Presentation on the Boursot family history 1769 to the present day by Rodney Gilbert

Champagne Perrier-Jouët and the Boursot family

One small line of the Boursot History

Guy Boursot's great-great grandfather

This is not intended to be the definitive history of the Boursot family but it has been sketched from the several pieces of information made available to Guy Boursot as at April 2011.

In the 16th century a Boursot who lived at Dijon owned vineyards nearby at Chambolle-Musigny and since that day the Boursot family has owned vineyards there, making wine in this famous village in the Côte de Nuits of Burgundy.

In 1792 Claude Boursot left his family's village to enlist in the Artillery Regiment at Auxonne. There he became a close friend of one young Napoléon Bonaparte and they fought alongside each other through the Italian campaigns as well as through the French Revolution. More relevant perhaps is the fact that Napoléon and Claude travelled frequently to the Champagne area and made several friends there. Claude Boursot became particularly friendly with the Perrier family of Champagne Perrier-Jouët in Epernay.

After the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, Claude retired from the army and was appointed by Napoléon the position of Secrétaire Archiviste (Keeper of the Archives of the Most Historic Town of Calais), an honoured position that he retained until 1830. Claude married a Mademoiselle Watteau and they acquired a château and 10 acre park in Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais, which was passed down the generations until after the 1st World War. Château Boursot played an important role during the 1914-18 war as a specialist burns hospital and there has been much written about this splendid property and its tranquil park.

Claude and his wife had four children. It appears that their son Adolphe (1842-1935) married into an English banking family and thereby started a new English branch on the Boursots' French family tree. Adolphe (for the sake of clarity, let's from here call him Adolphe 1st) went from Calais to London to marry Emma Le Mercier, and he became a partner in The London Trading Bank Ltd through the "good fortunes" of her godfather. Consequently Adolphe 1st controlled considerable assets and a business was set up with his father in law under the name of Boursot & Lee in Crutched Friars, London as financiers to the lace industry that was developing in Calais. It is doubtful whether Calais would have become so important in lace production without Adolphe Boursot's guidance and help. The Boursot & Lee business lasted until 1840.

Adolphe 1st also established A. Boursot & Co with an office in the City of London to introduce to the United Kingdom the champagne made by his close family friend, Charles Perrier in Epernay. Perrier-Jouët, the prestigious Grande Marque Champagne established in 1811, thence continued to be handled by the Boursot family for all of 130 years. A. Boursot & Co. sold 75% of Perrier-Jouët's annual production of one million bottles: an enormous volume in England even by today's standards. Perrier-Jouët was found in all the best establishments and gained several Royal Warrants. The Wine & Spirit Trade Review said in 1935 that "Perrier-Jouët has attained world wide repute but it was England which gave it the first impetus and laid the foundations of its wider success".

Adolphe (1st) and Emma Boursot had five children, of whom one son, Adolphe (2nd), married Rebecca Martha Preeston, who it has to be said had extra-ordinary connections, and they then had 12 daughters and 4 sons! With the efforts of Adolphe (2nd) and his brother Edward Claude, the Boursot business continued to grow and prosper to become the most successful champagne importer of its day. One "first" attributed to the Boursot/Perrier-Jouët association is that in around 1868 it made the experiment of shipping dry champagne to London and thereby started a fashion that the whole world has since adopted. Another "first" was that Adolphe Boursot suggested to Perrier-Jouët that it would be a good idea to put a label on the bottle - until then the brand had been only on the cork. Now you know the origin of the words "brand marketing"!

Raphael and Basil, sons of Adolphe (2nd) were the next generation to run the family firm and in 1921, A. Boursot & Co. took on another important agency: for the liqueur Bénédictine D.O.M. which it retained until 1945. During the 2nd World War the Boursot offices, opposite the auctioneers Christie's in King Street Saint James's, were destroyed by a German bomb and Ralph, Raphael's son was forced to merge the company with another well-known family business Brooks Bodle & Co. which was agent for J. Calvet & Co of Bordeaux and Beaune, as well as Williams & Humbert sherries. Conjoined, these two companies presented a formidable portfolio: Perrier-Jouët champagne, Bénédictine liqueur, Calvet wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, Williams & Humbert sherries - and others.

Guy, son of Ralph, Boursot worked for 17 years at the world famous Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd of Saint James's, London, both buying and selling wines but left them in order to rekindle his family's old wine business of A. Boursot & Co. which he then ran for 11 years as a wine wholesaler in and around London. In 2001 he relocated to northern France, advising both British and French companies and individuals on various different aspects of wine. Since 2004 he has become a wine writer and has started a vineyard tours business. More recently, has established a wine shop in the historic town of Ardres in northern France where he can share with customers his passion for the entire world of wine. Curiously Guy has recently found records showing that Adolphe Boursot was a regular visitor to Ardres 180 years ago, and certainly he would have known very well the building now owned by his great great grandson! Such is fate.

Guy is a member of the Worshipful Company of VintnersGuy is a member of the Worshipful Company of Vintners as well as a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, and writes articles for magazines and websites. Over the last 30 years, he has also given well in excess of 1,000 talks on wine and he has also appeared on both radio and television. As you can see from the above, he has every reason to be passionate about the world of wine.

The Boursot story is extra-ordinary indeed - it is one that is inextricably linked with wine - almost back to the moment when wine was first commercialised.

Adolphe I Boursot and his children

Adolphe Boursot and his family in Calais - 1862



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