Tasted in Beru, with Athénaïs de Beru, 16 January 2017.
Domaine Château de Béru
32 Gr Grande Rue
Tel: +33 3 86 75 94 95
Beru, a little like Viviers, is one of the 20 villages of Chablis that most people will fail to drag from the depths of their memory – and the reason is quite simple, the vast majority of the production from these areas, is sold directly to Le Chablisienne. Beru also seems a long way from the centre of the town of Chablis – it’s a good 10-12 kilometres by road – but that’s deceiving – as the crow flies it’s more like 5 kilometres, the village sitting just behind the hillside of the premier cru of Vaucoupins.
The vines of Beru sit quite high – roughly 400 metres of altitude – and that was their downfall in 2016; as near as matters, virtually the whole crop in the area was lost to the frost on the night of the 26/27 April 2016. Athénaïs de Béru was able to save only a couple of barrels worth of fruit from her holdings.
The Domaine Château de Béru has been here for a long time – the family Béru have been here for at least 500 years – and the original château was a fortified outpost to help protect the area from the lords of the Champagne region. On the right bank, and as noted, the château is only 5 kilometres from Chablis as the bird flies, the domaine covers 15 hectares of vines in the terroirs of Beru, and the premier cru of Vaucoupins, which is just over the hill from the château. Within the walls of the château is the 4 hectare Chablis Clos Béru, a south-facing vineyard identified 1,000 years ago by the local monks.
Despite there being vines here for so long, the crisis of phylloxera cleared-out the area, so for a couple of generations there were no grapes, despite that, the land still received its AOC in 1938. Replanting at the domaine began in the 1980s, though the vines were then rented out on a fermage basis as the father of Athénaïs was not well enough to exploit them. Athénaïs was able to recover the vines from 2004. “I decided that I would start directly to manage the soils from organic principles, and I was eventually certified in 2009.” Athénaïs then started her conversion to biodynamie in 2011, the domaine’s Clos Béru being her starting point.
75% of the domaine’s wines are exported, the UK, US, Japan and Scandinavia being significant markets. In France the wine is mainly sold in restaurants. The wines are, to my taste, very nicely packaged.
As noted, the area here was frosted virtually 100%, so there are no 2016s, save for a couple of barrels which were made more for the heart than for economic reasons. At least, there is virtually no Chablis. “I do have a lot of friends in the world of French wine, so I did a ‘Tour de France’ in a hired, refrigerated truck, and now have syrah, grenache, Beaujolais and others from 2016 in the cellar!”
Not much from 2015 was bottled at the time of my visit, just 2 cuvées. The rest will see closer to 18 months elevage. Athénaïs is also making a cuvée with elevage in an (above ground) amphora.
2015 Chablis Terroir de Beru
350-400m altitude, Kimmerigian, usually windy, the snow always stays here longer, but it’s also warmer in the summer. The only wine with just tank elevage, bottled in September. This cuvée accounts for about 1/3 of the domaine, and always the same parcels are used.
Ripe fruit, round but fresh, inviting. Supple, a little round, very fine acidity and minerality. Fine saline, tasty finishing. A really lovely, mineral finish. A little rigour in the mega-impressive length.
2015 Chablis Mont Serre
Lots of fossils here, Kimmerigian rock but ‘more angular’ with barrel elevage.
A rounder, deeper nose, riper fruit. A hint of gas, really wide, and really fresh, but the fruit and texture balance this without a problem. Almost a pineapple impression, but more saline. Again a great finish. A very interesting style – whilst i prefer the first, I’d drink this any day – very yum!
A barrel sample again. ‘A little terrior near the mid slope, lots of wind the whole year. Limestone like small galets.’
Again, a ripe impression from fruit, though it’s fresh and round. Hmm, this has great texture – some sweet oak in the middle. Gorgeously mouth-watering. Whilst I’d currently call the oak distracting, this wine is simply delicious today. Bravo!
A walled section of vines next to the château.
A brighter fruit. Oof, direct, intense, very saline, with fresh intense citrus. Just a faint accent of oak. Lip-smackingly good and very direct. Slow waves of finishing flavour. Yes!
2015 Chablis 1er Vaucopins
A very steep slope here. Again Kimmerigian but also with blue clay.
A ripe yellow fruit couched in freshness. Hmm, gorgeous in the mouth, long, linear, intense, citrus and salt. Yum!
2-2.5 years of elevage, the mother rock here is older than the Kimmerigian. It’s a little Clos within high walls so it’s more protected from the weather (but not 2016’s frost). There’s more clay. Just one small cuvée was made in 2016.
A big, wide palate, faintly oaked. Some gas, some oak, but wow! the intensity and minerality are remarkable – just wow! Super long and mouth-watering. Just great wine.
Has the impression already of a little age yet is fresh and appealing. A little gunflint and lots of salinity, great acidity and line of intensity. Again, just a very special wine in the finish and the line of that finish.