In 2009, Raymond Boulard’s three children decided to pursue their professional careers separately. The Maison de Champagne Raymond Boulard no longer exists. Francis Boulard, his wife Jeanne and his daughter Delphine founded the Champagne Francis Boulard et Fille house.
The vines of Francis Boulard & Fille estate spread over 3 hectares, are mainly to be found in Cormicy, nicknamed “la Petite Montagne de Reims”, and also in Paradis, Cuchery, and in Grand Cru classified Mailly-Champagne, (Montagne de Reims). The vines are made up of Chardonnay (30%), Pinot Noir (30%) and Pinot Meunier (40%), with an average age of 35 years.
Francis Boulard and his daughter Delphine have been part of a family of winemakers for 6 generations or more. The oldest member of the family traced was found during the French Revolution in 1792.
Boulard’s first contact with the vines was due to his grandfather, Julien Boulard, who sold his clear wines to champagne houses. His son, Raymond Boulard, decided to make wine and bottle the Champagne in 1952. In the 1970s, the young Francis joined the Boulard Frères company; winemaking was quickly entrusted to him in 1975. Champagne house Raymond Boulard – Son was founded in 1980. After the death of their father, Raymond Boulard’s three children continued with Francis becoming increasingly interested in the cultivation of vines. In the 2000’s, eager to move towards the most natural crop possible, he converted part of the vines into organic farming.
“On the Les Rachais parcel, I converted 60 ares to biodynamic viticulture while another 60 remained in conventional, chemical viticulture. When it came time to vinify, I fermented the biodynamic grapes separately from the conventional grapes and the result was that even in the early stages of fermentation, the wine from the biodynamic grapes was much more expressive and complex. I did this three consecutive years and the results were always the same. This led me to conclude that this was the best and only way to express a terroir”.
The estate is certified organic (Ecocert) and worked with biodynamic preparations, a rarity in Champagne. So much so that large signs had to be installed in the vineyards so that helicopters can see which plots to avoid while dumping chemical products on the vineyards. Of the 400 hectares planted in the Vallée de la Marne, only 3.2 are certified organic, of which the Boulard’s own 1.2 hectares.
The harvest is timed to give the highest possible natural sugar, without worrying about acidity, as long as the grapes remain healthy. The grapes are pressed immediately after being harvested. Vinification is as non interventionist as it is possible to be, which demands very regular and careful attention. Alcoholic fermentation starts spontaneously, thanks to the action of indigenous yeasts (those to be found naturally present on the grapes skin). Alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation takes place in old barrels (avg. 12yrs): 20 hectolitre (530 US gallon) wooden vats, in half hogsheads containing 5 or 6 hectolitres (130 to 160 US gallon) or in 300 litre oak barrels (228 litres for burgundian barrels and 205 litres for champagne casks).
The wines are vinified on their fine lees, with batonnage every 10 to 12 days, to augment complexity and take advantage of all the potential richness of the must. Bottling and disgorging take place at the estate. For several years now, Francis Boulard has been offering some of his wines in dosed and non dosed versions. The terroir and minerality of wines from Champagne are emphasised in the absence of dosage and this only improves the possibilities of making a wider range of good matches with food.
After almost 50 years in the vines, Francis retired in 2017. A dramatic electrical fire in the Boulard cellar in late 2016, coupled with Francis’ retirement led Delphine to build a new facility alongside her new house. The only major stylistic shift is that Delphine now vinifies and ages everything in old Burgundian barrels and a few foudres (Francis had favored demi-muids along with barrels of all sizes).