Marchand, who had been Comte Armand's winemaker for 14 years, guided that estate into the top ranks of Burgundy with its Pommard premier cru, Clos des Epeneaux.
Marchand's new responsibilities will include overseeing the Boisset family's 91 acres of Cote d'Or vineyards and marketing their wines. "He is responsible for the estate from A to Z," said Jean-Charles Boisset, vice president of the company. "We want to make the family estate one of the top Burgundy producers."
Major investments are planned for the winery, and already, the stainless steel tanks and roto-fermenters have been replaced by the open-topped wooden vats preferred by Marchand.
Formed in 1961 by Jean-Charles' parents, the Boisset group produces 5.5 million cases annually, making up roughly 8 percent of the Cote d'Or's output and 10 percent of Beaujolais production. The company's total sales in 1998 were $238 million, with approximately 65 percent of that derived from Burgundy.
Over the last decade, Boisset has grown through regional acquisitions, giving the company facilities in Chablis, Premeaux, Beaune, Meursault, two in Beaujolais and one each in the Cotes du Rhone and southern France. Its wine holdings now include F. Chauvenet, Jaffelin, Mommessin and J. Moreau & Fils, among others. In addition to the wine companies, Boisset makes L'Heritier-Guyot Creme de Cassis and sparkling wines under the Charles de Fere and Chevalier labels. However, Marchand will not be responsible for any of the company's other brands.
One-third of the Boisset estate follows organic viticultural practices, with the remaining 60 acres under "lutte raisonnee," or socially responsible farming, an intermediate step between conventional and organic viticulture.
Jean-Charles Boisset explained that the firm sought an individual with sufficient experience to get closer to the grapes and grape sources. "Pascal has an understanding of the soil and viticultural techniques," he said.
Marchand, 37, a native of Montreal, Canada, arrived in Burgundy in 1983 to work the harvest for Chateau Chorey-les-Beaune. He enrolled in a one-year wine course in Beaune, during which he worked with Domaine Bruno Clair in Marsannay. In 1985, Marchand took the helm at Comte Armand, which he described as an "unknown estate with big potential." The Pommard Clos des Epeneaux 1996 (97, $65) is a brilliant effort, the top wine of the village in that year.
Boisset approached Marchand, whom he felt had the right personality and entrepreneurial spirit to represent the family estate. "We knew him, number one, and we had seen and tasted what he had done," said Boisset. "We can offer him greater scope."
For Marchand, who will be succeeded at Comte Armand by Benjamin Leroux, the decision weighed heavily. However, he now has the opportunity to vinify grapes from humble Bourgogne to grand cru appellations. "It's exciting to start a new project with all these great vineyards, but it was a big decision because I was leaving my baby."
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