Vineyard acreage: 75 acres
Grape variety: Ugni blanc
Annual sales cognac: 35,000–40,000 bottles

 

Chez Lafont is located in the fairest of landcapes halfway between the two quiet villages of Saint-Preuil and Bouteville in the heart of Grande Champagne. The Bouju family history can be traced back to 1805 but it was not until 1976 that the seventh generation Bouju, Daniel and his wife Liliane, decided to start selling directly under their own name. Sales grew gradually, and for many years now this small family producer is fully independent. Their son François has worked with his parents since 1990 and is today in charge of the business.

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The vast majority of the vineyards are located immediately adjacent to the estate and along the surrounding hills to the west. The family also owns a few small vineyards in the neighboring village of Bouteville. Saint-Preuil and its surroundings belong to a privileged corner of Grande Champagne, where growing conditions reach their peak in terms of soil and location. The undulating landscape with its many hills allow for a high exposure to the sun and good drainage.

Daniel Bouju differs from other cognac producers on several points. Already in the vineyard, especially in the twelve hectares that surround the family farm, things look different than at most other estates in the cognac region. The grapevines seem to be tied higher up than in other vineyards. The predominant pruning technique in the Cognac area is the so-called double Guyot, wheras Bouju uses techniques called cordon haut and arcure haute. These techniques were originally chosen for practical reasons, because they reduce the manual pruning work during the winter months. A higher pruning also reduces the risk of frost damage during the cold spring nights.

The family’s only still is from 1969 and it has the unusual volume of 18.5 hectoliters. François’ face lights up when I praise its perfect condition and he says that it is he himself who polishes it after each distillation season.

Like most wine-growers that distil themselves in the Grande Champagne region François prefers to distil with the sediment (avec les lies) to retain as many flavours as possible before the long maturation period. The sediment contains no solids, they are sorted out, only particles light enough to float in the liquid, called lies fines.

When it comes to ageing, François stays true to the family tradition. He exclusively uses oak casks from Limousin, mostly of the most commonly used 350-liter size. He prefers casks with a toast between medium and intense and the young eaux-de-vie begin their ageing in new, unused barrels for a longer time than with other producers. From 9–10 months to several years in humid or semi-dry cellars with the exception of the young cognacs Fines Saveurs and the 45 % Premières aromes which are exclusively stored in old barrels. This is also the explanation for the dark colour of most of the Bouju cognacs. Another common feature is that they all have a distinctly rich flavor with lots of character.

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The range is classic and the maturation time is long. The assemblages are made of eaux-de-vie from about the same year. The family’s VSOP has on average been stored for 10 years, the affordable Napoléon 15 years, the two XOs 25 and 27 years, the Extra for 35 years and the Très Vieux for 40 years. The non-filtered and non-reduced Réserve Familiale (42 ABV) has been aged for 80 years! François also has a small, exclusive range of vintage cognacs.

Tasting a Daniel Bouju cognac is an absolute must for anyone wishing to broaden their knowledge of cognac. Why not in front of a log fire on a cold winter evening?

 

This is an abridged version of a translation of pages 96–97 of the Swedish book Cognac – kungen av eau-de-vier (Cognac – the king of eaux-de-vie) © Stevali Production and Gunnar Svedberg, 2014.

© Gunnar Svedberg 2015-11-05

 

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