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We're proud to be working, for more than twelve years, with the affable Thierry Navarre, one of the first producers of natural wines in the Languedoc. Based in the town of Roquebrun ("brown rock") in Saint-Chinian, Thierry became the third generation to take over the domaine's high-altitude vineyards in 1988 and continue his grandfather's legacy of preserving ancient varieties. Today, Thierry is one of the few winemakers in the region still making wine from the obscure Œillades (a cousin of Cinsault), Terret and the light and delightfully floral Ribeyrenc. The mountainside vineyards are on terroir of brown schiste covered with fragments of slate ("lauzes" or "laouzil" in Occitan) giving aromas of garrigue and the singular spicy minerality of wines from schistes in the Languedoc.
the 2020 Saint-Chinian "Le Laouzil" from a terroir of brown schiste covered with fragments of slate which reflect sunlight and holds moisture in the soil. This is the domain's principal cuvée, and is a sensational value! The "Vin D'Œillades," "Ribeyrenc" and "Lignières" offered today give a delicious and compelling journey through Languedoc history - thank you Thierry Navarre and family! (Thierry's wines have arrived in NY - pick-up/shipping available Tues 5/10)
Ch. Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre
Today we're offering our last remaining stock of the wines of Jean-Pierre Boyer at Château Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre in Margaux. M. Boyer suffered an accident in the cellar last November - his 51st vintage - but apparently is recovering well - we wish him good health and thank him for these extraordinary wines! (Apparently M.Boyer participated in the 1947 - 1949 vintages - which were drinking beautifully at a 2013 vertical tasting - his first vintage in charge being 1950)
We'd like to draw your attention to the 2011 - the wine spent 6 months in barrel then 5 years in vat before bottling in 2017. According to reports in France, the wine drinks beautifully, but is best after 2 days open, not re-corked. Or cellar for 10 - 20 years...
For a recent assessment of the estate, please see Neal Martin's excellent article in Vinous "Last Man Standing: Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre." And if you've somehow missed our previous offers, here's a synopsis:
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.")
Oeillades is an ancient Languedoc variety, probably related to Cinsault. Thierry Navarre, who is proud of his vineyards of "forgotton varieties," produces Terret and Ribeyrenc as well as this lovely light-bodied Oeillades. The 2021 has pretty, red-currant, strawberry, black plum, violet and spiced citrus aromas, quite fresh, earthy and appealing. The palate has soft and silky red currant, blackberry and plum fruit, it's light to medium-bodied, but with lovely ripeness and refreshing acidity and good sappy length. Good intensity of fruit but low alcohol (12%), which makes it very food-friendly. Serve quite cool with charcuterie, burgers, grillled chicken and pork and mild cheeses. Highly recommended and a great value!
An almost extinct grape grown in the Languedoc, Ribeyrenc has been preserved mostly due to the work of Thierry Navarre and his father before him, planted on slopes of schist, exposure south-east. It’s thin-skinned and yields a fresh and vibrant red wine that could easily pass for a dark rosé. The aromas are complex with red fruits, spice, herbs, tobacco, rose petal and tea-leaf. Low-alcohol and light-bodied and a bit delicate with plum, red currant, spice and smoke on the palate, with a long finish - fresh, floral, and unlike anything else, really a lovely wine ! EL
Thierry Navarre's touchstone "Laouzil" is a blend of equal parts Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah from old vines planted on brown schist ("Laouzil" in the local dialect) soils in the rugged mountains of Roquebrun (Saint-Chinian). The grapes are de-stemmed and aged in neutral barrel before bottling with minimal sulfur. The robe is a lovely red/black in the glass. The wine shows seductive aromas of spiced plums, dried rosemary, and deeper notes of coffee and dry earth. The rich palate is bursting with black fruit flavors, peppercorn, and savory herbs with a structured texture of dense minerals and bright acidity on the long, persistent finish. This is a fascinating wine of terroir that Thierry says will be perfect in 5 years (though it's delicious now!)
(Arrives May 10th) From a vineyard co-planted with old varieties - Ribeyrenc Blanc, Grenache Gris and Clairette du Languedoc - Thierry Navarre made the 2020 "Lignières." It's a delighful wine with slightly spicy and floral aromas of white peach, lemon peel, almond, pear and honeysuckle, dry and dense on the palate, but nicely round and ripe, with mineral, herbal and stone fruit flavors with firm acidity - really lovely, a great aperitif or serve with fish or chicken in sauce, salads, sheep and goat cheeses. Three cheers for Thierry Navarre for making such a delicious, distictive and unusual wine from historic varieties. David Lillie
The wines of Jean-Pierre Boyer at Chateau Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre, are made in the lighter "claret" style of the 19th century. The 1995 shows a light red/garnet slightly mature color with pretty aromas of sweet red currant, cassis and prune with sous-bois, licorice, tobacco, citrus and spice. The palate is delicate and silky, with a firm core of red currant/cassis fruit, framed in firm acidity. Very earthy with fruit liqueur, smoke, mint and minerals in the long finish. Decant a few hours in advance to enjoy this very unusual and beautiful Margaux. Another 5 to 10 years of cellaring would be interesting. David Lillie
The 1996 Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre is a completely different style of wine than modern Margaux, especially in this rather cool vintage. On opening the aromas are quite subtle, slightly musty, with bright, sweet red-currant fruit with violet, earth and mineral flavors, a bit austere, but lovely. The palate is deep, firm and earthy with red currant, black cherry and mineral flavors, with brown spice, cedar and licorice. We would suggest decanting six to eight hours in advance, or cellar for ten to fifteen more years.
Jean-Pierre Boyer makes Margaux that resemble the wines of the distant past. His 2000 shows a slightly maturing red/black color with bright aromas of red currant, cassis and raspberry with cedar, rose, citrus and earthy sous-bois notes, really lovely and complex. Relatively light for a Margaux, the palate is deep and velvety with firm tannins under lovely blackberry and cassis fruit with earth, licorice and mineral flavors. It's delicate and powerful at the same time and very long. Delicious now with three to four hours in carafe or after another ten to twenty years in the cellar. David Lillie
The 2009 BAMA shows bright deep red/black color with lovely high-toned red fruit liqueur - strawberry, black currant and cassis, with violet and earth. The palate is dense and ripe with bright acidity - not at all heavy, but with intense black and red fruits backed by flavors of mineral and earth. On day two the bright deep fruits have become more focused and linger on the palate in the long and very mineral finish. This is quite enjoyable as a young wine, especially after a day open, unencumbered by over-extraction and new oak - but beware, this style is for those who like some earth in their Bordeaux! Best to cellar for a very long time...
The 2010 Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre is from very old vines and also from approximately 50 year-old vines planted by M. Boyer at 10,000 plants per hectare. There is a long fermentation without extraction, the juice remains in cuve until spring, then spends six months in old barrels followed by two to three years in cement vat. These are wines made in the lighter "claret" style of the 19th century, although the 2010 shows an incredible density of flavor, given the less-extracted style. Upon opening the wine shows subtle aromas of earth, red currant and cherry fruit with licorice and brown spice. The palate is deep and quite expressive with black cherry, strawberry, earth, licorice and mineral flavors, quite Burgundian in texture. The finish is very long with lingering tart cherry, sous-bois and mineral flavors. After two days open (re-corked) the aromas have broadened with prune, ripe cherry, tobacco, spice and rose and the palate is intense with red and black fruit liqueur, spice box and earth and ending with lingering red fruits and firm acidity. Delicious now with a long decant, this will be an extraordinary mature wine, best perhaps 2035 - 2050. David Lillie
The 2011 Ch. Bel Air - Marquis d'Aligre spent 6 months in barrel then 5 years in vat before bottling in 2017. According to reports in France, the wine drinks beautifully, with the following advice: Open, taste, leave open un-corked for two days, then enjoy! Or cellar for ten to twenty+ years...