• Saumur Royalty:  Guiberteau Brézé, Arboises, & Motelles

    Saumur Royalty: Guiberteau Brézé, Arboises, & Motelles

    Two things initially jumped out when visiting Saumur in the Loire River Valley. The idyllic, undulating hills perfectly matched my notion of pastoral France, but I hadn't the first clue on where to spot the grand terroir. Since the middle ages, the hill of Brézé was esteemed as any white wine terroir in France, but the secret was in the bedrock of this unassuming, gentle slope.

    Here, the famed tuffeau limestone is the backbone of France's single most celebrated Chenin Blanc, Clos Rougeard's Brézé bottling, which surpasses $400 per bottle. But, the Brézé producer who offers the ultimate intersection between this site's brilliance and value is, undoubtedly, Romain Guiberteau. After mentoring under the Foucault family of Clos Rougeard, Guiberteau's eponymous domaine today captures Chenin Blanc at its most crystalline and pure.

    Today, I'm happy to offer Guiberteau's top white and reds from the famous hill of Brézé.


    For more than 100 years the Guiberteau's have farmed Saumur's hill of Brézé. But, it was when Romain left Clos Rougeard and implemented critical changes in the vineyard that quality began to soar. Unlike the Chenin Blanc coming from neighboring appellations where rounded, more overt orchard fruit dominates, in Saumur the alkaline limestone soils bring the same sense of cut and lacy minerality that shares much more in common with Chablis and Champagne.

    Guiberteau's Brézé bottling comes from a 1.2 hectare parcel of vines planted in 1933 and 1952. This parcel's limestone soil also contains sand and clay, bringing a textural weight that balances the razor sharp focus from Brézé's tuffeau bedrock. Simply put, this is world class Chenin Blanc to rival top white Burgs.

    Arboises is a 1 hectare, south-facing portion on Brézé of 1957-planted Cabernet Franc. Sand and silt sits over the limestone bedrock here. All grapes are de-stemmed. Aging takes place in 80% new French oak. This is a wickedly precise and mineral-driven style of Cabernet Franc that elicits Burgundy before Bourgueil.

    Les Motelles is another 1 hectare parcel of Cabernet Franc vines, planted in 1955 on sand and gravel above clay. As you'd imagine, versus Arboises, there is more breadth and density on the palate here, but the absence of weight is a perfect example of Guiberteau's deft touch. Aged in 2-3 year-old French barrels.

    Saumur Rouge comes from a 2 hectare parcel of 1955 & 1957-planted Cabernet Franc over silt and sand over a softer limestone. 100% de-stemmed and aged in steel. The quintessential example of how sophistication Cabernet Franc is capable of does not need to be tied to price.

    Les Moulins comes from a 1.9 hectare portion of Chenin Blanc vines ranging from 7 to 80-yrs-old planted on sand over a limestone-clay mix. Aged in stainless steel. Nervy, supremely fresh, dominated by citrus tones that slowly open to reveal more typical orchard fruit and faint lanolin.

    Clos des Guichaux comes from a 1.3 hectare parcel of Chenin Blanc planted on silt and sand over limestone. Vines were planted in 2003. Aged 9 months in neutral oak. As compared to Les Moulins, the enclosed Guichaux has an intensity and long finish that belies the younger age of these vines.

    The long-used selling point for the wines of Brézé have been that they're the first place in the Loire Valley for white Burgundy collectors to turn. But, at the highest order from Guiberteau (and Clos Rougeard), these are whites that simply exist among the most royal in all of France.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • 2014 Château de Brézé:  Saumur Soaring

    2014 Château de Brézé: Saumur Soaring

    A May 2016 visit to the Loire Valley brought a wide array of discoveries, but the visit that left the most indelible mark was with Arnaud Lambert at Château de Brézé in Saumur. I had been familiar with their 2012 vintage, however what we tasted from the 2014's really drove home the point that this estate is now a top benchmark of Saumur.

    The 2014 was one where Saumur strived and where Chenin Blanc from an estate dating back to the 1400's was executed brilliantly. The 2014's from Lambert are among the most thrilling white wines produced anywhere in France, but now the cat is out of the bag.

    Arnaud Lambert resurrected the Château de Brézé of Saumur, a domaine praised for their Chenin Blanc wines as far back as the 15th century where they were served at royal courts throughout Europe. Regularly the Chateau would exchange their wines with those of the revered Château d'Yquem of Bordeaux - And today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    As times passed and industrialism gave way to quick fixes in the vineyards (herbicides, pesticides) to ensure high yields and minimize the need for hand work the Chateau de Brézé lost something. Recruited in 2009, Lambert has spent the last nine years finding the magic by going back to the roots. Lambert immediately converted to organic farming, drastically reduced yields, and has started to incorporate biodynamic principals. 

    Saumur's high concentration of tuffeau limestone, and its active calcium content, has long delivered wines of striking purity and elegance. Winemaking styles here lead most producers to block malolactic fermentation, which help Chenin Blanc preserve its bright, linear, and more crystalline traits. The top whites here see some new French oak, but the flavor is nearly imperceptible, as fruit from these sites absorbs any woody quality that may otherwise stand out. 

    While most wines in the appellation showcase fresh orchard fruit notes, those of Chateau Brézé have a deep textural element and persistent finish that strikingly stand out from their neighbors. The poached pear and quince notes are met with brown spices, orange zest, and chalky minerality.

    Today offered are the two top wines of the estate, both evoking the glory of what once graced the tables of kings and queens throughout the continent.

    Clos David is sourced from a parcel of pure sand and gravelly limestone. A cool site that never develops botrytis, and sand gives an elegance to this wine that stands out.

    Clos de la Rue is the top wine of the domaine. From the warmest vineyard on the hill of Brézé, and protected from the gusts of wind that regularly zip throughout vine rows. Sandy limestone at the top of the hill, with clay underneath gives richness, power, and deep texture.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen