Cave de le Château de Chénas – 2016


Tasted in Chénas with Didier Rageot, 14 February 2018.

Cave du Château de Chénas
69840 Chénas
Tel: +33 4 74 04 48 19

It’s my second visit here; the first after finding an excellent Chénas, blind tasted. I previously found many good things, but also wines whose origins were obliterated by vanilla oak.

Didier explains that before the first world war, it was a handful of grand/aristocratic proprietors that owned large swathes of the Beaujolais, the small structures that we see today really only came into being after that war. But it was the global economy and its difficulties in the late 1920s that was the herald of the caves cooperatives. This co-operative is more than 80 years old, established in 1936, now with 100 members and 200 hectares under vine – 90 hectares in Moulin à Vent. They are also, unsurprisingly, the biggest in Chénas, but that’s ‘just’ 60 hectares. This cave also has a suggestion of chardonnay too – 2-3 hectares worth – always labelled Beaujolais Blanc, not Bourgogne Blanc. All-together approximately 500,000 bottles are commercialised each year here and a significant volume is sold in bulk to the négoce of the Côte d’Or.

Didier on 2017:
Didier has been at the cave since 1989 but tells me that he has never seen a storm like the one in 2017. “2017 was a sunny year, with a warm spring so the growth started early. Then came some cooler weather, and in some areas there was some frost. Those not touched by the frost had quite a start, but then came those devastating storms. It was hot and dry for the rest of the summer with a harvest that started in August. So, yields were affected by some frost, some hydric stress, but mainly it was the hail, so here was about 60% of a normal volume.

Didier on 2016:
Versus 2017, 2016 was a vintage with a later spring, after a winter that was relatively cold. The summer was good but the wines show more direction and tension versus 2015 or 2017. The wines are good reflection of the weather in the two years – we have quite some contrast in the recent vintages. We lost 20-30% in the sectors that were hailed, but Chénas, for instance, wasn’t affected.

The cave here has some commercial relationships with Cave de Loges. Practically 30-40% is commercialized by the cave and save for the white they make virtually only the crus here.

The wines…

Generally a more than competent range – good drinkable wines – save for two – one due to too much oak and the other is simply poor by comparison.

2016 Beaujolais Blanc
From Danielle et Maurice Picard, this was already planted with white in the 1800s but was only recently replanted to white.
Actually this has a broad and quite inviting nose. Round, supple, not too much fat, for a BB this is relatively free of the mineral rigour of the mid and finishing flavours – it’s there but wrapped with sufficient sucrosity to make it interesting!

2016 St.Amour Coeur du Granit
They have 3 ha of St.Amour in 2 terroirs – bottom and high. Elevage is separate as they are not usually harvested at the same time, they are assembled at the end of elevage. This cuvée is practically sold out now – bottled in October 17.
Deep, vibrant and with a good freshness. Volume, good concentration, a ripple of tannic grain – a width of fruit flavour. Round but tasty. This is good stuff!

2016 Brouilly Coeur du Granit
One producer in St.Lager – 2ha – normally this producer likes to pick very ripe.
A bigger nose with more freshness of dark fruit – really very inviting. Big again, more supple, melting fruit, structure again, lovely finishing density of flavour. This is delicious!

2016 Julienas Coeur du Granit
5 hectares here, more blue stone. 10% in barrel elevage.
A much more perfumed nose, with a very attractive depth. Lovely energy, vibrant wine, lots of mouth-watering flavour. Excellent! Then a broad width of finishing flavour. Super wine.

2016 Morgon Coeur du Granit
3 hectares
Fresh above deep and riper below, an accent of interesting floral perfume. Good volume, a little less sucrosity but a more concentrated core. This will need more time to open out. But the finish is fine.

2016 Chénas ‘Tradition’
About 60% destemmed
Nice fresh depth of pure fruit aroma, more freshness above that are suggestions of less ripe fruit. A little gas, a little reductive too – the width and intensity is quite good with some tannin too, but I don’t find this anywhere near the level of attainment of any of the other reds here – very ‘modest’ wine – save your palate and buy the Coeur du Granit version!

2016 Chénas Selection de la Hante
Hante was the family that owned the château here in the 1800s. Here with some barrel elevage until October – 1 year in barrel. A little destemming again – 40%. 4-6 year old barrels.
A little deeper colour. Round but with a rather blurry oak impression that takes away much of the clarity. Round, easy plenty of concentration, but everything is coated with vanilla/coconut. Tasty for those that like the barrel, but for me lacks any sense of place. The saline finish is actually very good though.

2016 Chénas Coeur du Granit
Bottled end of October.
A nice depth of aroma with good purity. A slight touch of reduction but here is concentration without fat, a little tannin and plenty of depth of flavour but just a little impression of roasted fruit here vs some of the earlier wines. Very nice finishing…

There are other Chénas cuvées and Moulin à Vent too, with actual domaine names on the label, but these are not yet bottled – sounds interesting…

2016 Fleurie Coeur du Granit
Another wine that was bottled in October. They have 20 ha of Fleurie – the third biggest appellation here.
Not the deepest nose but with a width of higher-toned perfume that is very attractive. Big, fresh, lively energy, plenty of structure but at the core a fine fruit. The tannin slowly pricks the tongue a little. This needs a little time to smooth the structural rigour and slight rasp of tannin – but it’s a very nice wine.

2016 Fleurie Selection de la Hante (Cave du Chateau de Chénas for Costco UK!)
Just bottle – less than three weeks. Area of Viviers.
Less high tones but a good width of fruit below becoming more and more floral in the glass. Direct, structural wine, but with lovely melting flavour and very fine tannin. This needs to relax much more after its bottling, the nose is very much in place, the wine for now remains fresh and direct – and to wait 1-2 years for. Very, very good potential here. Also, despite the cuvée name, there’s no wood used here.

2016 Moulin à Vent Tradition
20% in barrel elevage for 1 year, the rest in tank. Also with 60% destemming.
A nice width of aroma but more compact at the base, slowly giving up a little attractive perfume. Fresh, wide, open and really quite delicious – much higher level of attainment vs the Chénas tradition. This is fresh, mouth-watering and delicious.

2016 Moulin à Vent Selection de la Hante
Recent bottling – roughly 2 weeks. 40% destemmed, no barrels.
A beautiful nose – concentrated, vibrant – really inviting. Bigger volume in the mouth, a little extra concentration to the fruit flavour. Almost a simmering fruit compote with a modest accent of salinity. The tannin is present but also at the level of an accent. A more modest weight of finishing flavour but still long and attractive. If only I could take the nose from this and add to the palate of the last.

2016 Moulin à Vent Coeur du Granit
This bottled in December. 20% barrel here – they used no barrel in 2015.
A deep almost more berry-fruited nose – no oak to see – but there’s a pyrazine/floral accent. Lots of volume in the mouth, here the vanilla is present, but on a bearable level, there is quite some concentration, and it keeps enough freshness to keep it interesting. A little grain of tannin that’s more visible in the finish than the middle of the wine. There is a lot here and today it’s not all singing together but this could turn out to be very nice in the finish.

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