Paris – November 2021 – Part 2 – Christophe Bardeau of Domaine Roses Camille

Continuing with my posts from my most recent trip to France, the second day’s slot was reserved for a meeting with Christophe Bardeau, winemaker of Domaine Roses Camille. This was a meeting that I had been looking forward to for some time. There are no other winemakers whom I can think of and say – every single kosher wine he/she has produced has been somewhere between very good to excellent. There are no “misses” that I can recall in the entire catalogue. That’s not say that some wines aren’t better than others. They are all different – Clos Lavaud is not the Echo, and Echo Roses Camille is not the Domaine Roses Camille. But all of them from the very first release of the Domaine Roses Camille in 2005 through these current wines we tasted are all scored at 90 and above  – and most are 93 and above (I actually never tasted the first release – 2005 Domaine Roses Camille, but I’ll take Rogov’s word for it. Besides, from what I understand, it may still be years away from peak….). That is quite a feat.

Originally, we were going meet with Ben Sitruk as well – Ben handles the French/European distribution – but Ben was feeling unwell that day, so Christophe arranged for us to meet at a lovely residence in the heart of Paris owned by Anthony Spinasse – the owner of Chateau Marquisat de Binet! The apartment was nearing the end of renovations, and David was worried that the construction odors might interfere with the nose on the various wines. [Speaking of Mr. Raccah, his post about this tasting can be found here.] So we decided to do the tasting outside. Truthfully, it worked out for the best. The weather was beautiful, sunny and brisk, just the way I like it.

Over the course of the tasting, I had the opportunity to learn more in depth about Christophe’s winemaking process and his plans for the future, both in terms of wines and related projects. One of the most surprising was that he was opening a restaurant by the end of the year. By Christophe’s Instagram, it looks like De La Terre Au Verre has opened! Even more exciting, the plan is that by this summer he plans to allow for in-advance kosher booking, so that people who do wine will have a quality kosher option and can visit one of the most celebrated kosher-producing wineries in the region at the same time! I’m looking forward to doing so on my next trip to France….

Now on to wine, or should I say winemaker. Christophe was literally raised in his vineyard in Pomerol. The vineyard was inherited by Christophe’s family nearly 70 years ago. Nothing can take the place of a winemaker knowing his vines, and Christophe started working the family plots in his early teens with his grandfather who was able to relay all of his accumulated experience. He then continued formal training at various schools in Bordeaux and  later became an associate winemaker at Château L’Eglise Clinet – which happens to be one of the neighboring wineries to Domaine Roses Camille.

In terms of winemaking, Christophe does not believe in checking the brix of the grapes. He simply walks through the vineyards and tastes from the various vines. If it looks and tastes right, he picks. Very simple, very old school.  There are very few people who are ballsy enough to rely purely on their taste of the raw grape. But when you know your vineyards this well…… In general, he also maintains a minimalist approach – very little SO2 is added to each wine, and all wines are vegan, of course, though they don’t say so on the bottle. No filtering or fining is done to any of the wines he produces. The estate itself sits just about 300 meters from the famed Château Pétrus. In fact, there is a 1-2 kilometer vein of clay soil that is shared by Petrus, Chateau Rouget, La Violette, the aforementioned Château L’Eglise Clinet, Domaine Roses Camille, and other famed Pomerol wineries, whose composition besides the famed blue clay also consists of gravel, sand, and iron deposits (crasse de fer in French). It is no surprise that when you have excellent terroir and a winemaker like Christophe, you end up with some of the most acclaimed kosher wines ever produced.

Until now (aside from one-offs, like the 2011 La Clide), Christophe has produced four wines regularly. First and foremost, the Domaine Roses Camille, always 100% Merlot and always using new light or medium-toasted barrels. As I mentioned above, the DRC, as it is affectionately known in kosher wine drinking circles, for vintages 2005 and 2006 are some of the most sought-after kosher wines ever produced. There was no DRC from 2007 through 2010. Also in 2013, the famously horrible vintage in Bordeaux, they also skipped a vintage. To date there are 2005, 2006, 2011, 2012, 2014, and the recently released 2015 reviewed below. [DRC for the general wine drinking public is shorthand for Domain Romanee Conti, one of the most famous and most expensive estates in Burgundy].  Named after one of Christophe’s nieces, this is the flagship wine that Christophe produces.

There is then the Echo de Roses Camille – the “second” wine of the Roses Camille estate. Also 100% Merlot. The wine spends its first year in cement and its   second year in just-emptied Domaine Roses Camille Barrels. The wine then spends an additional six months either in cement or in the tank, which just helps to naturally filter out some of the sediment. While a second wine, as with other top producers, the wine is usually of exceptional quality.

Next up we have the Chateau Marquisat De Binet, Cuvee Abel. This is a wine produced in neighboring St. Emillion. Abel is one of the owner’s sons. This wine is NOT aged in oak, though sometimes, oak chips are added to balance out the acidity. So far, 2012, 2014 and 2015 (reviewed below) have been released.

Last up we have the Clos Lavaud. This wine is designated as Lalande de Pomerol (Domaine Roses Camille borders both designations). Also 100% Merlot, this wine is also designed to be more approachable So far 2014, 2015, and 2016 have been released and are all sold out. With those vintages, the process matched the Cuvee Able above. There was no wine produced in 2017 – and from 2018 onward production increased to 2400 bottles and  the process has changed to match the ERC (Echo de Roses Camille). 

In terms of new projects from Chateau Marquisat De Binet, with the 2018 vintage we have a new wine added – La Folie D’Elie  (reviewed below) – a wine that is Cabernet Franc based and from  its name, you can tell that it is meant to be a fun light wine. [The name translates to Elie’s Madness – I would assume that Elie, another of the owner’s children, must be a handful.] It absolutely fulfils those expectations.

Lastly, we have another project that is not yet released – but perhaps the most exciting – a new flagship wine – Domaine Roses Louise, named after another of Christophe’s nieces, which until now has been produced infrequently and has not been kosher – but will be released kosher with either the 2019 or 2020 vintages. It is situated between two very famous plots. There will be more on that as we get closer to some sort of release in a couple of years.

Now on to the wines that we tasted that day :

2018 Chateau Marquisat de Binet, La Folie D’Elie, Montagne Saint-Emilion – This is a FUN wine. First of all, there are very few quality Cab Franc based wines out there. So this was a real joy. Great dirty nose – almost dense earth, which finally gives way to rich dark red fruit. In the mouth, this is a relatively light wine – medium bodied at most, though it comes in squarely at 13.5% abv. It unfolds pretty much perfectly with nice super bright dark red raspberry and black plum, followed by lead and tons of earth. The acid here comes in waves and makes this wine so much fun to drink.  The finish gives you typical greener notes with roasted herbs, bramble, more earth, anise, a little menthol, and tobacco. Surprisingly, there is fair amount of tannin here, and while it is likely not a wine for long-term aging, it could use another year or two to fully come into itself and will likely hold for 4-5 years after that. Really nice stuff! 92

2015 Chateau Marquisat de Binet, Cuvee Abel, Montagne Saint-Emilion – 100% Merlot, this wine has a darker profile then the La Folie.  The nose here if full of black fruit – blackberries, black plum, black cherry, and maybe a little ripe raspberry, with incredible toasted herbs that come to dominate with a slight smokiness that is all around the edges. The mouth here is layered and structured with blackberry, plum, umami, mushroom, some smoke, and rich earth, before transitioning into more green notes of fresh herbs and some peppery spice.  Good acid and tannin that holds it all together. The wine is close to peak now – it might improve over the year and should hold for 3 -4 years after that. As noted above, this wine sees only a limited amount of oak. I wonder what this vineyard would yield if given the full regime. 93

2015 Echo de Roses Camille, Pomerol –This was a wine that I was worried about tasting. So far, there have been three other releases of this wine – with relatively mixed results. While I loved the 2011, the 2012 was less in line with what I would have expected style-wise. With the 2014, I have found that the bottles that made their way to Israel, at times have not been in the best shape, but in the U.S., I really liked it. So, if there was a wine I wasn’t sure about it was the 2015 Echo. Really, I had nothing to worry about. The nose here is so beautiful – with black fruit buried in earth and mushrooms. WOW!  The wine is SUPER young. It needed some vigorous aeration just to start to show (after a couple of days, it  was finally starting to hit its stride) The mouth here is deep and plush with crazy rich extracted ripe fruit The  ripeness here is typical for the 2015 vintage – but it is NOT over the top and is totally controlled. Beautiful blackberry dominates followed by blueberry, giving way to savory earthy notes of mushroom and rich earth with incredible minerality – you can taste the iron and rock and lead from the earth. All of that ripeness and richness is balanced out by the wonderful acidity with mouth coating tannin, which shows that this wine is built to go the long haul. The finish is super impressive with all of the above continuing in from the mid-palate, but really the mushroom is dominate and permeates the wine – but ultimately moving into toasted herbs and tobacco. This wine is wonderful. 94

2015 Domaine Roses Camille, Pomerol – It took a VERY long time for the nose on this wine to produce anything. When it finally did start to become expressive, what you got was violets and blueberry and blackberry, which eventually give way to blacker fruit and some smoke. In the mouth, though, the wine was surprisingly far more approachable. Similar to the Echo above, this wine is ripe – even very ripe – but very ripe does not automatically equal a bad wine when it is balanced – and here, you have balance in spades. You have tons of black fruit – blackberry and black plums followed by tons of herbs, mint, saline, mineral, and, again, some smoke with a nice background earthiness. Really, the flavors just come in waves. It’s all very ripe – but there is such incredible balancing acidity that it all works together to become a rich layered wine that is such a pleasure to drink. The tannin is silky and mouth coating. The finish here is full of earth, nice herb, and finally rich chocolate. This is a stellar wine – I really loved it. It is SUPER young though. In fact, when we tried it later in the week, the wine had totally shut down. So if you buy this, you can hold on to it for 15 or 20 years – you won’t be disappointed. 94+

My thanks again to Ben Sitruk, who set this tasting up; Anthony Spinasse, who hosted us; and of course to Christophe Bardeau for being so generous with his wines and his time.

Next up: Tasting Royal’s new releases with Menachem Israelievitch

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