• Bordeaux First in Class:  2016 Chateau Le Puy

    Bordeaux First in Class: 2016 Chateau Le Puy "Emilien"

    Although Bordeaux has been structuring their famous growth wines to offer more of a forward, approachable style than ever before, the truth is they are still in need of significant bottle age when they hit the market. Chateau Le Puy approaches their vineyard work with the same level of fastidious care as the first growth estates, but handles their work in the cellar very differently. Upon release, these are the wines that offer serious pleasure with no fear of infanticide.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Chateau Le Puy "Emilien" Côtes de Bordeaux for $54 per bottle, and down to $48.50 for 6 bottles or more. 

    Chateau Le Puy diverges from so many norms in Bordeaux. Aside from organic and biodynamic work in the vines, their fermentation method and élevage is very uncommon. Le Puy is able to provide soft texture with bright, open-knit fruit out of the gate thanks to their protocol during fermentation. Infusion and semi-carbonic methods limit the extraction of hard tannins and retain the more primary fruit traits. And, aging in large foudre preserves all of the verve that carries those qualities into bottle. However, we are very much still in Bordeaux with tell-tale cigar box, graphite, and damp earth notes in abundance.

    Unfortunately, the secret is out on this Bordeaux estate that exemplifies the rare farm-first mentality of the region. The 
    New York Times' Eric Asimov's excellent piece shined the spotlight on this chateau which, in one sip, makes abundantly clear it's the real McCoy.

    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 an unfamiliar Bordeaux is poured for me it brings the most hopeful sense of anticipation. Regrettably, those thrilling experiences via Bordeaux don't appear often. The point-chasing, over-extracted, 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 new arrivals. When introduced to the new Bordeaux in the lineup I was transported 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 finesse, dead-serious-focus, and downright drinkability of Le Puy is worlds 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 rightfully associated with 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. 

    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 silken tannins and elegance that neighboring Pomerol is so revered for.

    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. To see the best value available in Bordeaux today ($24) I cannot think of a better place to turn first.

    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.

    Rose-Marie is a rosé in the style of Chateau Simone, offering transformative, age-worthy qualities that few rosés do. Produced by the "saignée" method where juice from red wine vats is "bled off". Fermented and aged in neutral oak barrels, bottled without filtration or the addition of sulfur. 30 cases were imported to the US.

    Le Puy takes me back to a different era of Bordeaux, one where a sense of authenticity and traditionalism reverberate through the wines. With a lineup covering four distinct cuvées this is the prime chateau to reacquaint yourself with the region.

    Vinous captured the excitement of the 2016's here, 

    "The 2016s are absolutely remarkable wines. The word that comes to mind, unfortunately so often overused, is balance. In technical terms, the 2016s boast off the charts tannins that in many cases exceed those of wines from massive vintages such as 2010. And yet, the best 2016s are absolutely harmonious, with the tannins barely perceptible at all. The 2016s also have tremendous energy and bright, acid-driven profiles, with many wines playing more in the red-fruit area of the flavor spectrum. One of the results of the unusual growing season is that alcohols range from 0.5% to 1% lower than what has been the norm in recent years."
    Posted by Alexander Rosen