Rare Library Releases from Domaine de Chevalerie in Bourgeuil
Domaine de Chevalerie in Bourgeuil is so awesome that it's hard for me to know where to start.... so I'll just start with the beginning. Domaine de Chevalerie dates back to 1640 when a Pierre Caslot moved to the village of Restigne on the Loire and began farming grapes. Over the centuries his descendants acquired some of the best vineyard plots in and around the town until in 2012 Pierre's great grandson x10 who was also named Pierre owned nearly 100 acres. This is Bourgeuil, where the only AOC approved grape is Cabernet Franc. There's a reason why only Cabernet Franc is allowed and that is because Bourgeuil makes some of the best Cabernet Franc in the world. I was very fortunate to visit and meet Pierre in 2012. Chevalerie was already farming organically but actually sold off much of their fruit and only kept the grapes from a hand full of vineyard sites that they thought were best. The winery isn't very well known here in the US, and they were very humble when I met them (Pierre was just so honestly excited about farming and plants there was nothing fancy or contrived about him), however the other visitors I met at the winery who came yearly from all over Europe to buy wine for the year made clear who important this winery is in Bourgeuil. Chamber St in NYC describes Chevalerie as making some of the greatest Cabernet Francs in the world. It felt like Pierre was a farmer first; international sales and marketing were clearly not what got him out of bed in the morning.
The wines were stunning though. And the winery is built on top of an eleventh century subterranean limestone quarry which means that Chevalerie literally has acres of perfectly cool under ground storage caverns. Thanks to the space and their reputation in Europe and loyal following they could afford to hold wines for longer than a wine maker could normally dream of. I've been drinking these wines for over a decade and I've had vintages back into the 90s, so I'm pretty familiar with their style and I know Chevalerie makes brilliant wines.
When Laurent Bonnois, my friend and importer who lives up the street from the Caslots, told me he could bring in all their single vineyard bottlings from 2014 I jumped at the opportunity.
Here's that link to Chamber Street's superb and in-depth description of the wines and winery
Quick Important Notes:
All the farming is organic with some biodynamic practices. All grapes are hand harvested and they ferment with native yeast. Sulfur is only added to the wines if they feel it is needed.
The soil in Bourgeuil is very diverse. Up above the river there are rolling hills and forest, mixed soils and limestone subsoil. There is grape growing but wines usually aren't too complex. None of these wines come from up on the plateau. Things get interesting on the slopes. Over millions of years the Loire has moved around depositing different types of rock and soil as well as wearing away the subsoils. In places there is lots of clay, in others gravel, and in others a deep layer of limestone is exposed. That limestone is the most important thing. Soft limestone subsoil slows down the ripening process and allows the grapes to build up more power and flavor. Each of the single vineyards has a unique soil and exposure combination that influences their character.
Domaine de Chevalerie Bourgueil "Peu Muleau vineyard" 2014
48 btls came into Maine
The Peu Muleau vineyard has the youngest vines of the Chevalerie vineyards and is always ready to drink sooner than the others. That's because the soil of this vineyard has more sand and the tuffeau llimestone subsoil is more broken up. The sand absorbs more heat and the broken tuffeau is easier for the vines roots to burrow through. The vineyard is up above the Domaine de la Chevalerie vineyard and just below the forest of chestnut, acacia, oak, pine and birch. The vines are around 35 years old, and farmed biodynamically. Pue Muleau gets a shorter maceration of less than 20 days. Aging is done in a mix of tank and large used barrels with less and less oak.
Aroma: juicy blackberry and a bit brambley. It's ripe juicy fruit but not too in your face or powerful an aroma. A little bit of black currant too.
Taste: juicy, smooth fresh blackberry and cherry flavors that seamlessly add black pepper and currant flavors in the mid palate while also opening up into a rounder softer profile. Then the finish brings the addition of integrated tannic structure that pulls the wine together but then fades gently away. Lastly there's a lingering delicious dark plum flavor. This Cabernet Franc is so smooth and elegant.
The different flavor components all appear one after the other but make us this beautiful harmonious experience: it really reminds me of the opening of a symphony with different instrumental sections joining in one after another until you have a single piece of music. This isn't a super deep, demanding, or complex wine, but it's beauty is unusual and impressive. It's also shockingly uplifting and fresh. It's hard to quantify but the wine has a precision about it and the finish is structured but just gently recedes like a caress. This is a great demonstration of the talent and skill Chevalrie has!
This retails for just under $30 and you can find it at Maine and Loire, Meridians, and the Blue Hill Wine Shop
Domaine de Chevalerie Bourgueil "Galichets vineyard" 2011
48 btls came into Maine
"Les Galichets" vineyard is lower down on the slope towards the Loire river, below the "Chevalerie" plot. While there is still a limestone subsoil the topsoil is clay mixed with alluvial gravel and silex. The gravel gives a little more heat to the vines and they ripen a bit before the Chevalerie vineyard. Galichets always has classic structure and is age worthy, but it's never as muscular as Chevalerie or Breteche. The vines average about 60 years of age. The wine is aged in large old barrels, and bottled after 6 months unfined unfiltered.
Aroma: heady aromatic blackberry, currant, and cooked wild blueberries. a hint of cocoa powder and a hint of soy sauce.
The first taste is smooth supple raspberry and cherry fruit. That evolves into a mid palate that's still supple but also meaty and has a peppery hint of rosemary. The finish has a pure elegant fresh cherry flavor that lingers after the relaxed tannins have faded away. This is a relaxed smoothly textured wine.... but it has this focus and cohesion. Under that refined fruit there is this slightly meaty/salty and savory structure that runs through the whole wine. I think that technically it's a salt component but it brings with it flavors that sort of combine meaty and chocolaty. It's not obvious. There's fruit and acidity that is more in your face all the way through the wine, but this mineral component ties it all together. It's pretty impressive: the fruit and acid flavors make the wine delicious but this less apparent minerality gives it strength and staying power without being heavy or demanding.
The 2011 Galichets retails in stores for about $30 and you can find it at The Cheese Shop of Portland, Bow St in Freeport, Browne Trading, Vessel and Vine, Helm, and Meridians
Domaine de Chevalerie Bourgueil "Galichets vineyard" 2014
48 btls available came into Maine
Aroma: wow! more expressive than 2011. This is blackberry and wild blueberry pie. some spruce and wintergreen there too to give it a aromatic herbal dimension. Uh, honestly it smells a little like chocolate covered cherries. Most of the flavors are very fresh so it doesn't smell heavy or candied, but it is expressive and has a hedonistic bent.... It is wine, but I don't think hedonistic is redundant here..... and more black pepper as it opens up
Taste: Ripe blackberry fruit backed up and kept fresh and dynamic by perfect acidity. rich meaty and then whoa hello lots of brambley blackberry in the midpalate. The midpalate though has dense dark fruit that doesn't overwhelm but it really has a solid feel like I could bite into it. .... the finish has a .... wow, there's a beautiful ghost of a cherry flavor interwoven in the finish. It's like a cherry cordial or the flavor of candied cherry but refined and just pretty. This wine has more tannin than the 2011 but I don't even notice them: there's so much else going on and the fruit is so dense.
This is a very relaxed delicious open wine. The cherry and blackberry fruit flavors are ripe and perfect and mature: they're polished and the wine has a very relaxed feel to it. But it also has serious structure and power. The wine takes it's time and even with out huge fruit or high alcohol it makes you take your time too. The blackberry is so dense and vivid, and then there's this awesome touch of cool aromatic spice like spruce or thai basil.
The 2014 Galichets is about $30 retail in a store and you can find this at Lorne and Now You're Cooking
Domaine de Chevalerie Bourgueil "Breteche vineyard" 2014
60 btls came into Maine
The Bretêche vineyard is the most east site Chevalerie has. It is a rented plot on the southwestern exposed upper part of the mid-slope. That means deeper meter-deep heavier clay with high mica content above the Turonian yellow tuffeau. The vines, biodynamically farmed, are between 25 to 55 years old. More powerful than Busardières with broader tannins, the wine maintains a great freshness. Hand-harvested and destemmed, the grapes are macerated for up to 20 days and aged in large used barrels in the magnificent underground cave dug into the yellow tuffeau for roughly 8 to 10 moths. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Aroma: Before I even get to the glass I can smell black currant and juicy blackberry: dark, substantial, and vivid. As I actually get my nose into the glass there's also the smell of an old burnt down fire: tangy charred wood and ashes. As the wine gets some oxygen in it the fruit turns less dark and evolves into more plum and meaty cherry. The ash fades but is still there and makes me think more of roasted poblanos. Give the Breteche another 10 minutes and a bit more of a rich earthy/meaty/mocha aroma starts to sneak in and displace that char... then another 10 minutes on I'm smelling flowers: violets and lilac. Wow.
dark and sleek texture, ripe blackberry, and tart cherry with an undertone of that char. Like the Galichets there's acidity that supports the fruit, but in the Breteche the acidity gets more of the spot light. It runs through the blackberry with this dynamic racy playful intensity. That's prefect because the blackberry is really pretty fat and fleshy so having the acidity sort of literally cutting through it is great. This wine has a bigger mouth filling meatiness that the Galichets and Peu Muleau didn't. The mid palate has more of the charry flavor and seared poblano, plus this sneaky earth minerality starts to filter in. It's earthy in a slightly mocha kind of way. Then with the finish the wine shows off more of it's underlying structure: a solid angular stony minerality that is deliciously covered with just enough black cherry and raspberry fruit to make it beautiful without actually hiding the minerality. There's also a touch of a cool aromatic spice quality that gives it a more high toned component. There are real tannins here, but there's so much else happening that I don't notice them. That's impressive really: the tannins aren't weak, they're just so well integrated behind the other components that you don't notice.
Bottom line: this is a muscular wine that is also complex and intellectual and has even has flashes of beauty and elegance. Breteche retails around or just under $40 and you can find it at Bangor Wine and Cheese, Vessel and Vine, Grippy Tannins, and the Blue Hill Wine Shop
Domaine de Chevalerie Bourgueil "Chevalerie vineyard"
84 btls came into Maine
As the name would suggest, the Chevalerie vineyard is the core of Domaine de Chevalerie's holdings. This is the original vineyard just up the road from the winery. Like Breteche this is midway up the slope from the Loire. The soil is a mix of clay, alluvial sand, and gravel topsoils, rich in silex over Turonian limestone. The vines average about 60 years of age.
Aroma: Black currant, black cherry, and you guessed it: blackberry; however the Chevalerie is a little more aromatic and spicy smelling than the Breteche. I don't smell ashes or smoke, but I do smell some wild blueberry here. With another 10 minutes to breathe the aroma has started to smell very Christmasy! I can smell nutmeg and coriander now, a touch of spicy pine, plus cooked cherries and blackberries. Another 10 minutes on and the nutmeg and coriander have faded. Now it's back to the regularly scheduled program of black cherry, blackberry, and ...hmm rosemary now.
Taste: cherry and raspberry fruit with really nice pure crisply defined flavors, but the wine quickly adds some wintergreen/spruce tip spice. The deep midpalate has a lush mouth coating texture but it also has some crunchy minerality to the mid palate; compared to Breteche there's a bit more acidity and rocky minerality and the fruit is a little more towards the blueberry part of the spectrum. Also a bit more of that fire roasted poblano with some mocha hiding under all that. The texture is supple- more so than the Breteche; silkier. Until the finish that is when the Chevalerie sort of draws in on it's self. I taste a hint of aromatic spice like rosemary or thyme, then a tart wild black cherry flavor supported by tannins that are more firm than the Breteche, but still restrained and in the background. Right at the heart of the finish there's a little slate mineral component that grabs your palate and reminds you again this wine means business. If you needed any reminder. Then, after the wine is gone there's an elegant red cherry flavor that comes back to me.
The Chevalerie has a bit more structure than the Breteche. Both are more serious and substantial than the Galichets. Chevalerie and Breteche both have power and finesse. Chevalerie is a bit crisper and serious while the Breteche is a bit meatier and more muscular. These are all such wonderful wines. I think Chevalerie is a bit more balanced and intellectual than Breteche, but Breteche is a little richer and open; both are amazing.
The Chevalerie vineyard Bourgeuil retails in the mid $40s and you can find it at Vessel and Vine, Blue Hill Wine Shop, Maine and Loire, Meridians, Bath Natural, and Maine St Meats in Rockport