Château Thivin’s Clos Rochebonne


Thivin - Clos Rochbonne
From the centre of the Clos, looking back towards the château.
Visited 22 May 2019.

Château Thivin’s Clos Rochebonne is a Beaujolais white that I’ve always respected, so it was with some relief that I picked it out blind in my tasting of Beaujolais whites in my March report. So why not make a visit to see what is so special about this place?

The Clos Rochebonne

Hidden away in the Pierres Dorées, quite a long way to the south of their home in Château Thivin lies the domaine’s small clos of vines on the outskirts of the village of Theizé.

We are high up here – for Beaujolais – at 480 metres, but with commanding views across the valley and beyond. The Clos Rochbonne is practically the only piece of land that’s still planted to vines around here – all that is surrounding is ‘en-friche,’ often grazed by horse.

There seems a direct line from the nearby Château de Rochebonne that runs directly through the centre of the Clos – impressive as the château is, it’s not in the same good shape as the Clos. The original house here was destroyed in the 100 years’ war, but the château was rebuilt in both the 15th and 17th centuries. The château is now the property of the local community – but it is certainly in need of a little love and care…

The Geoffray family have been working the property here for about 12 years now, renting from the family owners – en fermage. “It was pretty much a ruin when took over,” remembers Claude Geoffray as he takes advantage of my visit for a pause between ploughing between the rows of vines, “There was a little gamay mixed in with the acacias here, but it didn’t seem all that well suited to the soil. So when we began the process of pulling out the trees to replant and fixing up all the walls we chose to plant with chardonnay.

As noted by Claude the vineyard is completely walled though at the end towards the old château it is open to gardens of some residents. The clos itself is also part garden on one side – next to a pretty little look-out tower, but it’s a very small part of the area. “The soil has about 80% clay,” says Claude, “this helps with the tension of the wine, but it also strongly sticks to your boots after the rain! We plough the soil then afterwards clear between vines by hand. We are comfortably organic here, as we have no neighbours. Overall we have 1.3 hectares of vines in essentially two adjoining plots – terraced on the hill so one plot is about 2 metres higher than the other.

The vines will be 10 years old this year, planted at a density of about 7,000 per hectare. The spacing is 1.8 metres by 0.8 metres. I think the colour of the stones in the soil here is calming, and certainly less radioactive than the blue stones of home! (laughs!) The grapes are ready 10 days later than at home in Brouilly – it’s the higher altitude here that’s responsible. There can be hail here though, despite that the old owner said it never hailed!

I note that Claude has a little gouais blanc planted against the wall that terraces (divides) his two plots of vines – a nod to the heritage of chardonnay – “It’s just for a bit of fun, and it certainly doesn’t go into the wine,” he tells me, though he doesn’t think much of the grapes from these particular vines.

To harvest the clos, the whole team will come down from Brouilly – “It takes us a day. We put the grapes into a tank with some CO2 and leave that overnight – we press the next day, slowly pressing – it can take 5-6 hours, then the juice stands for a time in tank before being put into barrel. All the elevage is barrel with about 10% new wood. For us it’s ready roughly in June, so that’s about 7-9 months of elevage.

Claude tells me that they have a great market for this wine in Lyon but that he’ fortunate that Kermit Lynch like the wine very much so is a good customer.

Some wine?

We took the opportunity of the lovely afternoon to taste a couple of wines in the vineyard:

2017 Clos Rochebonne
Hmm, fresh, cushioned lemon, nicely ripe. Wide, floral, with a depth to the flavour and bubbling energy. Strongly mineral it seems, complex, faintly but really only modestly with rigour. The impression of flavour is both very wide and interesting. The nose slowly growing with aeration. Excellent.

2014 Clos Rochebonne
We destemmed -exceptionally after a triage – at least 80% of the harvest was done this way due to some hail that damaged the stems – 20 September harvest roughly.
Hmm, more width – slowly adding a little evolution and attractive herb. Hmm, a little more direction here, lovely drive, delicious, almost minty, this is really a super wine – you are lucky if you have some – bravo!

Some views of Château and Clos Rochebonne:

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