Burgundy-Trip 2012: Francois Bertheau, A non-intervenist under the radar in Chambolle

This was a fantastic visit during our week in November in 2012, despite the fact that we and Francois did not speak the same language, or we did not speak French that is. Francois reminds us of that spoken language sometimes is overrated. 🙂 His personality and fantastic wines comes across anyway. Actually, when we emailed him, we were surprised how good answers we got back in return in English. When we arrived, Francois just said “Google translate” and smiled happily guiding us to his cellar. This is the type of producer we love because of his down to earth personality and focus on honest wines.

Francois Bertheau

Francois is a hands-off wine maker who does not want to shape or polish the wines, but instead let the terroir speak for itself and let the fruit come through. It is a principle that we agree with totally. In his cellar, there are old tools on the walls both for work in the vineyard and winemaking. Quite the same type of cellar that you’ll find at another traditionalist, e.g. Giuseppe Rinaldi in Barolo. 🙂 Francois appears to be a fun and very positive minded person as he nods, smiles and swiftly moves around in the cellar to get samples for us. He really tries to understand what we are saying as we show our appreciation of the wines, but communication is hard even though it helps a little that he uses a crayon to write on a barrel. However, some numbers and recognisable words for wine nerds about vinification and location of vineyards are apprehended.

Andreas in the cellar

Francois took over in 2004 shortly after his father passed away and he is the 5th generation running the estate.  They don’t own any parcels in the areas divine vineyard, Les Musigny, but they do have a very thin parcel in another grand cru, Les Bonnes-Mares. However, to us it is the lovely 1er cru Amoureuses that has caught our attention to this estate. Moreover, they own parcels in five more premier cru among which Les Charmes is worth noting.

It is amazing how this estate still manages to stay under the radar when you consider how long they have been here in Chambolle.

Vinification is pleasantly straight-forward. Fruit is sorted (triage) in the vineyard, grapes are de-stemmed and employs four days of cold soak. Fermentation is done in stainless steel and cement and extraction with daily punch-downs is carried out for 16-18 days and then the grape juice is aged for 18 months in oak barrels of which not more than 10-20% are new. They employ little racking, no filtration, uses only indigenous yeast and no form of manipulation/compensation are carried out in challenging vintages. Vineyard work is essential to this estate and it is here that Francois put all his efforts. Unfortunately, we have less details here on how he keep his vines and canopy management.

At this occasion, the 2011 vintage from barrel was tasted.

2011 Chambolle-Musigny – Barrel 

This is the entry level wine and what an entry! We are met with an abundance of sweet red and charming fruit, but of course is not very complex wine. The finish is surprisingly long and leaves us wanting more. This is a village wine to look out for.

90p/100

2011 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru – Barrel

Here we take a step up from the village wines. This is a blend of the premier crus ; “Les Noirots”, “Les Groseilles”, “Les Baudes”, and “Les Gruenchers”. They are all neighbour vineyards just south-east of Bonnes-Mares, but have little in common with their grand cru neighbour. Les Baudes is the only one bordering Bonnes-Mares in the south.

Again we are met with a wine which is generous with red fruit. Compared with the village Chambolle-Musigny as expected we get some more complexity in here.

91p/100

2011 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes – Barrel

This premier cru is located just north of Amoureuses, but a little further downslope.

This wine shows a lot more elegance than the basic 1er Cru blend. There is great length as well as crystaline minerality and fresh acidity in here, which creates a clear direction and indicates a long lifespan. We find perfumed sweet red fruit blossoming roses in this medium-bodied wine, which has a quite long and intense finish.

Just as the name suggests this is a charming and seductive wine in typical Chambolle-style and just a little overly sweet, but without any disturbing alcohol.

93p/100 

2011 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses – Barrel 

As expected here, we are taking a considerable step up in quality and precision. The nose is complex, seductive and graceful offering fresh, ripe red berries, sensual inner perfumes, lilies, delicate roses as top notes with fresh crystalline minerals and wet stone underbrush at the base. We could spend hours with just the bouquet of this wine. We love this vineyard!

On the palate, it is not equally immediate as previous wines, but rather it emerges and unfolds very slowly and with grace. There are wild strawberries, sloes, raspberries, blood orange, pomegranate, mint, hints of truffles and very fresh crystalline minerals. It is medium to full-bodied and texture is already silky. After a while in the glass, this sexy, slender and light-footed beauty dances on the palate and it is a persistent show.

For such an already graceful, super-floral, seductive and generous wine it offers an impressive balance and remarkable persistence. This is a fantastic Amoureuses and everyone who manages to get their hands on some bottles should consider themselves very lucky.

95-96p/100

2011 Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru – Barrel

Francois’ small parcel in Bonnes-Mares (only .34 ha) is a very thin vertical parcel from top north from heavier soils with clay down through the lighter and stonier in the south having Jadot as immediate right hand side neighbour.

To our surprise, we are met with a more rustic and earthy tone in here. There are compact and multi layered darker fruit in here and there is some depth, some pepper, anise and spices, but it lacks a little freshness at this stage too. Moreover, we lacks some of the authority and concentration that we expected from this site, but we hope and expect it to improve over time.

This is currently very reduced, introvert and therefore very analytic at this stage, but it may prove to be much better from bottle later. A much more light-footed version compared to e.g. de VogĂĽĂ©.

92-95p/100 


Summary  







Francois Bertheau’s 2011 reds are packed with ripe and forwardly red fruit, but even though just a little overly sweet more importantly there is no hint of excessive alcohol. Overall impression is that his wines are very fresh, fruit-driven, seductively feminine, incredibly silky and we think they just lacks some structure and concentration. Regarding structure, maybe some mature stems would have done the trick, but at the same time the wines are generous, site-expressive and elegant. Concentration has to do with the vines and the soil somehow. They obviously favour finesse and elegance over power. Francois Bertheau is a producer worth following closely in the future, not only for his true focus on conveying the terroir into honest wines, but for the modest price-level compared to other more renowned producers here and we are fortunate to have a few of his 2010’s Amoureuses at home.

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