Alternative Bordeaux (5) natural wine at Château Peybonhomme, Côtes de Blaye

The Hubert family are sixth-generation vignerons based in Cars, near Blaye. The family arrived at Château Peybonhomme-Les-Tours, which is on a small hill overlooking the Gironde estuary. Sister and brother Rachel and Guillaume Hubert run things these days, and the reason they are included in alternative Bordeaux is that they are one of the relatively few properties in Bordeaux who have embraced natural winemaking.

Guillaume, Rachel and Jean-Luc Hubert

We climbed to the top of the 17th century tower and took in some of the views. Peybohnomme is a sizeable property with 60 hectares of vines spread across many plots. Rachel and Guillaume’s father, Jean-Luc, traces his family routes to the sailors of the Gironde who were instrumental in transporting wines, while his wife Catherine comes from a line of winemakers.

The family added Château La Grolet in 1997, and this is when they began exploring biodynamic farming. ‘In 1997 our father decided to move towards biodynamics,’ explains Rachel, ‘but it was a family decision.’ Château La Grolet is in the Côtes de Bourg appellation, and here there are 35 hectares of vines on a gravel/clay base. Both properties are now certified biodynamic.

‘We decreased production in order to make better wine,’ says Guillaume. ‘I was very interested by what I saw when I visited other winegrowers, and this gave us new meaning.’

He thinks that people have a bad impression of Côtes de Blaye, which is unwarranted. ‘The name of the appellation is a limit,’ he says. ‘We know it is a good terroir – we want to reveal [it at its] best. Biodynamie is the only way to reveal the potential of the terroir. Organics excludes the pesticides, but with biodynamie you add something.’

Concrete fermentation tanks

The soils are limestone with some clay, especially at the bottom, but at the top of the hills there is just limestone. ‘We are on an old sea bed,’ says Guillaume. ‘We feel the influence of the estuary here.’

In the Côtes de Blaye there are just 2 biodynamic producers out of some 400, although there are 10-15 farming organically. ‘At the moment people aren’t prepared to pay more for organic or biodynamic wine in France.’

The cellar at Peybonhomme doesn’t look like a typical Bordeaux example: rather than rows of barrels, it’s full of terracotta amphorae. They began experimenting with these in 2014. They come in a range of sizes, and are more breathable than oak, allowing a bit more oxygen transmission. Most of these are from Tuscany and hold 450 litres, but they also have smaller ones from Autan in the Languedoc that hold 160 litres. They still use barrels, but this is an interesting development.

‘We add nothing to the wine,’ says Guillaume, ‘except for some SO2 to a total of 40 ppm.’

A short film:

Château Pey-Bonhomme Les-Tours Le Blanc Bonhomme 2015 Côtes de Blaye, Bordeaux
Gentle pressing. Natural ferment, 40% in barrel. Sauvignon Semillon blend. Packaged beautifully in a Burgundy bottle with a label from the 1950s. Lovely texture here to the crystalline pear and apple fruit, with a salty, citrussy savouriness and lovely minerality, as well as some lemon curd notes. Lovely acidity here: very fine and persistent. Such a deliciously complex and expressive wine that is really harmonious. 93/100

Château Pey-Bonhomme Le Rosé de Peybonhomme 2015 Bordeaux
Saignée. Sappy and slightly herby with a spicy edge to the red cherry and pear fruit with some citrus notes. Juicy and lively with a peppery twist. Fresh and dry. Nice vitality. Spicy. 89/100

Les Vacances de Monsieur Merlot 2015 Vin de France
From Château La Grolet, no added sulphites. Supple, juicy berry and cherry fruits. Supple, sappy and fresh with a nice open berry fruits quality. Has some herbiness. Smashable stuff. 89/100

Château Pey-Bonhomme L’Atypic de Peybonhomme 2015 Vin de France
50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Franc. Only make this in years where these varieties perform well. Fresh, vital, spicy and detailed with lovely grippy, edgy blackcurrant and berry fruit. There’s a floral edge here, some fruit sweetness, and a grippy, savoury spiciness. Intense and beautifully expressive with lots of personality. 91/100

Château Pey-Bonhomme Les-Tours 2014 Côtes de Blaye, Bordeaux
The Grand Vin: 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec. Decreasing the ageing in barrels. Fresh, supple and stony/mineral with a lovely chalky edge to the sweet cherry and berry fruits. Very fine-grained tannins, with lovely purity and a subtle sappy edge. Fine and expressive with lovely balance and a savoury edge. Good acidity. Just 9€ at the domaine. 93/100

Château La Grolet 2014 Côtes de Bourg, Bordeaux, France
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with a touch of Malbec. Supple and fruity with bright raspberry and cherry characters. Very fruity, pure and berryish with nice focus and weight. Taut and focused with good acidity and nice bright cherry fruit on the finish. Some stony notes, too. Lovely purity. 91/100

Château La Grolet Sans Sulfites Ajouté 2015 Côtes de Bourg, Bordeaux, France
No barrels. Just one tank. Vivid, spicy and grippy with lovely structure under the cherry and blackberry fruit. Good concentration and freshness with juicy fruit and good acidity. Primary and structured with real focus. 91/100

Château La Grolet Tête de Cuvée 2014 Côtes de Bourg, Bordeaux, France
New oak. Intense and juicy with vibrant blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with grippy tannins and lovely acidity. Very fresh with a savoury cedary quality from the oak. Vibrant and juicy with a good potential for ageing. 91/100

Quintessence de Peybonhomme 2012 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France
13% alcohol. Floral, aromatic and fruity with lovely precision to the cherry and plum fruit with some spicy blackcurrants. Nice spicy grip here, but it doesn’t take away from the supple elegance of the wine. Fruity and expressive with lovely balance and weight. Real finesse with good structure and acidity. Handles the new oak well, showing precision and balance. Stony finish. 94/100

 

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