In college, it was a Médoc that ended up being my epiphany red wine moment. In just one sniff my growing fascination in wine shifted from California to France. Truth be told, when a new wine from Bordeaux is poured for me it brings the greatest and most hopeful sense of anticipation I have at a tasting. Regrettably, those thrilling experiences via Bordeaux don't really come around anymore. The point-chasing, over-extracted, over-oaked, and ripe-beyond-recognition style set in motion in the mid-80's has changed the region for the worse. Yet, terroir-driven producers do still exist.
It's no surprise the greatest of all the recent Bordeaux discoveries has come from importer, Neal Rosenthal. With names like Fourrier, Carillon, and Paolo Bea under his belt I'm always excited to taste brand new arrivals. When introduced to the new Bordeaux in the lineup I was taken back immediately to a time long ago.
Chateau Le Puy is in its 14th generation of management by the Amoreau family. Situated in between Pomerol and Saint Emilion on the 2nd highest point along the Gironde estuary, this is home to the Bordeaux that's rooted in sensibilities more commonly found in Burgundy. The seamless texture, bright focus, and downright drinkability of Le Puy is world's apart from the stylistic norm. It embodies that sense of place that so few do today, while not shortchanging on the regal qualities that are so inherent in Bordeaux.
“It’s the best Burgundy wine from Bordeaux”, proclaims the head of production, Steven Hewison. The son-in-law of the estate's owner is referring to the precision and ease of drinking that calls to mind the farm-first mentality of its sibling to the east.
Since 1610 these vines have been farmed free of chemicals, and today full biodynamic practices are employed, with work being done by horse. The soil is an amalgamation of red clay, silex, and limestone. Plantings are 85% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and small percentages of Malbec and Carménère.
Duc des Nauves sits at the lowest elevation on the property on a sandy limestone parcel. The wine is fermented and aged exclusively in cement. The 2015 is the perfect vintage to showcase their "entry level" wine. The warm, dry growing season gave voluptuous and incredibly concentrated wines.
Emilien is the main wine of the chateau. Initially aged in 5,000-liter foudres (many over 115-years-old), and then into neutral 228-liter Bordeaux barrels. In personality it shows a sturdy frame like that of Saint-Emilion, but with silken tannins and elegance that neighboring Pomerol is so revered for.
Bartélemy comes from a single parcel of old vines known as "Les Rocs" planted on deep limestone. This is the most age-worthy wine of the estate. Élevage is in 228-liter barrels, of which less than 10% are new. The structure, saturating texture, and persistence of Bartélemy rivals those under the region's two famous classifications of 1855 and 1955.
Le Puy takes me back to a different era of Bordeaux, one where a sense of authenticity and traditionalism reverberates through the wines. With a lineup covering three distinctly different cuvées, this is the prime chateau to get reacquainted with one of the world's great wine regions.
2015 Duc des Nauves Côtes de Bordeaux (Chateau Le Puy)
$24 per bottle.
Special E-mail 6-pack Price: $129 ($21.50 per bottle)
2012 Chateau Le Puy Emilien Côtes de Bordeaux
$42 per bottle.
2010 Chateau Le Puy Bartélemy Côtes de Bordeaux
$164 per bottle.