Creating a new estate in this tiny appellation is extremely rare, as the 780 hectares of land are already divided up into a patchwork of tiny estates, and any plots that come on the market tend to be snapped up by existing owners (you may remember me mentioning the racetrack that is due to add an extra 13 hectares http://www.decanter.com/news/289932.html )
So it was very exciting to taste Chateau La Connivence on Friday (and to be the first English-speaking journalist to do so!). This 1.45ha plot (going up to 1.55 in a few years as some new vines are being planted in 2010) has been newly established from vines that previously belonged to Chateau les Templiers, which was broken up for succession reasons. It's currently building a winery on site, and the 2008 vintage will be released in May of next year, with just 2,000 bottles and around 500 bottles of a second wine La Belle Connivence.
Four friends are behind the idea; Alexandre de Malet Roquefort (of La Gaffelière), engineer and businessman Jean-Luc Deloche,and two Bordeaux and French national team footballers Matthieu Chalmé and Johan Micoud (in France, second only in fame to Zidane; both pictured below). Stéphane Dérénoncourt in on board as consultant.
The vines are located on a little gravel croup near to the main Libourne road, which is always a few degrees warmer than the rest of the appellation because closer to the city of Libourne (the same principle applies to the Pessac Leognan appellation and the city of Bordeaux).
The intention is to create something very high-end and customers will only be able to buy a maximum of a dozen bottles of each year (they never intend production to go above 3,000 bottles, and even professionals will be limited to 270 bottles, with exclusivities in various countries). And at around 155 euros, it is definitely going to attempt to position itself in the top league of the appellation.
I was genuinely surprised by this wine. The idea of basically a garage wine, micro-production, with celebrities on board (not only the footballers, but the wine will have a 'godfather' each year as an ambassador, as Bernard Magrez does with Pape Clement. The first of these will be actor François Berléand) meant I was expecting a blockbuster, dripping with alcohol, liquorice and chocolate.
Instead, I got a wine that has a very fine structure, that doesn't immediately jump out at you but builds in power on the palate. They talk about it being a 'terroir wine', and I can see why. It's almost entirely farmed organically, although not certified, and its 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon berries go whole into 400 litre Burgundy barrels for integral vinification (that never goes above 28 degrees). No bleeding of the wine, and only a tiny amount of press will be used (none was in 2008 but the quality in 2009 is so good that around 5% press will go into the wine). It will stay in barrel for around 18 to 20 months (they are not quite sure yet, as this is the first vintage). Malo starts naturally (as in Ch Rouget in Pomerol, and apparently also Ducru Beaucaillou in St Julien). Currently they are renting space in a neighbouring cellar, but construction of a winery should be compete in the next two years.
There are four types of soil across the 1.5ha - large gravel with good drainage, fine gravel, then sandy-clay and sand-crasse de fer. Alexandre told me yesterday that they were offered more of the 6 hectares of Les Templiers, but they only took the very best parts.
This is a wonderful wine, with loganberry and blackberry flavours that sit for a while in the mouth, then gather steam. There is a real power beneath, and a serious tannic structure, but elegance and soft plummy fruits is the impression that stays with you. I tasted a number of wonderful wines yesterday during a day in Pomerol researching for Opus Vino, but this was the one that I was still thinking about last night.