sell Vineyard Brands to the firm’s employees in 1997 with his son, Daniel, managing the company today.

Aaron Romano of Wine Spectator noted that Haas also helped launch Sonoma-Cutrer and promoted on a national stage the prestigious California wines of Chappellet, Joseph Phelps, Hanzell, Kistler and Freemark Abbey. In 1980, he co-found the distribution firm Winebow Group.

Photo by Deb Harkness, Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-2.0

The vineyards of Tablas Creek with some of the rocky limestone soil visible.

The similarity in the maritime climate and limestone soils of the Adelaida District, west of the city of Paso Robles, inspired Haas and the Perrins to purchase 120 acres and establish Tablas Creek. Planting of their estate vineyard began in 1994 and today the winery has 115 acres of vines that are biodynamically farmed–producing around 30,000 cases a year.

Utilizing its close connection to the Chateauneuf estate, Tablas Creek would go on to become an influential figure in the Rhone Ranger movement in the United States. Doing the heavy lifting of getting cuttings from Beaucastel through quarantine and TTB label approval, Tablas Creek would help pioneer in the US numerous varieties like Counoise, Terret noir, Grenache blanc, Picpoul and more. Additionally the high quality “Tablas Creek clones” of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre have populated the vineyards of highly acclaimed producers across California, Oregon and Washington.

In the mid-2000s, Robert’s son Jason joined the winery and is the now the general manager as well as the main contributor to Tablas Creek’s award winning blog.

Photo provided by NYPL Digital Gallery. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-PD-Mark with an author that died more than 100 years ago.

Vermentino from Giorgio Gallesio’s ampelography catalog published between 1817 and 1839.

In March 2018, Robert Haas passed away at the age of 90 leaving a lasting legacy on the world of wine.

The Grape

The origins and synonyms of Vermentino are hotly debated. Some ampelographers claim that the grape came from Spain via Corsica and Sardinia sometime between the 14th and 17th centuries with modern DNA evidence suggesting that the Vermentino vine of Tuscany, Corsica and Sardinia is the same grape as the Ligurian Pigato and the Piemontese Favorita.

However Ian D’Agata, in his Native Wine Grapes of Italy, notes that these conclusions are vigorously disputed by Italian growers, particularly in Liguria, who point out that different wine is produced by Pigato compared to other Vermentinos. D’Agata, himself, relays that he usually finds Pigato to produce “bigger, fatter wines” that have a creamier texture than most Vermentinos. The name “Pigato” is believed to have been derived from the word pigau in the Ligurian dialect, meaning spotted, and could be a reference to the freckled spots that appear on the berries after veraison.

The absence of Vementino being mentioned in the 1877 Bollettino Ampelografico listing of Sardinian varieties suggest that it could be a more recent grape to the island (though it was later included in the 1887 edition). Today the grape plays a prominent roll in Sardinia’s only DOCG wine–Vermentino di Gallura.

Photo by 	trolvag. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Vermentino vineyards in Sardinia.


The connection to Favorita seems to be less disputed though Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz note in Wine Grapes that historically the grape was believed to have been brought to Piedmont originally as a gift from Ligurian oil merchants. The first documentation of the grape was in the Roero region in 1676 where it was reported to be a “favorite” for consumption as a table grape.

Almost two decades earlier, in the Piemontese province of Alessandria, a grape named “Fermentino” was described growing in vineyards along with Cortese and Nebbiolo with this, perhaps, being the earliest recorded mentioning of Vermentino.

Historically, as Favorita, the grape has a long history of being blended with Nebbiolo as a softening agent to smooth out the later grape’s harsh tannins and acid in a manner not too dissimilar to the use of white grape varieties like Trebbiano and Malvasia being blended with Sangiovese in the historic recipe for Chianti.

While once the primary grape of Roero, in recent decades Favorita has fallen out of favor as Arneis and Chardonnay have gained in popularity.

Photo by Magnetto. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Rolle/Vermentino grapes growing in southern France.

Outside of Italy and Corsica, Vermentino can also be found in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France where it is known as Rolle. Beyond Europe the grape is grown in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and has become one of the fastest growing “alternative grape varieties” in Australia with nearly 300 acres planted in 2016 in areas like Victoria, the Hunter Valley, King Valley, the Barossa and Murray Darling.

While Tablas Creek mostly focuses on Châteauneuf-du-Pape grapes, they were one of the first domestic producers of Vermentino in the United States when they planted the vine in 1993 based upon the recommendation of the Perrin family’s nurseryman who thought the vine would do well in the soils and climate of the Adelaida District. While originally used as a blending component, the winery has been making a varietal Vermentino since the 2002 vintage.

In 2008, there were around 20 acres of the Vermentino planted in California when there was some speculation that the grape could have appeal to Sauvignon blanc drinkers. By 2017 that number had jump to 91 acres as producers like Tablas Creek, Seghesio in the Russian River Valley, Mahoney Vineyards, Fleur Las Brisas and Saddleback in Carneros, Unti Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley, Gros Ventre Cellars in El Dorado, Brick Barn in Santa Ynez, Twisted Oak in the Sierra Foothills and others began receiving acclaim for their bottlings.

Outside of California, notable plantings of Vermentino can be found in the Applegate Valley of Oregon (Troon Vineyard and Minimus Wines), the Texas High Plains (Duchman Family Winery) and the Monticello AVA of Virginia (Barboursville Vineyards).

In 2017, Tablas Creek produced 1430 cases of Vermentino. While some producers age their Vermentino in neutral oak, Tablas Creek fermented the wine with native yeast and aged it in stainless steel tanks.

The Wine

High intensity nose. Very citrus driven with kiffir lime, pink grapefruit and pummelo–both the zest and the fruit. There is also a tree fruit element that seems a bit peachy but I would put it more in the less sweet yellow peach category than white peach.

Photo by David Adam Kess. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The mix of citrus and yellow peach notes are very intriguing with this wine.


On the palate, those citrus notes carry through and have an almost pithy element to them. Not bitter at all but it definitely adds weight and texture to the medium body of the wine. The medium-plus acid is mouthwatering and lively but well balanced with the acid highlighting the yellow peach note. The palate also introduces some racy minerality with a very distinctive streak of salinity that lingers long throughout the finish.

The Verdict

The best way I can describe this 2017 Tablas Creek Vermentino is if a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, a sur lie Muscadet from the Loire and an Italian Pinot grigio had a threesome and produced a baby, this would be it.

This is a fascinatingly unique and character driven wine that combines multiple layers of tropical and tree fruit with acidity, minerality, weight and texture. Well worth its $27 price.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!