The Château de Chorey is a (the) beautiful moated castle in Chorey-lès-Beaune, the family have been here since the end of the 19th century. Wine used to be made at the Château and then shipped to Beaune for storage – it wasn’t so convenient says Benoit Germain who is now responsible for exploiting the domaine’s wines, so they bought a cuverie 5 minutes walk away through the village of Chorey. The day of my visit a new floor was being laid as Benoit updates the facility.
Benoit started working with his father François at the domaine in 1989, finally taking over responsibility in 1999
Benoit’s great, great, great grandfather started in Beaune with a négociant called Maison Poulet Père et Fils which he bought at the beginning of the 20th century. He further added Domaine de Saux (from which most of their Beaune vineyards came), the Château de Chorey and other vineyards too. The Château de Chorey and the Domaine de Saux were to be the dowry of a daughter who never married – in 1901 she became a nun at the Hospices de Beaune she was called Tante Berthe, so the Château and the vines in Beaune stayed in the family and were passed to Benoit’s grandfather.
The domaine exploits almost 17 hectares with vines in Beaune, Chorey, Pernand and even a little Meursault. All the wines have been worked in an organic way since 2001, conversions started in 1997/98. Benoit was one of the first (1995) to follow the path of lutte raisonée. If we concentrate on Beaune, the domaine has five 1er cru reds and 1 premier cru white – today this is around 15,000 bottles of premier cru Beaune depending on the vintage. This is a little less than before as Benoit now exchanges grapes with friends so that he can produce a little Pommard or Corton. The domaine enjoys high average vine ages, for instance 70 years for their Beaune Vignes Franches and Les Cras, Teurons is two-thirds 70 years old vines and one-third 25 years.
For Reds: The grapes are hand harvested and then further sorted at the domaine on the triage table – yields can be quite low. With the exception of one cuvée the grapes are destemmed. The grapes are put into wooden vats where they ferment with their own yeasts to a temperature of about 32-34°C. The length of fermentation depends on the vintage and appellation; 6-12 days for regional and villages wines, 12-20 days for the premier crus. The amount of new oak has been reduced here in the last years – previously as much as 100% would be used for the cuvée Tante Berthe, today it is 50% and in 500 litre barrels too. The reds are normally bottled after 15 to 18 months aging without fining or filtration if the vintage permits.
For Whites: After pressing and settling, the musts are cooled and put into barrels where they ferment with their own yeasts at temperatures as low as possible – no more than 20°C – to preserve the maximum of flavor. The wines receive some battonage until the beginning of the malolactic fermentation. They are then bottled after about 12 months with a light filtration.
Their Beaune blends
Domaine Château de Chorey is unusual today in that it makes some 1er cru cuvées which are blends – harking back to the days when merchant’s blends were better known than many of the crus – history plays a part in both of the domaine’s blends:
Maison Poulet Père et Fils used to make a single cuvée of the Beaune 1ers: Boucherottes, Cent Vignes, Vignes Franches, Teurons and Cras and sold this as the cuvée Domaine de Saux. Benoit still makes this label but it is today a blend of Boucherottes (the largest part – 60%), Cent Vignes (almost 30%) and the young vines from Teurons. The grapes are actually blended at harvest so you can’t separately taste the component parts. “It’s fine, elegant – a cuvée that is drinkable earlier than my other wines, it’s good value, pleasant and fresh.” – Benoit Germain.
Cuvée Tante Berthe s a blend of the ‘best and oldest parts’ of Cras, Teurons and Vignes Franches – the grapes are again blended before fermentation, 50% remaining as whole clusters. Benoit says that with this cuvée he blends the masculinity of the Teurons, the femininity of the Vignes Franches with the minerality of Les Cras – and he’s very happy with the results. He leaves this wine in barrel for 2 years, initially it was 100% new oak, but now (for 2009) it is 50% – and using larger 500 litre barrels too. Perhaps it is the power of suggestion, but I really see the Cras minerality, a finish that’s as long as the Teurons and a more floral aromatic from the Vignes Franches. As you might guess, the wine was named after the nun of the Hospices and its first vintage was 2001 – 100 years after she entered the Hospices.
The main markets for these wines are Canada and East-coast US. A couple of wine-makers had already confided in me that Benoit Germain has not just some of the finest vines in Beaune, but they are also in the finest mid-slope positions. I have to say that the barrel and bottle tasting that follows was one of the highlights of my late July trip – all the wines were covetable! Of-course, this time around we concentrated on his Beaunes:
Only in bottle for 1 week – it was the only one of the domaine’s wine that had a really extended malolactic fermentation. All the rest of the (red) cuvées had been bottled in March/April. Medium colour. Very high toned aromas, but perhaps that the recent bottling. Full, weighty and showing really good intensity – lovely precision and balance.
Denser, deeper red fruit aromas after the Vignes-Franches. Much more intensity but it is matched by more tannic structure. Not a brute but certainly a wine to lay down.
Medium colour. Soft, comforting but never heavy fruit aromas. Again this is intense, but with a much more pronounced mineral spine. A really good burst of complexity in the mid-palate.
Medium, medium-plus colour. Perfumed! Super texture but clearly very tight. There is late developing intensity and eventually some good flavour too. Will be great!
Medium, medium-plus colour. Wide with deep dark-red, fresh fruit. Again silky, then more velvet as the tannin builds. Perfect acidity and intensity though this also very tight.
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose has a creamy dimension to the fruit. Again, super-silky though this time the structure is less demanding – well to a degree! Very mineral again – super.
Sited toward Teurons the chardonnay vines, planted by Benoit’s great-grandfather, are about 70 years old. 1.5-2.5 (big) barrels each year. Biscuity, savoury aromas. This is soft and a little fat after the reds. There is really a nice dimension of toffee’d fruit. Long finishing on good acidity. After a few 2005 reds this is a very compelling drink.
Similar aromas to the 2008, just a little less rich. Stricter (narrower) impression on the palate though it widens in the mid-palate and shows very good acidity.
2009 from Barrels tasted 27th July 2010:
Despite Benoit starting his harvest almost a week later than many on the Beaune hill in 2008 (29th September – his reward was 2.5° additional maturity in just 1 week, he gained maturity and concentration but lost 40% of the juice which resulted in a high solids to liquid ratio!), in 2009 it was the reverse:
we started one week before everybody (the 4th of September) because the end of august was hot (almost like in 2003 ) and sunny and we preferred to start earlier like in 2003 to keep the acidity
Beaune 1er Sur Les Grèves (blanc) was spicy, fresh and wide and showed really good depth. Beaune 1er ‘Domaine de Saux’ had a soaring red-fruited nose. Width and elegance, super depth with a mineral component to a good length finish. Beaune 1er Les Vignes Franches showed a hint of reduction but not enough to spoil lovely violet flowers and red fruit. This is more intense, nicely fresh and showcases a mineral-edged red fruit flavour. Beaune 1er Les Teurons showed tighter red fruit aromas but still with a nice underlying floral element. There is more structure here, but very good fruit too. There is a late arriving intensity that really prolongs the finish. Beaune 1er Les Cras shows a little too much reduction to discuss the aromas, but it clearly majors on a mineral flavour – the fruit plays second fiddle. Long, and built on minerality. Lastly the Beaune 1er ‘Tante Berthe’ doesn’t have the deepest colour (that will be down to the stems) but really does synthesise and display the component parts of the other wines with depth, width, flora and fruit – lovely aromas. Intense yet still mineral, such a baby!
Domaine du Château de Chorey
Germain, Propriétaire à Chorey-lès-Beaune
13A r Moutots
21200 CHOREY LES BEAUNE
Tel : +33 3 80 24 06 39
Fax : +33 3 80 24 77 72