Burgundy winemaker Jacques d'Angerville, whose Domaine Marquis d'Angerville in Volnay stood for high quality during a career that spanned more than 50 years, died on July 16. He was 76.
D'Angerville's dedication to making refined Pinot Noirs from low yields and small berries had earned him the respect of many Burgundy aficionados and the admiration of peers in the region.
"He didn't say much to anybody. He was happiest in his cellar," said his son, Guillaume, 47, an investment banker in Paris. "But above all, he was a man who adored his domaine and loved Burgundy very much." He said his father had suffered from leukemia and died while being treated at a hospital in Dijon.
Jacques d'Angerville joined his father, also named Jacques, at the winery in 1945, at age 18. He had no formal wine schooling but had already assumed responsibility for all the winemaking by 1952, when his father died and he inherited Domaine Marquis d'Angerville. The domaine owns 37 acres of vineyards, most of which are in Volnay, and are premiers crus, including a 5.3-acre monopole, or exclusively-owned site, Clos des Ducs.
The elder Jacques was one of the pioneers of estate-bottled Burgundies. In the 1930s, during the Depression, he (along with his contemporaries Armand Rousseau and Henri Gouges) accused the big Burgundy wine shippers of fraud, as they were blending Burgundy wines with lesser wines (typically Grenache) from southern France. The shippers retaliated by not buying d'Angerville's wine. As much out of necessity as anything else, d'Angerville began estate-bottling the wines himself.
One of the earliest markets for the estate-bottled d'Angerville wines was the United States, largely thanks to Frank Schoonmaker, a New York—based importer. When the elder d'Angerville died, his son continued as Schoonmaker's point-person in Burgundy, connecting him with other Burgundy growers who sought to estate-bottle their own wines. The reputation of Domaine Marquis d'Angerville grew during the younger d'Angerville's tenure.
More than most Burgundies, those of Domaine Marquis d'Angerville have an unusually loyal, even passionate, following. This is due partly to the wines' long standing as among the first estate-bottled Burgundies to appear in Paris and New York. But mostly it's due to exceptional quality. The d'Angerville Volnays, especially, have shown themselves to be capable of aging beautifully, as several generations of Burgundy lovers have discovered.
The wines represent the best of pure, traditional Burgundy. The d'Angervilles identified a low-yielding, small-berried strain or clone of Pinot Noir in their own vineyards. Other growers adopted it, and it became locally known as the "d'Angerville clone."
D'Angerville was an elegant, reserved winegrower known for his rectitude. When a vintage was bad, he would say so. He was frank about his own wine, admitting to a visiting journalist that he had used overly toasted oak barrels in his 1988 Clos des Ducs, which he said he would never repeat.
D'Angerville was never merely an owner of a notable Burgundy estate. He was the winemaker in both name and fact and escorted visitors around his modest, utilitarian cellar with the kind of barrel-by-barrel intimacy that only a winemaker could have. His personal commitment as a grower, as well as the respect accorded him by his colleagues, is revealed by the fact that he was president of the Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins de la Côte d'Or et de l'Yonne for six years. He was also president of the Institut de la Vigne et du Vin.
The funeral took place in Volnay on July 21. In addition to Guillaume, d'Angerville is survived by his wife, Marie-Rose; their daughter, Anne-Françoise Brière; and son-in-law Renaud de Villette, who worked at the winery. De Villette was married to the d'Angervilles' daughter, Claude, who died 10 years ago.
--Per-Henrik Mansson, with additional reporting by Wine Spectator contributors