There are few more immediately reassuring sights in an Old World wine cellar than a wall of large, weathered wooden casks. Besides being beautiful to behold, they imply a continuity of tradition—an unbroken resistance to the sleek, technical winemaking practices that have stripped so many modern wines of their souls.
The way of the foudre is alive and well at Domaine de la Petite Mairie, our long-time source of honest and satisfying Bourgueil. We have worked with James and Corinne Petit, proprietors of this estate nestled in the quietness of the village of Restigné, for fifteen years and, prior to that, for an additional fifteen years with their predecessor, Jean Gambier, the uncle of James Petit. It was at the feet of Monsieur Gambier, for many moons the President of the Syndicate of Producers of Bourgueil, that we learned of the nuances and the grandeur that the best of Bourgueil is able to render. Drinking Gambier’s awe-inspiring 1959, hustling down to our cellar now to draw on our collection of 1989s and 1990s, we appreciate that here, in the center of the Touraine, from an appellation often treated as a less important cousin to its neighbor, Chinon, careful vineyard work, well-placed vines and patient elevage yields wines of subtle complexity that belie the modest prices that frequently apply. Here, in the damp, earthen cellars of the Domaine de la Petite Mairie, lies the surprise of greatness dressed in a workman’s smock.
We have encouraged our clients over the years to enjoy both the Bourgueil “Les Galluches” and the Bourgeuil “Cuvée Ronsard”, the two constant annual offerings from the Petit family. There is a marvelous consistency on display here due to the careful vineyard work at play and the astute process of blending wines from individual parcels situated sometimes on gravel and other times on sandy soils that stretch towards the banks of the Loire. Now, as the result of an ongoing dialogue between us and the Petits, combined with some good fortune, we have the pleasure of introducing a new release from the domaine. James and Corinne Petit recently gained access to a superbly situated one-hectare parcel in the Bourgueil appellation called “Butte de Tyron”—and, beginning with the 2014 vintage, this lot will be bottled as a separate cuvee exclusively for Rosenthal Wine Merchant. We take proud possession of the “Butte de Tyron” as the quintessence of Bourgueil, an expression of the charm and, yes, the seriousness of the finest examples of this appellation. This 2014 Butte de Tyron is fermented in stainless steel without temperature regulation and aged in 60-year-old foudres of 50-hectoliter capacity, it was bottled unfined and unfiltered a year and a half after harvest. Furthermore, the grapes for the Butte de Tyron were picked by hand—actually quite a rare practice today in Bourgueil, an appellation where both land and wine are inexpensive, and where growers tend to prioritize volume and commercial viability over ideological rigor. This first release should arrive in New York mid-November.
On the nose, Butte de Tyron presents clear, direct aromas of red fruits, with an immediately noticeable and pronounced limestone element that is finer and more airy than the oft-encountered gravel character of much of Bourgueil. Its acidity is vigorous but not overwhelming, and the sense of drive and linearity implied by the nose carries through on the palate—it is a wine of energy and lift rather than density and richness. James told us that Butte de Tyron was his last parcel harvested in 2014 (the limestone-dominated soil here provides a slower ripening arc for the Cabernet Franc), and the increased complexity built through longer hang-time is immediately evident in the wine. Present but fine tannins and a tightly-knit structure suggest that Butte de Tyron will age beautifully, and—as a recently opened bottle of 2002 “Cuvee Ronsard” from James and Corinne illustrated with aplomb—Bourgueil is capable of a full and glorious bloom at the peak of maturity. We are convinced that the Bourgueil “Butte de Tyron” 2014 from the Domaine de la Petite Mairie will prove that point in spades as time goes on.