Founded in 1932 by Fernand Bouquemont, great grand-father of current proprietors Jean-Emmanuel and Jean-Etienne Bonnaire, this Côte des Blancs based estate has made a name for itself by making top quality champagnes for four generations. In the wake of the financial crisis of 1929-30 in France, Fernand decided to stop selling his grapes to the houses and make his own champagne. This decision put him at the forefront of the movement of grower champagne we now know. From its first vintage of 1932 which won a gold medal at the prestigious ‘Concours Général Agricole de Paris,’ the Bonnaire brand has been known as one of the top recoltant-manipulants in Champagne. The brothers have been at the helm now for a decade and they continue to push forward with their unwavering eye towards quality.
For the past 25 years the family has made wine in its modern facility nestled amongst the vines in the village of Cramant. Jean-Emmanuel and Jean-Etienne taking over from their father Jean-Luis who shepherded the vineyard and wines for over 50 years. Vinification takes place in thermo regulated stainless steel tanks, with the one exception being the Variation bottling which sees three to four year old oak for élevage. Malolactic fermentation almost always takes place, this is to soften the austerity sometimes found in the region.
Half of the estates 22ha are in Cramant, the other half spread over the Grand Cru villages of Chouilly, Oiry and Bouzy with holdings also in the Premier Cru villages of Cuis and Bergeres-les-Vertus and Pinot Noir and Meunier planted in the Valle de la Marne village of Fossoy.
As you would imagine for an estate based in the village of Cramant, they rely heavily on the Chardonnay grape. Most of the bottles coming from the estate are blanc de blancs however they do use all three major varietals in their Tradition bottling and a rosé with red wine from Bouzy. Overall, the wines strike a balance between their rich opulent flavors and their sleek elegant textures. The tension between the two are highlighted by the intense minerality coming from the chalky soils of Cramant.
Bonnaire’s wines are polished, rich and some may even say opulent. Yet they also feature chiseled acidity and firm structure balancing them in a way only they can seem to pull off. These bottling are distinct unto themselves and are worth searching out.