La Clarté de Haut-Brion Blanc is made by combining the grapes of select plots from Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion, and it’s first vintage was 2008. Previously, this wine was known as Les Plantiers de Haut-Brion. It’s the second wine for both estates with each plot planted with over 2.9ha and 2.5ha respectively in gravel soil that contains limestone and clay. With its unique blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, the grapes from both plots are harvested by hand, with fermentation and maturation occurring in oak barrels (50% new oak) for nine to twelve months before bottling. The blend for the 2011 is 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc.
The white of Château Haut-Brion is special not only for its taste profile but also because they make very little of it. While 45 hectares of vineyards is dedicated to growing red grapes only 2.9 hectares are dedicated to growing white grapes. The vineyard is planted to approximately 51.5% Sémillon and 48.5% Sauvignon Blanc. The style of white you find in a glass of Haut-Brion Blanc is one that benefits from age. On release, it’s normally tightly wound and benefits from at least ten years of cellaring. Let’s see how this 2011 is showing at this stage.
The domaine, Château du Moulin-à-Vent was acquired by the Parinet family in 2009, and Edouard is the current generation leading the domaine. Linden and I visited Edouard in the summer of 2018 at the end of our Burgundy trip and were impressed by the terroir expression in the wines.
Moulin-à-Vent is the smallest of the Beaujolais Crus and is located in the northernmost part of Beaujolais. This cru takes its name from a 15th Century windmill that’s located there. The grape variety grown here is Gamay.
Beginning in 1872, the Grand Cru ‘Les Thorins’ was used in conjunction with the village name of ‘Romanèche’ just like Musigny, Chambertin and Montrachet were affixed to their respective village names of Chambolle, Gevrey and Puligny. The name of the village where the Moulin-à-Vent Cru is located is called Romanèche-Thorins. So, while now we don’t necessarily associate the Beaujolais crus as being at the same level as the great vineyards of Burgundy, early on they were given greater attention. In 1936 the AOC of Moulin-à-Vent was established. At the same time, Château des Thorins became Château du Moulin-à-Vent and was considered the reference domaine for the AOC.
The vineyards of Château du Moulin-à-Vent are located in what was initially considered the grands crus part of Moulin-à-Vent, specifically the Grand Cru ‘Les Thorins’. In addition, the vineyards are also special because of the influence of the wind. It can be quite powerful and this wind helps to dry and concentrate the berries. Another unique aspect of the vineyards is the manganese in the soil. There used to be a manganese mine in the village of Romanèche. The manganese and iron in the soil stresses the vines and keeps the yields lower.
Château du Moulin-à-Vent makes three different single-vineyard cuvées(and in the best years a wine called ‘Clos de Londres’ is produced from a specific clos of 0.56 hectares facing the Château) Le Champ du Cour is located at the foot of the hill of where the famous windmill is located at 220 metres altitude so flatter terrain with deeper soils. The average age of the vines is 35-years-old. The soils are granitic, but there is also a lot of clay. Specifically, when Linden and I visited, Edouard showed us the silica and rose granite soil in ‘Champ du Cour’. He also explained to us that clay is not an easy soil to work. It can get quite hard and very wet when it rains, so mildew is a concern. These challenges help to control the yields of this vineyard as well. Another unique quality of this vineyard is it’s protected from the wind, so the winds are not as powerful here. Edouard explained that the wines are fresher than those located in the higher elevation vineyards of Moulin-à-Vent. Thus, the ‘Champ du Cour’ vineyard is an especially good terroir for hot vintages.
In terms of the winemaking, Edouard described that they make wine in the traditional way; there is no use of carbonic maceration or thermovinification. They vinify in stainless steel tanks and do around 40% of oak ageing with 15% in new oak which varies depending on the vintage. Barrels are used for up to six or seven years. For filtration, Edouard described that they do the lightest amount possible. He noted they produce about 8,000 bottles per year from the ‘Champ du Cour’ vineyard.
‘Clos de Londres’ is considered their top wine and only made in the best vintages. It comes from a walled vineyard with decomposed granite soil.
For me, these wines sit somewhere between Burgundy and the Northern Rhône. Specifically, I find the acidity, terroir expression and minerality of Burgundy, but the fruit character and structure of the Northern Rhône. Let’s see what we think of these two wines from 2015.
Château Figeac is located on Bordeaux’s Right Bank in the village of St.-Émilion. The history of this estate dates back to 2 A.D. For over the past 120 years, the Manoncourt Family has owned this estate. It’s the largest in St.- Émilion and is located close to the border of Pomerol. The vineyards are planted to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Gravel is a major component in the soils at Figeac which is unique for St.- Émilion and makes the vineyard particularly well suited for cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which are later ripening grapes. The blend is approximately 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot, so it’s quite unique for this part of Bordeaux.
Now, they do infrared aerial imagery and geo-resistivity surveying at Figeac in order to better understand their vines and each specific plot. Harvesting takes place based on the individual, specific intra-plot zones, and the fermentation also occurs in separate batches coming from these intra-plot zones and takes place in small-sized fermentation vats. The fermentation takes place in a combination of ten open-topped conical oak vats, specifically designed for the gentle extraction of phenolic compounds, and stainless-steel vats. Then, the wine will be aged in 100% new oak barrels from eight different cooperages designed especially for Figeac; they receive medium char toasting. In 2012, the Manoncourt Family brought on Michel Rolland as a consulting oenologist. Let’s see what we discover in these two glasses with top vintages from this estate that are 40 years a part.
Chapoutier has been producing wines in the Rhône for the last two hundred years. In 1990, Michel Chapoutier, took the reins from his father, and he’s very much propelled this winery forward. Two of the primary changes Michel made was converting the farming practices of the vineyards to follow biodynamic principles and total destemming of the grapes.
The Barbe Rac is made from 100% Grenache from a vineyard planted in 1901 near the famed La Gardine estate. The soils in this vineyard are complex helping to provide added intensity in the wines. Once harvested and sorted, the grapes will undergo fermentation in concrete tanks for approximately three weeks. Then, the wine is aged 80% in tank and 20% in large demi-muids barrels for approximately sixteen months. The first vintage of this wine was 1989. Let’s see how these two top vintages for the southern Rhône compare and which you prefer – the warm year of 2003 with its ripeness and power or the juicy and lively character of the 2001 vintage which experienced pleasing ripeness with structure too. The rains in the fall of 2002 left the clay soils well hydrated for the heat of 2003 to help prevent hydric stress in the wines. Thus, the area of Châteauneuf-du-Pape produced great wines for this vintage.
Danish winemaker, Peter Sissek, is the visionary behind Pingus. After making wine in Bordeaux, he moved to Ribera del Duero in 1993 to manage a new project, Hacienda Monasterio. He became inspired by the old vines he saw around him in the region and wanted to make a wine that would be his own vision. Pingus is 100% Tinto Fino (the name for tempranillo in Ribera del Duero), and the vines are 65 plus years old. In 1995 this wine made its debut with much acclaim from Robert Parker setting it on a high trajectory from the very start. This first vintage received 95 points, the highest score ever given to a Spanish wine up until this point. Sissek named the wine ‘Pingus’ which was his childhood nickname.
One of the keys to the allure of Pingus is its concentration which comes by keeping the yields low. Peter Sissek started this project by pruning his vines back to 1-2 buds per cane. The vines have never been treated with pesticides nor seen fertilizers. Since 2001, he has farmed biodynamically.
For the winemaking, the fermentation takes place in large wooden vats. Initially, he used a high amount of new oak for ageing, but now he has reduced that using none in top vintages. Usually, production is less than 500 cases, but no Pingus is made in a bad vintage.
The 2009 vintage in Ribera del Duero experienced very hot temperatures that even exceeded those of2003. However, rains came in providing relief and the resulting wines are of very good quality.
In 2008, by contrast, the growing season experienced cooler average temperatures in Ribera allowing for slow ripening of the grapes. The resulting wines show elegance. Let’s see if we pick these two wines out as one being from a relatively cooler vintage and one from a hot vintage.