Although négociant wines are often viewed as inferior to their estate-bottled counterparts, we’ve got a few producers that are certain to shift that mentality. Today, micro-négoces around the globe are purchasing responsibly-farmed fruit and vinifying wines that rival some of the best estate-bottled juice from their respective appellations. Not totally sure what we mean? Check out our explainer on micro-négoces, as well as six of our favorite producers working this way, here.
What is a négoce / micro-négoce?
Simply put, a négoce (otherwise known as a négociant or micro-négoce, if smaller) is a wine merchant who purchases grapes, juice, or finished wines and vinifies/bottles them under their own name. This practice first began in Burgundy and is still relatively common in the region, though négoces exist all over the world today.
Négoces that purchase fruit vinify the grapes from start to finish. If négociants choose to buy already pressed juice, they do so at the beginning stages of vinification and pursue the final steps at their respective workspaces. Some négoces simply buy finished wines from various domaines and blend them together to create their own cuvées.
Why do winemakers work this way?
Négoces aren’t generally as highly regarded as estates, though many of them exist for good reasons. The most common reason winemakers choose to operate as négociants is simply for financial reasons. Vineyard sites, especially in prestigious regions, are extremely expensive, so a simple way for winemakers to cut costs is by purchasing fruit from an existing grower. For farmers who cultivate fruit but don’t have the vinification skills to make wine, this is an excellent opportunity to bring in some extra cash. In these cases, it’s a win-win situation.
Weather conditions also influence winemaker decisions in taking the négociant route. If a vigneron happens to lose their crop due to frost, hail, or other climatic influences, purchasing fruit from other growers is a solid solution. In doing so, their yearly income isn’t totally lost.
How do négoces get their fruit?
While big-brand négociants tend to get their fruit from a large number of regional growers, smaller négoces (micro-négoces / micro-négociants) generally work with small family growers. These close relationships allow the négoces in question to better understand the quality of the fruit they’re buying. This includes knowing how the fruit is farmed, how it’s harvested, and from which vineyard plots the grapes come.
Which négoces should be on my radar?
Here at Verve Wine, we hold négoce wines to the same standards that we do estate-produced wines. This means that these bottles are produced from sustainably-farmed fruit, reflect the place from which they come, and taste downright delicious. As with the estate-produced wines, we tend to steer away from big-brand négoce names and focus on family-run projects.
The following négoces/micro-négoces are six of our all-time favorites. All of the négoces below purchase responsibly-farmed fruit (not juice/wine) and execute the vinification process from start to finish. We believe that these wines merit just as much attention as our estate-produced offerings and we absolutely love to drink them!
Chanterêves - Chanterêves was founded in 2010 by husband-and-wife team Tomoko Kuriyama and Guillaume Bott. After working under Paul Fürst, Peter Jakob Kühn, Japan-born Kuriyama moved to Burgundy in 2011. Bott, a Dijon native, honed his craft at Domaine Etienne Sauzet (Puligny-Montrachet) and Domaine Simon Bize, where he still works as the cellar master today. Their shared winemaking philosophies and passion for honest farming led them to create Chanterêves. Chanterêves buys fruit from some of Burgundy’s top appellations, including Auxey-Duresses, Chassagne-Montrachet, Pommard, and Volnay. These wines are seriously thought-provoking, delicious, and are perfect for sipping alongside a variety of dishes.
(Note: Chanterêves officially bought their first two hectares of Aligoté vines last year, though will continue to vinify wines from purchased fruit.)
JM Roulot - If the Roulot name is on it, we’re drinking it. Jean-Marc Roulot founded his micro-négociant business about ten years ago and we can’t sing its praises enough. He purchases fruit from a number of top growing sites, including Les Vireuils (Meursault), Meursault-Genevrieres 1er Cru, Le Cailleret (Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru), Corton Charlemagne (Grand Cru), and Chevalier-Montrachet (Grand Cru). All of Jean-Marc’s négociant fruit is hand-harvested and hand-sorted in the vineyard, and wines are vinified, aged, and bottled in his Meursault-based cellars.
MC Thiriet - This relatively new micro-négoce is operated by Matt Chittick and Camille Thiriet in the heart of the Côte-d'Or. The duo vinifies their wines out of Château de Comblanchien, located between Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune. The duo first met at Domaine de Bellene back in 2011, where Matt was the winemaker and Camille was head of sales. This shared experience, as well as Bellene’s diverse array of growing sites (over 75 appellations) helped the two form solid relationships with growers all across the region, which now allows them to source top-notch fruit from winemakers they admire.
Camille Giroud - As of 2002, Camille Giroud was purchased by American banker Joe Wender and renowned California-based winery owner Anne Colgin. David Croix (Domaine des Croix) was appointed winemaker and has since brought massive renovations to the estate and winemaking regimen. Today, old barrels and a modern ‘quality-over-quantity’ mentality is used in the cellar. Although the company owns a small 1.2 hectares of vines in Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Cras (Beaune 1er Cru) and and Avaux (Beaune 1er Cru), the majority of its production is centered around purchased fruit, which comes from top appellations like Marsannay, Corton, Gevrey-Chambertin, and more.
Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon - Founded in 1999 by Burgundian legend Dominique Lafon, Les Héritiers du Lafon focuses on biodynamically farmed vineyard sites in the Mâconnais. Lafon began seeking out higher altitude sites dominated by old vine parcels in this rather industrially-farmed region over 20 years ago and has since shed light on its unwavering potential. All of Lafon’s Mâconnais-based Chardonnay is vinified in large neutral wood and is produced with the same passion and meticulous attention to detail as his estate bottlings.
Famille Dutraive - Famille Dutraive is the négociant label of Domaine de la Grand’Cour, Jean-Louis Dutraive’s Beaujolais-based estate. The family created their eponymous micro-négoce back in 2016, after losing 90% of their fruit to hail damage. Like Domaine de la Grand’Cour, Famille Dutraive wines are produced from carefully chosen parcels that are farmed organically. Wines are vinified in accordance with the Grand’Cour philosophy, which incorporates minimal intervention in the cellar and letting the wines speak for themselves.