Monday, March 1, 2010

Pierre-Antoine Rovani and Remoissenet Pere et Fils

On February 23rd I was invited to a "talk" at The Wine Barn featuring Pierre-Antoine Rovani and the burgundies of Remoissenet Pere et Fils. This was an exciting opportunity given the pedigree of both the man and the wines and I accepted the invite with palm-rubbing glee.

Pierre-Antoine Rovani, described by the Seattle Times as "... knowledgeable, garrulous and outspoken ..." and "... loving a good wine argument as much as a good meal ..." was, according to Dr. Vino's wine blog (, "... plucked from the aisles of MacArthur's in Washington DC ..." by Robert Parker to become his first assistant. Parker had suffered a bloody nose at the hands of the Burgundians (who set no store by his "fruit-bomb" reviews) and so needed someone who would be allowed into Burgundy to collect relevant data and be allowed to leave in one piece. Rovani worked with Parker for 10 years and, during that time, had responsibility for reviewing wines from Burgundy, the Loire, Alsace, Oregon, the Languedoc, Washington, State, South Africa, the Roussillon, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, and Champagne. Rovani's reviews appeared in The Wine Advocate and The Wine Buyer's Guide. In our discussions that evening, Rovani said that he left Parker because he had gotten tired of tasting 150 wines per day for 10 years and the fact that if you missed a day you had to double up so that you did not fall too far behind.

Rovani was born in 1964 in Washington, DC and is a graduate of Vanderbilt University. He had worked as a White House correspondent and as a co-founder of an electronic publishing company before his love of fine wines led him to take a job at MacArthur, a DC-based purveyor of fine wines. He currently works for THEM LLC, a vehicle for channeling the wine-related investments of the Milstein brothers, New York financiers, and Todd Halperin, a Canadian wine importer. Rovani is also the President of Remoissenet Pere et Fils. This, then, is a perfect point to turn to a discussion of Remoissenet.

Maison Remoissenet Pere et Fils, a small Beaune (Burgundy)-based negociant, was founded in 1877 and, through the years, had been continually managed by family members. The firm had specialized in old vintages, primarily for export, and also owned a 2.5 hectare Beaune Premier Cru plot. Prior to its sale in 2005, the firm had been managed by Roland Remoisssenet who, in the last 10 years of his tenure, had presided over an enterprise which had become known for decreasing wine quality.

When Roland decided to retire in 2005, he sold the business to a group comprised of Edward and Howard Milstein (top New York City financiers and Burgundy lovers), Halpern Associates (a Toronto-based wine importer), and Maison Louis Jadot. The Milsteins were the majority shareholders in a deal which included the firm, its vineyards and cellars. According to Clive Coates, writing in Burgundy-Report at the time, over 1 million bottles of Burgundy -- with vintages ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s -- were in the cellar at the time of the sale.

It was widely expected that the ownership change would result in higher quality wines. In order to make this a reality, Remoissenet brought in Rovani as President and Bernard Repolt (former President of Louis Jadot) with overall responsibility for wine making. Since the purchase, Remoissenet has begun to add to the Beaune Premier Cru plots that it had owned for years. Remoissenet currently owns 11 hectares in Clos de Vouguet, Charmes-Chambertin, Poissenot, Village Nuits, Vosne, and Gevrey-Chambertin. The first true Remoissenet vintage will be 2008 as prior vintages have been vinified from purchased fruit.

We have now come full circle to the point where the discourse began: a wine talk covering selected Remoissenet wines and led by Pierre Rovani. The tasting covered four reds and five whites from the 2007 vintage. The reds were the Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Exchanges, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Poissenot, and Chapelle-Chambertin while the whites were Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Perrieres, and Le Montrachet. The production levels for all the wines are relatively low and the prices range between $50 (Vosne-Romanee) and $145 (Chapelle-Chambertin) for the reds and between $19 (Bourgogne Blanc) and $305 (Le Montrachet) for the whites. The P-M Folatieres and the Montrachet impressed me the most with the balance of the P-M pointing to a long and robust future for this wine while the power of the Montrachet was evident and promising.

In considering these wines for purchase the buyer has to take a few things into consideration. Remoissenet has procured fruit from some of the best Burgundy locales for production of its wines but, balanced against that, is the fact that this is a relatively new team that is trying to get out from under a reputation of poor quality. The enterprise has shown a commitment to quality improvements by bringing in respected individuals in management and winemaking roles.

All in all it was a very entertaining and informative talk. The group that was assembled for this event was very small so the interaction with Rovani was up close and personal. He interspersed the serious business of wine presentation with jokes and personal insights into the current ownership and management team of the winery.
It appears as though the Remoissenet strategy is to have Rovani as Mr. Outside while Bernard Repolt serves as Mr. Inside. This approach allows them to atack the quality-perception problem inherited from Roland on two levels. Further, if there is a Parker formula, who better than Rovani to help them negotite that equation.


  1. I think you'll find that Burgundy Report doesn't have anything to do with Clive Coates ;-)

    1. Article written two years ago when he was associated. But thanks for the heads up; I will adjust.