Chateau Angelus and Organic Viticulture in Bordeaux

Sep 07, 18 Chateau Angelus and Organic Viticulture in Bordeaux

When one thinks of Bordeaux, organic viticulture does not immediately spring to mind but one family in St Emilion are working to change that perception. I had lunch earlier this week with Hubert de Bouard (head of the family, his daughter Stephanie Bouard-Rivoal (Managing Director) and cousin, Thierry Grenier de Bouard (Deputy Managing Director) for the launch of the 2015 Chateau Angelus as well as to talk about their philosophy regarding organic viticulture.

Hubert de Bouard of Ch. Angelus and the 2012

In 2015, the family took the decision to switch to organic viticulture. For the family, the vineyards are not just plots of land but entire ecosystems that need to be maintained. Going organic has allowed the vineyards to thrive from all points of view, be it plant, soil, flora and/or fauna. They are planting bushes between the vines as well as having several bee hives on the property to help with pollination. A ‘clean’ vineyard is essential for good wine, their philosophy is make wines for the next generation – preserving nature helps them to make better wine, the wine is better because it is clean and less polluted with unnatural chemicals. The estate is looking for ‘evolution’ not ‘revolution’ in the vineyards.

They currently  have 42 hectares that are organic and although they do not consider themselves ‘leaders’ in the organic movement, their neighbours have made enquiries and do look to them for guidance. They want their neighbours to join them in a collective movement towards organic viticulture. It’s good not only for them but for the whole region.

Now to the wines….2015 wasn’t the easiest year to start organic farming, it being a difficult year, but they were happy with the result. According to Hubert,  it was a ‘magnifique’ year, they were able to achieve very good ripeness with the merlot, and the quality of the tannins were exceptional with cool nights. The blend is  50:50 merlot/cabernet franc, both of which were able to reach peak ripeness in 2015. Hubert said, they are always looking for freshness and get great complexity from the terroir. 2015 was one of the best not because of the human touch but because of the terroir, the weather, the soil, the vineyard, all combined to produce a great wine.  In his opinion, they have to be humble because it’s really the land that produces the wine. The 2015 is  a very balanced wine- rich and elegant now, he opines it will be ready to drink properly in 5-6 years.

2012 has a particularly special meaning in the family as it was the year that Hubert handing the reins over to the next generation, his daughter Stephanie and cousin Thierry. The estate also acquired more land and they were moved to Premier Grand Cru Classe ‘A’ Classification.

To commemorate the occasion, they commissioned a special gold embossed bottle. The wine itself is showing well, the Cabernet Franc was finely ripe even though it’s a tough variety to grow, with climate change, it is proving to be a good bet. There is slightly more Cab Franc in the blend (55 Cabernet France/45 Merlot) the Merlot was also exceptional, delicate with silky tannins, the wine is spicy with length and leather notes.

The 2011 was leaner and more austere than the ‘12 in my opinion. They had to do a lot of grass cover management and a green harvest but all that work in the vineyard paid off as it is an exceptional wine, full of leather and spice with fine tannins and excellent balance.

The treat of the afternoon was the 2005. Opening up with a beautiful nose full of ripe fruit, a complex wine. In Hubert’s opinion, the 2005 was a fantasy vintage and the only one with 100 points from Parker. It is indeed a  beautiful wine and drinking very well but it is definitely still a youngster and will age for many years to come. Unfortunately, there are very few bottles left at the chateau so we were lucky to have this one for lunch.

Chateau Angelus was one of the first Bordeaux I ever tried. I liked it then and like it even more now after years as a wine taster. And as an added bonus, I am very happy to see that they are leading the way for organic viticulture in Bordeaux. The 2018 will be the first certified organic wine from Chateau Angelus, looking forward to its release!

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