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Henri Bonneau, Reserve des Celestins Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2009
Grenache 90% + Mourv�dre, Syrah, Counoise and Vaccarese.
Chateauneuf du Pape
Henri Bonneau is a legend to most Chateauneuf du Pape fans. He was the last of the old timers. The first vintage produced by Henri Bonneau was the 1956. Henri Bonneau was still making wine in the Southern Rhone Valley until he was in his 70's. His cellars, where he practiced his craft were the most difficult appointment to get in Chateauneuf. They are also the most interesting cellars and caves in the region. Henri Bonneau is old, the estate is even older. Vines were first planted in their vineyards as far back as 1667!Henri Bonneau owns 6.5 hectares of vines spread among 13 different parcel in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation. Most of his vines, approximately 90% are devoted to Grenache. The remainder of their vineyards are planted to a mix of Mourvedre, Syrah, Vaccarese and Counoise. Henri Bonneau Reserve des Celestins, the most famous and expensive wine of the domaine made its debut in 1927. The wine is a blend of about 90% Grenache, with varying percentages of Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, Vaccarese. The grapes are not destemmed, except in moderate or unripe vintages. Whole cluster vinification takes place in traditional, concrete tanks. The wine is aged in a combination of old foudres and old as well as older French oak barrels for between 3 to 5 years, or even longer in some vintages. Every vintage is different and unique. Bonneau Celestins is a selection of the best barrels that is made in only the top vintages. That explains why Henri Bonneau Reserve des Celestins is not made every year. Young vintages can be popped and poured, or decanted for 2-4 hours. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment. Domaine Henri Bonneau is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised, stewed, dishes, sausage and cassoulet. Domaine Henri Bonneau is also good with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, mushrooms and pasta.
Bonneau�s Ch�teauneufs, particularly the mythic R�serve des C�lestins, are not only fantastically complex, immense and capable of decades of development; they are also endowed with that rare and magical sense of extra dimension found only in the greatest wines. Henri represents the 12th generation of his family to make wine in Ch�teauneuf du Pape, dating back to 1667, and his methods today continue to have more in common with the 17th century than with contemporary winemaking. From his inaugural vintage of 1956, Bonneau has stayed the course�he doesn�t de-stem, gently crushes the whole clusters and then ferments for three weeks in concrete tanks with frequent pump-overs for gentle extraction. Bonneau adds back his vin de presse for structure and then ages the wine in a haphazard collection of neutral foudres, demi-muids and pi�ces, none of them younger than ten years old. While these details describe the ultimate in traditional Southern Rh�ne winemaking, they don�t explain just what makes his wines so extraordinary. Bonneau is a man of strong character and opinions, however, some of which lend clues to his wine�s fantastic character. Mostly located in the famed boulder-covered plateau of the Le Craulieu-dit, his vines average 30 years, the age that Bonneau considers optimum for great fruit. He trusts neither new clones nor vines older than 50 years. A traditionalist to the core, Bonneau is a Grenache partisan. Ch�teauneuf�s classic varietal makes up 90% of his vines and, ultimately, 90% of his wine. The balance is in Mourv�dre, Syrah, Counoise and Vaccarese. Henri claims not to know what his yields are. �I�ve no idea� is what he told Rh�ne Renaissance author Remington Norman, but his wine�s fantastic concentration suggests that they are quite low. Like his friend the late Jacques Reynaud of Ch�teau Rayas, another Grenache devotee, Bonneau harvests as late as possible for ripeness and complexity. Bonneau�s barrel aging regime is non-interventionist in the extreme�he simply leaves the wine in wood, racking only once a year, until he feels the time is right for bottling. In a great year this might be determined by how many years it takes for all of his super-ripe fruit�s sugar to ferment. In other cases, it is a matter of developed balance and typicit�. When Stephen Tanzer visited Bonneau in the fall of 2000, Henri had not yet bottled his 1996�a year in which he made no C�lestins or Marie Beurrier��because it is not yet a wine.� In this, he reminds us of great traditional Barolisti such as Roberto Conterno and Giuseppe Rinaldi, both of who believe that time in barrel is essential for complete development of their wine�s traditional character. Bonneau also uses the barrel aging to determine what will be bottled as a specific cuv�e. He usually releases two wines per vintage�the flagship R�serve des Celestins and Cuv�e Marie Beurrier, roughly based on terroir and the resulting wine�s character. The massive and powerful R�serve des Celestins is generally sourced from Bonneau�s vines in La Crau, whose boulder-strewn plateau produces Ch�teauneuf�s ripest fruit. Cuv�e Marie Beurrier, Bonneau�s more elegant wine, usually comes from clay, limestone and sandy soils. In any vintage Bonneau may declassify either of these cuv�es, bottling them as his �basic� Ch�teauneuf, or selling the wine to another producer if it doesn�t ultimately meet his standards. A great example of this was his 1996, released in early 2002. After years of tending to his barrels, he ultimately singled out a half dozen or so casks to be bottled under his own label�selling off the rest to negociants. Total production of his own release was a microscopic 200 to 300 cases.
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