TN: Visit to Domaine Francois Bertheau

BURGUNDY 2011 DAY 3: VISIT TO DOMAINE FRANCOIS BERTHEAU - Chambolle-Musigny, Burgundy (18/5/2011)

This was one of the most enjoyable visits of the trip. I have had little experience with the wines of the Domaine, but what little I have had has been unfailingly good, so this visit was looked forward to with quite a bit of anticipation. When we got to the Domaine, it quickly became clear why the bottles of its wines are so rare - the production is tiny. Just 10,000 to 15,000 bottles a year, out of which there are only 1000-1200 bottles each of the Les Amoureuses and the Bonnes Mares. We tasted the 2010 vintage in barrel. A real pity about the tiny production, because these wines were all top-notch, with the Les Amoureuses and the Bonnes Mares both being superlative examples. M. Bertheau himself was a real character. Not loud, but colourful, flamboyant, with a couple of studs in each ear - his wines spoke a lot about him in their floral expressiveness and fine, delicate structure and open, friendly approachability. Yet under all that, there was a beautiful purity of fruit and a serious amount quality. To me, his wines were the very quintessence of Chambolle. This is one domaine to look out for - I can see it becoming a shining star in the already crowded Chambolle constellation.

  • 2010 Domaine Francois Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny
    This was a very good village. The nose was pure Chambolle, almost a shock after having come from tasting NSG - this was all pretty fresh cut flower scents, gentle earthiness and a little mushroomy tone. Very delicate on both the nose and the palate actually. It was really elegant in the mouth, with slinky, barely-there tannins wrapped around a nice pure expression of fleshy red cherries, dates and berries, all juicy and high-toned and ran through with the most refreshing, almost thirst quenching acidity that carried the wine into a fresh, clean, elegant finish. This is about as stereotypically feminine a Chambolle as I have drunk in a long time. Still a bit simple at this stage, but it is so delicious and so absolutely drinkable that I would happily down a bottle of this every day. Lovely stuff. 89-91 (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Domaine Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
    A blend from 4 small 1er Cru parcels, this was just lovely. What first hit me was how delicate the nose seemed, with lacy floral scents, red cherries, a little touch of wood, all dancing upon a rather serious minerality in the background. Absolutely delicious on the palate, with pure cherries, raspberries, even a crunch of red apple melting across the mouth in a gentle caress, and then it grips you with a show of fine-boned structure. So elegant and easy on the attack that it was almost a surprise when that fine, supple grip showed up on the midpalate and carried the wine into a floaty, almost weightless finish that showed a dance of fresh red fruit and ripe vine stems. A delicious wine, drinkable even now, but judging from the structure and the excellent 2006 that we had a night later, this should do even better in 5 or 6 years’ time. I really liked this. 90-92 (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Domaine Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
    A lovely Charmes - I thought this was just a little step up from the 1er Cru blend. Like so many of Bertheau’s wines, this had a wonderful nose, full of violets, bits of spice, bright raspberries and morello cherries, some mineral and just a touch of pain grille. What a bouquet. The palate was lovely too, full of vibrant expressive expressive and lacy finesse, it filled the mouth with fresh flavours of pure cherries and gentle earthy tones. The wine was so cool, pure and high-toned, it was almost glacier like in the way it glided across the mid-palate, and the tannins were so fine as to be almost like a rustle of silk towards the fresh, lifted finish. As Chambolle as a Chambolle can get to my mind, an elegant, utterly charming wine. 90-93 (93 pts.)
  • 2010 Domaine Francois Bertheau Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
    Complex, intriguing, seductive, this was a wine one could fall in love to. Very fittingly, it was a clear notch up from the other two 1er Crus on show. This much was clear from the start, for as pretty as the bouquets on the other wines were, the Amoureuses had something else, a kind of lush depth wed to a delicate brilliance that was just so hard to get past - there were scents fresh cut violets, sprigs of mint, just a touch of meat, little pats of earth and fresh strawberries and cherries. Wonderful stuff. Quite amazingly, when I could finally bear to take my nose out of the glass and sip the wine, I found that the palate was even better than the nose led on. It had a beautiful, velvety texture and really fine-boned structure which formed the backdrop to a midpalate that had lots of depth to its pure red fruited expression, just reservoirs of morello cherries, raspberries, strawberries. There was a sense of bubbling complexity under all that primary fruit that kept this beauty from straying into bimbo territory as well, with some earth, some iron mineral and a perfumy waft of flowers and spice in the long, long finish. Yet for all that, this was not a wine of power, but one of elegance and finesse. Sure, there was heft and structure aplenty, but somehow, the wine almost came across delicate, gentle, seductive. Sex in a glass indeed. Not quite as complete or impressive as the Bonnes Mares we had next, but this remains the wine that captured my imagination the most, and which still haunts my memory today. 94-95 (94 pts.)
  • 2010 Domaine Francois Bertheau Bonnes Mares - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
    One of the very best young Bonnes Mares I have ever tried. I am in the camp of those who think that Les Amoureuses, as much as I adore the wines from the vineyard, should not be elevated to Grand Cru status and a comparison between the wonderful Les Amoureuses we had just before this and this, a real Grand Cru, is a case in point. While the Amoureuses was first amongst equals when stacked against the other 1er Crus, this was a class apart in its depth, structure and presence. Indeed, this stuck out from the rest of M. Bertheau’s wines by being somewhat more sinewy, more serious. Not that it was anything less than a Chambolle though - the nose had beautiful florals wed to scents of blueberries and a toss of earth. Rather gentle, a little tight compared to the aromatic expressiveness of the other wines, but still very nice. However, it was on the palate were the strength of the wine really showed itself. Really fresh and throbbing with vibrant energy, it had deep layers of blueberry and dark cherry fruit, very pure, and highlighted by a floral top-note, but unlike the Les Amoureuses, still tightly coiled, giving the sense that there is much more in reserve. Yet for all that, the wine bore the hallmarks of the house in its sense of fine, almost delicate elegance. In fact, the way the gentle layer of tannins behind the fruit was shaped brought to mind the chiselled, high-cheekboned features on a super-model. The finish was every bit as good as the rest of the wine - long and lingering, it drew away with a crisp freshness framing a nice interplay of spice and mineral. A brilliant wine in its infancy, I can only imagine how good it will be in about a decade from here. 94-95 (94 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

I really wish I had more Bertheau in my cellar. I am in love with their wines.

Thanks for the notes Paul. Bertheau’s one producer I wish I could find more of here. Sounds like a great visit.

someone told me that kermit lynch is no longer importing Bertheau - true? if so, who is?

Great notes Paul. I too am impressed with his wines and agree with your description of M Bertheau. Visitor be forwarned that he does not speak much English and talks very fast. Nonetheless, he is very entertaining.

It’s still on Kermit’s website:

Great notes, Paul. Have only had 2 Bertheau wines so far, becoming a fan for sure.

Did I miss the announcement about a Berserkerfest in Beaune?

Paul, thank you for the report. I have not tasted the 2010’s yet, but your notes capture perfectly the lacy, delicate, and yet at the same time intense and powerful Bertheau style. Francois Bertheau’s wines are truly “of Chambolle” in a way that few others are, IMO. He is a superstar to me, one of my very top domaines in the entire Cote d’Or.

This fine report will cost me some money for sure, because despite my vow to stop buying Burgs after vintage 2005, well, after 2006, well, Bertheau is one that I cannot resist buying just about every year.

Maureen, Burghound’s issue #41 still lists Kermit Lynch as the importer.

Dipped my toes in with '09 -looking forward to trying them, esp. given your support of this producer, Lewis.

BTW, this comment surprised me. With a standard 225-228 litre barrel yielding about 300 bottles, I read this to mean one barrel of Amoureuses plus one barrel of Bonnes Mares = 600 bottles between the two wines? I checked a couple of sources, which both report Bertheau’s Bonnes Mares plot at 0.34 hectare. These sources place his Amoureuses at 0.28 ha and 0.32 ha. These holdings might well produce 4 or 5 barrels of each wine… unless Bertheau is selling off significant amounts to the negoc… or unless my sources are wrong.

Lew & Berry,

It was mainly your posts about Bertheau that got me interested in this producer. I just picked up a couple of bottles of the 05 Amoureuses. I’ll try to let em rest, but It’ll be difficult to not pop one soon…must be patient, must be patient… [cheers.gif]

I buy directly from KL and they have not offered me the 08’s.

Thanks for the heads-up - just rechecked my handwritten notes, made a mistake there, I had scribbled down 1000-1200 bottles per year each of the Amoureuses and BM, will ammend. It was only in 2010 when the production went down dramatically that he produced less, and even then it was 600 bottles i.e. 2 barrels or so each.

The strangest thing is that we served a few of his wines to other winemakers in the midst of a blind line-up when we hosted them for a Singaporean dinner at our Gite - they were all bowled over, but no one knew who on earth Bertheau was!

Now, that is an amazing story. Judging from recent vintages since Francois took over, I predict that under-the-radar status will end shortly.

and yet KL has already started offering 09s (chevillon, etc., - not bertheau).

I suspect my info is correct but the website just hasn’t been updated.

Could well be, but OTOH, the part of the website that lists producers only went up a few months ago.

My 2008’s were imported by Kermit. I bought them from Zachys.

Paul, great notes. Like others I have never seen them in NZ a domaine I look forward to seeing, particularly the Amoureuses which sounds very much in the mould of the Mugnier, the BM better than the Mugnier? Cheers Mike

The Amoureuses did remind me very much of Mugnier’s but not quite identical - Mugnier’s tends to be more clear, pure and minerally, while Bertheau’s were, how should I put it, lusher, a bit more powerful,more outight sexy maybe.

Cannot help you with the Bonnes Mares though, never had any of Mugnier’s before. I would certainly rate it right up there with some of de Vogue’s better examples though. Will post some notes on the back vintage bottles we bought from M. Bertheau and served over dinner a bit later.