Every time I come to Champagne I suffer because I have not learned to speak French properly. The main reason that this have not disturbed me more are such wonderful people like Jean-Louis Bonnaire. He and I have eaten or should I say drunk dinner together even though we couldn’t speak each other’s language at all. A few German phrases, a little bit of sign language and a large portion of champagne appreciation facial expressions were sufficient for us. Mutual respect was always great from the first meeting. Jean-Louis was an incredibly generous man who already at our first tentative visit in 1987 came running after the car, just when we would leave, with a box of mixed vintages for us to munch on back home in Sweden.
His wonderful house style has always been characterized by precisely this generosity. Few if any grower can make so fat, buttery toffee chardonnay wines without ever becoming clumsy. My friends and I have always had Bonnaire as our favorite wine in the picnic basket after an unforgettable Bonnaire event in the evening sun in the vineyards of Cramant. Jean-Louis is already deeply missed but his wonderful family takes over and the delightful wines lives on.
13 mars 2015
Commemorative words for Jean-Louis Bonnaire
My mentor and close friend in Champagne died Thursday, 5 March with the family present after a short time of illness. He was only 67 years.
Jean-Louis was the first grower that my wife and I visited in Champagne, the year was 2002.
An initially somewhat reserved man with a belt bag on the belly met us in Cramant.
After a surprising but well elapsed blind tasting this became the beginning of a long and close friendship with Jean-Louis and his family. The youngest daughter, Marie-Agnès, have us as her “Swedish parents.” It was also she who called us and announced the death the day after it happened.
Countless are the visits we made alone with him in his basement. He was constantly in search of the perfect bottle to discorge a la vole. For hours we could be there and taste some 30 different bottles before he was satisfied. We agreed that the vintages 1975 and 1955 were among the most delicious we tasted together. He was a very generous and loyal friend. I have tasted more of his older Champagnes than the rest of the family has done.
I especially remember one occasion when Jean-Louis got really close to me. We were about to borrow the family’s summer residence on the Atlantic coast for a few weeks. He came to Les Barbotines, his wife´s Gîtes in Bouzy, where we were staying over to collect the keys. He sat down at the breakfast table, while my wife packed the car, and talked confidentially about his parents, his upbringing and the tough life taking over the winery from his father. He had shortly before himself handed over to his sons. It was a very nice moment together.
When we invited him and his lovely wife, Marie-Thérèse for dinner last summer we did not know that this would be the last time we would meet him. He was relaxed, happy, and we joked as always among ourselves, as true friends.
That is how I remember my friend the late and much lamented, Jean-Louis.
Champagne has lost a great personality.
Honorary member of the Champagne Club
13 mars 2015