We began our partnership with the inimitable Chateau Le Puy only about a year and a half ago, but our aesthetic and philosophical alignment makes it feel like it has been decades. And, given the voraciousness and enthusiasm with which our clientele has embraced the estate’s wines, the market was more than ready for Bordeaux that speaks with such a pure, honest, non-commercial voice. In early April, we will see two new releases from the Amoreau family: the eagerly anticipated 2015 “Emilien” and the monumental 2011 “Barthelemy”—see below for details.
2015 “Emilien” Francs Cotes de Bordeaux
Our first encounter with the 2015 “Emilien” was back in the autumn of 2016, a sample drawn from a well-weathered 50-hectoliter foudre—the kind of vessel in which each vintage spends its first full year of elevage. Even in its incomplete state, the 2015 was totally ravishing, and the two times we’ve checked in on it post-bottling have more than confirmed our initial impression of its greatness. After a string of fairly challenging vintages in the region, the impulse to really lean into the fabulously healthy raw material of a harvest like 2015 was understandable, and sure enough there will be plenty of heavily extracted, color-saturated, monolithic 2015 red Bordeaux floating around the marketplace. Emilien is not one of them, as the Amoreaus treated the harvest’s beautiful fruits as they always do, allowing nature’s generosity to speak unencumbered. Aromatically, the 2015 Emilien rises from the glass in commanding, stately fashion, neither overly exuberant nor garishly fruit-forward, yet deep and inviting and truly dazzling. It’s a nose that cannot be faked—a nose of breed and lift that belies its makers’ complete trust in the health of their fruit and the natural processes that, without coercion or sculpting, transform it into wine. Bordeaux these days has too few such aromatic encounters. On the palate, the ample fruit of the vintage speaks in a rich James Earl Jones baritone, authoritative but controlled, and clear as a bell. It unfolds in waves, held in form by the glistening acidity that characterizes Le Puy in every vintage even as it reveals its myriad nuances of flavor and inner-mouth perfume. From palate to swallow to finish, it is so totally seamless as to almost defy belief, and one cannot imagine any way in which it could be further perfected. 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Carmenere.
2011 “Barthelemy” Francs Cotes de Bordeaux
“Barthelemy” is Le Puy’s crowning achievement—the fruit is from their greatest, highest-altitude, poorest-topsoil site, which is treated even more minimally in the cellar than the “Emilien” above, and released several years after bottling. Like the Emilien, the Barthelemy is fermented in huge cement vats without human involvement. But, whereas the Emilien spends its first year in large foudres and its second in barriques, the Barthelemy is moved directly into barriques—gross lees and all—for its two-year elevage. During that time, it is “dynamized”—stirred gently in alternating clockwise and counterclockwise strokes—at each full moon, and the lees are subsequently subsumed over time. This ultra-labor-intensive method nourishes the wine and protects it against oxidation, and no sulfur is applied at any point in the process, from harvest to bottling. Even so, the Barthelemy is perfectly stable and can age for many decades, as proven stunningly in a one-hundred-year vertical tasting the Amoreaus hosted in New York last year. Those of you who fondly recall the 2011 Emilien (the first vintage we imported) will be in awe of this 2011 Barthelemy, as it strongly resembles its sibling in its brashly savory, explosive character, yet with greater aromatic complexity and a lengthier, deeper finish. That a warm-vintage wine that spent so much time on its gross lees can be so electrifyingly fresh is remarkable, and it speaks to the vitality of these vineyards which have never seen chemicals and have been worked biodynamically for generations. The complete palate harmony which is a Le Puy hallmark is fully evident, and although 2010 is often considered a greater vintage in Bordeaux, the 2011 Barthelemy may have the edge over its 2010 counterpart when it comes to overall impact and complexity. 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.