Château La Bienfaisance
2004 'Sanctus' Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Red Blend •Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s Saint-Émilion Grand Cru is truly a wine if distinction and thus deserves to be called out as a top selection. But act quickly as our allocation is extremely limited.
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Mission Codename: Holy Vines
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 ‘Sanctus’ Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
Winemaker: Didr 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 Grand Cru 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 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, and is heavily influenced by the region’s famed Terroir of Graves and ancient sand.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dense garnet and purple with a barely clear core that is nearly inky in character. Along the edges, the color shows ruby red highlights and when swirled fast thin evenly spaced legs ring the glass.
Smell – Well developed and balanced aromas of dark fruit including black cherry and blackberry are layered over sweet vanilla oak notes, smokey spice, hints of black licorice and earthy undertones.
Feel – Smooth and dry, this supple full-bodied wine is classic ‘right-bank’ in character with finely textured tannins that are supported by its lively but balanced acidity and Terrior driven minerality.
Taste – Classically old-world with reserved flavors of blackberry, cassis and black cherry meld perfectly with sweet oak flavors, spice and cigar tobacco. The licorice, herbal and earthy aromas found on the nose also make an appearance on the palate and add complexity to this lovely mature wine.
Finish – Medium long in length with this wine’s restrained fruit fading away softly as the classic supple and fine textured structure lingers on.
Conclusion – The *2004 Château La Bienfaisance ’ Sanctus’ Saint-Emilion Grand Cru * is a delicious example of with the right bank still rules with lovers of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Exceptional balance, great old world complexity and finesse, a lovely wine that will continue to age well for the next 5 to 10 years, perhaps longer!
Château La Bienfaisance winemaker Didr Peytour is very busy and was quite hard to catch, we did get a brief opportunity to ask him a few questions and below is a transcript of our conversation.
SUBJECT: Didr Peytour
AGENT WHITE: Bonjour Didr, We are thrilled to be showing your 2004 ‘Sanctus’ Saint-Émilion Grand Cru today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
DIDR: You’re welcome – I’m excited to have our 2004 Sanctus, our flagship wine featured on The Wine Spies.
WHITE: What is your background in wine or grapes?
DIDR: I have a higher technician certificate in Viticulture and Enology.
WHITE: Is there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
DIDR: I’ve loved wine since my childhood.
WHITE: How long have you been making wine?
DIDR: I’ve been making wine for 23 years.
WHITE: What is your philosophy of winemaking?
DIDR: The gentle extraction of tannins to reveal the wine’s true character.
WHITE: What is your favorite grape variety?
DIDR: I love Cabernet Franc, one of the two varietals represented in this delicious wine.
WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
DIDR: It’s a wine that is fully characteristic of the region. Its rich and opulent but has good acidity due to the moderating influence of ocean climate in Bordeaux.
WHITE: In your opinion, what makes your ‘Sanctus’ so special?
DIDR: The Terroir of Saint-Émilion is among the best in France
WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DIDR: We are currently working on the 2009 vintage.
WHITE: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
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:
90 Points – Robert Parker – “[I]t exhibits a dark ruby/purple hue along with notes of creme de cassis, black cherries, licorice, and spice box offered in a medium to full-bodied, supple-textured style. It is meant to be consumed during its first 10-12 years of life.”
90 Points – Gault Millau
88 Points – Stephen D. Tanzer – “Good red ruby. Aromas of cherry and sweet oak. Dense ripe and fairly primary with a restrained sweetness and an enticing spicy character. The chewy tannins build with aeration.”
2 Stars (remarkable wine) and winner of the Coup de Cour, Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2008 – 2 Stars (remarkable wine) and winner of the Coup de Cour, Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2008
About This Wine:
Sanctus is Château La Bienfaisance’s luxury cuvée. This beautifully-made wine comes from 40-year-old vines grown on a 7.5 acre parcel of the finest chalky soil. A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, the wine is dark red with flashes of violet in the glass; it is full and powerful on the palate with soft, mellow tannins, dark fruit, a touch licorice and an elegant finish.
Only 1,000 cases of this stunningly good wine were produced. Sanctus 2004 is ready to drink now through 2019. It pairs naturally 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.
Tasting Notes: Black cherry, spice, tobacco and herb notes. Medium to full bodied with cherry, blackberry and liquorice flavors. Integrated soft tannins combine for long and elegant finish
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 70%, Cabernet Franc 30%
Wine Type: Red Wine
Appellation: Saint-Emilion Grand Cru