Château La Bienfaisance
2004 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Red Blend •Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Return to the Right Bank
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Secure a delicious and exclusive Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Bordeaux for our operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Château La Bienfaisance
Wine Subject: 2004 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
Winemaker: Didier Peytour
Backgrounder: The movie Sideways may have tried to kill Merlot, but real wine lovers know that the joke is on the character Miles. He boldly proclaims: “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any [censored] Merlot!”, Really, and his favorite wine is Chateau Cheval Blanc? Chateau Cheval Blanc, like today’s selection from Château La Bienfaisance is a Saint-Émilion, a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend. (For those not lucky enough to have enjoyed a Cheval Blanc, it is about 60% Cab Franc 37% Merlot and the remainder other varietals)
Fellow Wine Spies know that the wines from Saint-Émilion have been treasured since the times that the Romans initially cultivated Bordeaux’s vineyards of the Rive Droite. Each Grand Cru vineyard has its own varietal composition and this selection is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, and is heavily influenced by the region’s famed Terroir of Graves and ancient sand.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dense and dark purple and almost black in its inky core. Along the edges, the color remains thick showing a touch of ruby and garnet and is dense to the very meniscus. Some sediment was present when swirled.
Smell – Rich and fragrant with aromatic notes of earthy and sweet black fruit, fresh cut oak and a herbaceous note (initially some aromas of alcohol that fade as this wine breathes). A touch of dark chocolate rounds out the fresh and pleasant nose.
Feel – Silky smooth and expansive on the palate, this dry wine is medium to full-bodied with soft acidity and a touch of minerality.
Taste – Rich and ripe flavors of black cherry and blackberries along with other earthly dark fruits and layered and integrated with notes of earthy minerality, some dark chocolate, subtle herbal hints and soft oak.
Finish – Medium in length and extremely clean with the fruit and other complex flavors fading in unison.
Conclusion – The *2004 Château La Bienfaisance Saint-Emilion Grand Cru * is a delicious and very approachable (and affordable) wine that is well worth a try. A big redolent nose; fantastic silky texture on the palate; soft, clean elegant fruit and other complex flavors. We paired this delicious wine with a trio of unique burgers, one lamb, one pork and one beef.
All Points Bulletin: Agent White has gone A.W.O.L., presumably with Château La Bienfaisance winemaker Didier Peytour. The two should be considered armed (with corkscrews_) and dangerous (_as would anyone protecting a fine Saint-Émilion Grand Cru would be). If seem, please contact Agent Red at The Wine Spies OPS Center immediately.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Saint-Émilion along the rive droite of the Dordogne (and the Gironde) can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
One Star, Excellent, Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2008 (the French wine drinker’s bible).
“This wine exhibits plenty of toasty new oak, black cherry, and cassis characteristics along with a touch of herbaceousness in the background. It is medium-bodied, with excellent ripeness, moderately high tannin, lofty alcohol, and good texture as well as richness. It should be consumed during its first 10-12 years of life.” – Wine Advocate
About This Wine:
Cherry, eucalyptus and minerals notes. Medium bodied with excellent fruit ripeness. Cassis and black cherry flavors combine with rich silky tannins for a firm finish.
Crafted from the classic 2004 vintage, Château La Bienfaisance is a delicious wine and an excellent value compared to the 2005s. Because of the high percentage of Merlot, the wine is ready to drink now or can be cellared for up to 10 years. The wine pairs beautifully with grilled red meat, roasted lamb, duck, dishes with red wine sauces, hearty stews and bean dishes. Also try it with cheese, a fig tart or chocolate.
Described by leading U.S. wine critic Robert Parker as a “great value,” this “very very good” Saint-Émilion Grand Cru comes from the “micro-château” La Bienfaisance. (Wine Advocate # 171 June 2007)
The Château’s namesake wine is a product of the collaboration between winemaking guru-consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and the Château’s cellar master, Didier Peytour. A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, the wine has an intense, ruby red to almost purple color. Supple and round, with aromas of black cherry and cassis and a mild herbaceousness, this medium-bodied Bordeaux features superb ripeness, firm tannins and a good texture.
About The Winery:
In my quest to find a young Bordeaux that was both affordable and approachable (as opposed to so many over-tannic monsters), I focused my efforts on the Saint-Emilion region. While the left bank appellations of Margaux, Paulliac, Medoc and Haut Medoc are justifiably famous for their big, luscious Cabernet Sauvignons, these are wines that require generous aging. In Saint-Emillion, however, the preferred blend is high percentage of Merlot with Cabernet Franc; these are wines that can be aged – or enjoyed immediately.
I became intrigued with Chateau La Bienfaisance after learning of their long-time association with Stephane Derenoncourt (a highly respected consulting winemaker). I first met with representatives from the Duval-Fluery family, co-owners of the property and soon, I arranged to meet with their cellarmaster, Didier Peytour. I spent hours at Chateau La Bienfaisance, walking the vineyards, learning the topography and tasting through many vintages. After meetings at the Duval-Fleury family office in Paris, we agreed that I would sell their wines with the same care with which they were made.
Chateau La Bienfaisance (Bienfaisance means charity in French) was founded in 1925 and is located in Saint-Christophe des Bardes, one of nine villages in the Saint-Emilion Appellation. The Duval-Fleury and Corneau families bought the property in 1991 and immediately began to make improvements, such as renovating the 12th century farm building that is now used as a cellar, buying modern wine making equipment and rehabilitating the vineyards.
Since 1998, Derenoncourt has worked with La Bienfaisance’s resident winemaker Dider Peytour. With each passing year, they have collaborated to learn more about each individual parcel and to adapt techniques to maximize the quality of fruit each parcel produces. Originally from Northern France, Derenoncourt never studied oenology at one of the elite schools. The advantage of not hailing from the Bordeaux winemaking establishment is that he has felt free to experiment and innovate. For example, he was the first in Saint-Emilion to apply “biodynamic” principles to the vineyards, to use open-top Burgundy style vats for vinification, to work the wine on the lees. He now consults at six chateaux that are classified among the elite Grand Cru Classé of Saint-Emilion. Of the over 800 chateaux in Saint-Emilion, only 61 properties have achieved this status. Recently, he began to consult at Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon estate.
Chateau La Bienfaisance has 40 acres under vine. Each parcel is individually farmed based on the specific climatic conditions and needs of the vines. The average age of the vines is 30 years. These older vines are less productive but yield more concentrated fruits, resulting in wines that are richer and more flavorful. About two-thirds of the vineyards are located on the famous limestone plateau. The Merlot and Cabernet Franc grown here are powerful and full-bodied. Their remaining vines are situated on hillsides with sandy clay soils that produce more finessed wines.
Only natural composts are added to the soils. Yields are kept well below the authorized limits. Leaves are removed at the end of June to control the levels of tannins in the grapes and again in August to expose the grapes to the sun for optimal maturity. Green harvests control the number of grape bunches on each vine to 6 for Cabernet Franc and between 8 and 10 for Merlot.
Harvest takes place at full maturity. The grapes are harvested by hand and then protected in small bins. Any damaged grape bunches are removed prior to de-stemming. The grapes then pass over a gently vibrating table to remove leaves, stems and dirt and any individual grapes that are damaged. There is a short cold maceration before fermentation in order to concentrate the flavors and while maintaining elegance and finesse.
Grape Variety: Merlot 85%, Cabernet Franc 15%
Wine Type: Red Wine
Appellation: Saint-Emilion Grand Cru