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We're delighted to again offer the wines of Jean-Pierre Boyer at Château Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre in Margaux! And this time without tariffs!! We're told that M. Boyer is doing well "with incredible energy for his age" - the 2019 harvest was his 70th vintage! We wish him well and thank him for these extraordinary wines!
(Wines arrive in May, and come directly from the estate. All orders will be confirmed before processing. (Net, pre - arrival pricing, prices will be higher on arrival)
(For a recent assessment of the estate, please see Neal Martin's excellent article in Vinous "Last Man Standing: Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre.")
On our first visit to the estate in January, 2013, we were astonished and delighted to find someone who was so totally "apart" from the techniques and styles of modern Bordeaux. As we have noted in past articles, the wines will not appeal to everyone, and a lengthy decant - or opening the night before - is required to really appreciate the wine's quality. As M. Boyer says "de boire mes vins jeunes est de couper le blé en herbe." Roughly translated as "to drink my wines young is to harvest the wheat when it's green" - this is something to bear in mind when opening any bottle of BAMA. We think, however, that the wines are well worth trying and in fact are quite beautiful and extraordinarily complex, if given enough time to awaken.
The estate's principal French retailer (the excellent "Vins Etonnants") calls the wine "untypical and rare, vinified as in the 19th century." Indeed, we were transfixed by the delicacy and complexity of the wines, which bear no resemblance to the dark, oaky, fruit-bombs of today. More a "claret" in style, the wine undergoes a long, slow natural fermentation, with no extraction, then stays in cuve until spring. After a six-month passage in old barrels, the wine spends two to three years or more in cement vats before bottling and release. The estate has about 50 hectares, much of it forest, perhaps 13 ha in vines, much of which is rented to his famous neighbors. The main parcel is approximately 50 years-old, planted at 10,000 vines per hectare, with part of the vineyard next to that of Pavillon Blanc of Château Margaux. M. Boyer currently farms only about 3 hectares, including pre-phylloxera vines, meaning that ancient grapes such as Castet, Mancin, Saint Macaire and others could still be grown at BAMA. While not certified organic, there are no modern treatments and only a bit of organic compost as fertilizer. The blend is approximately 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet, 20% Cabernet Franc with Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère.
(For those who read French, check out the excellent article on Bel Air - Marquis d'Aligre by Jacques Perrin "Le Rayas de Margaux.")
We have yet to taste the 2005 - here's Neal Martin's review in Vinous: "The 2005 Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre has a strict, backward, tobacco and graphite-tinged bouquet with more black fruit than red, unlike the 2001. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, harmonious and crisp with a fine thread of acidity. There is a gentle build in the mouth, quite linear but delivering a very nuanced, lightly spiced, clove-infused finish. This Margaux is endowed with impressive density compared to other vintages tasted, the fruit veering towards black plums and a hint of balsamic. I admire the transparency of the wine, one that makes you feel as if you are peering directly into the vineyard."
(Five hour decant) The 1998 is a complex and unusual Bordeaux in mid-life, showing more secondary and mineral qualities than the riper 2000. The wine shows a light, slightly browning garnet color; the aromas are quite floral and earthy with spicy black currant, clove, graphite and citrus peel. The palate shows dark earth and mineral flavors yielding to bright black currant and cassis fruit with dark spice and sous-bois flavors backed by very firm acidity. The wine held up well with an additional few hours open and will obviously benefit from another ten to twenty years of aging. David Lillie