40 dollars: Chateau de Bellevue 2010, lussac Saint-Emilion
Château de Bellevue is owned and run by organics pioneer André Chatenoud, a frenchman of Swiss extraction whose family moved to Bordeaux a generation ago. The 18th Century building and vineyard that they purchased is as extraordinary as it is beautiful because underneath the vines there is a vast Renaissance-era limestone quarry where André stores his barrels and bottled wine for aging. The underground complex of limestone caverns, with their haunting inscriptions by anyone from 16th century miners through to American soldiers that set up a field hospital here during World War II, are fascinating from a historical perspective but they also tell you much about the wine too. Limestone has a long association with vineyard soils in France - and here in Australia too, think of Coonawarra -where it is known to give both red and white wines of concentration and structure. The limestone acts as a vast sponge, holding water for when the vines need it in summer but also absorbing the excess when it rains heavily. The wines of Bellevue express their limestone terroir in emphatic fashion with a salty grip to their structure that is unmistakable. The structure of the wines is, in turn, the bedrock for their longevity and Bellevue can be drunk when young for strong dark fruitiness and attacking tannin or decades later when they have mellowed to a gentle turkish leather colour.
Chateau de Bellevue 2010 is - by French standards, especially in Bordeaux - a wine still in the heyday of its youth. I remember so clearly the day when I first smelled this wine in the tasting room at the Chateau in 2012 because I was visibly startled by the fruit intensity of this young wine. The winemaker and proprietor of the Chateau, Andre Chatenoud, saw my surprise and read my thoughts: "Oui," he said,"2010 c'est une année solaire" ("yes, 2010 was a year dominated by the sun" in translation). And yet by Australian standards, beneath the impressive fruit facade, this is still a very savoury wine of bracing tannins and refreshing acidity. But I love it and it will age for decades if well looked after. This is an exemplary wine that I cannot recommend highly enough.
Reviewed by Gary Walsh in The Wine Front in 2014:
"Perfume, blackcurrant, black olive, mineral. Medium to full bodied, fresh clear fruit, ripe tannin, though a little sticky, red and black fruit, nutty oak in support and a good long finish. Fine drinking. 92 POINTS, drink 2015-2024."
Image above of André doing what he loves most!
André hanging out with some of his favourite bottles, deep down in the limestone mine under his vineyard. Cellars don't get any more special than that!
André standing in front of the Château, which is not only a place you can live but it is also a living winery inside. The people of Bordeaux (AKA the "bordelais") are a very practical and work-centred bunch!