Tasted in Odenas with Boris Gruy and Cécile Bégin-Montout, 08 February 2018.
Château de La Chaize
Tel: +33 04 74 03 41 05
I must admit, though I only visited for the very first time last year, I had the impression that the family of Caroline de Roussy de Sales would a fixture here for another 350 years. How quickly things change! It was announced in September 2017 that the château and its domaine viticole would be changing hands to Christophe Gruy, together with his ‘Groupe Maïa.’ Gruy had been on the lookout for something, and whilst enchanted by the property he assumed that it wouldn’t be for sale – so was surprised when Caroline and her mother received him and then agreed to begin negotiations – by all accounts the sale wasn’t entirely about money – the family was already in a ‘comfortable’ position so, rather, they were keen to ensure ongoing success and have confidence in a new team.
The family was often here, and their well-reputed wines were distributed around the world – much of the current positioning of the domaine is thanks to the Marquis who was also a sales director of Dior – but he died in the 1980s – and what he built remained constant, and was modestly maintained, but the approach was far from forward-looking or entrepreneurial.
It is clear that the new team’s approach is very-much entrepreneurial; with new vines – 9 hectares of Côte de Brouilly on blue stone in Chavannes and Brûlhier, plus 4 hectares in Fleurie (in La Madonne and Les Grands Fers), they will have to wait for the 4 hectares Fleurie Grand Fers as this is currently with the coop. There has also been an emphasis on soil analysis and moving to biodynamics via organic viticulture. The original plan was to replant about 5-10 hectares per year – but in just a few months they have already pulled out the vines from 30 hectares! And let’s not forget that half of the domaine’s 100 hectares of vines were in metayage – so it is really a new start for them.
Unlike before, it won’t be a tourist location, it will be a ‘real’ domaine and not open to the public. The domaine previously produced good wine on what seems to be great terroir – the search now is to make great wine from great terroir “And we have some great old vines here” says Cécile, “Over 80 years-old, so we have the chance now to make our own selections – we may have pulled out 30 hectares, but we have only planted 5 so far. We are planting with a 1.4 metre gap between the rows instead of Beaujolais’ traditional 1 metre which is going to allow us to plough of the soil.”
Of course the expectation is that there will be a slow move to producing wines more by parcel selection, but that will take time. Clearly having arrived in 2017 the 2016 might have some changes of assembly but little else. “We will be looking for a little more precision and as much as possible the length of flavour of the wines – there is also investment in triage, newer style pumps, thermoregulation – so whilst 2017 was the start for the new team, the grapes were already harvested and ferments were well underway at the time of the press release for the acquisition. So it is 2018 where they will have the chance to make a real difference.”
We were then joined by Boris Gruy who is the new Technical Director, responsible for (amongst other things) all the work in the vines. Boris notes “It’s not just a project with 100 hectares of vines, there’s also 200 hectares of woodland around the estate too – and we really want to consider the estate as an entity – it won’t be a tourist location, it will be closed, it will be a real domaine. But concurrent with replanting the vines, work will also begin in the cuverie – We will begin by making a new floor surface, then we will replace one-third of the foudres, doing vinifications in a mix of stainless-steel and concrete before foudre elevage. It will take 4 years to replace all the foudres, in tranches, the suppliers of foudres will come from all-around the ‘greater burgundy.’ Happily, all our testing shows no contaminants in the cellar so that’s something that we don’t have to worry about.”
And then there’s the ‘Tesla’ of the vines… A project to produce an electric, very low centre of gravity tractor – the trails begin in May – Boris explains that “It’s about finding grip to the sandy soil so we may have something with more than a passing resemblance to snow tyres!”
Excellent wines here, but of-course all the attention is on the future!
Caroline de Roussy de Sales, last year, on 2016:
“We had just a little hail in one sector, but no frost.”
This the assemblage of parcels – 200,000 bottles worth. Started bottling this (you don’t do 200k in one day) before the harvest.
Medium colour. The nose is relatively tight but grows with some perfume. Lithe, fresh a lovely line with equally lovely mouth-watering flavour. Fresh, not sharp acidity. A hint of finishing rigour this is lovely and quite persistent. Wait another 6 months…
2016 Brouilly Les Amants Magnifiques
Only 2 months in bottle – The old vines and ‘Reserve de Marquis’ were both parcel selections from the old vines – the latter was always 12 months new oak, the VV also 12 months but not new. There was also one foudre which they found splendid this is now an assembly of all those previous things.
A little deeper colour. A more concentrated nose and of width more than depth – at least to start. Round, not super energetic but slowly growing, with more complexity, not necessarily more delicious but with and extra depth of concentration for sure – a little less finishing rigour too as the fruit is coating all. Excellent – but I’d say different rather than better as the freshness of the first is more delicious today.
More than half are 50 years old, some are 100 years old – ‘it’s a big reservoir of old vines here.’ About 14,000 bottles for this cuvée
Some width and quite concentrated aroma – but still a tight aroma. Ooh this has a lovely combination of depth and texture – layered – ooh this is good. Super wine. Bravo and already approachable!
2014 Brouilly Cuvée Vieilles-Vignes
A little less colour – no surprise. The nose has more volume and complexity, though on the other hand less impact too. Good volume, not the weight (again) of the last wine, but layers of flavour that open out wide over the palate – still a depth of texture – and an excellent finish. Excellent wine – it just lacks a little of the richness of the 2015. A smaller wine but still with big enjoyment.
About 4 k bottles for this all new oak cuvée.
Deeper colour. Higher toned, actually quite floral perfumed – I don’t directly see the oak. Super-silky. Round, concentrated, lots of layers to the flavour. Decent freshness for the depth and concentration of flavour. Opening wider and wider. A great finish, only right at the end a little oak tannin bitterness – otherwise that’s great texture. Bravo, long this is a potentially great wine – but wait 3-5 years for greatness – but just enjoy it, if you can’t wait.