BORDEAUX. The name emits a perfume of majesty and opulence.
‘IF IT AIN’T BROKEN…’
Bordeaux, where breezes, slackened by pine forests between the left bank of the Gironde and the ocean, slide over the gravels of Pauillac and the sandy clay of Pomerol, where futures of great vintages are traded like stocks and majestic chateaux rise like ice cream castles out of a gentle, unassuming landscape. Some of the world’s greatest wines are made here, and perhaps the very image itself of ‘fine wine’, or certainly of the English ‘claret’, finds its origins in Bordeaux. If ever there were a region, with perhaps the single exception of Burgundy, where tradition was so inherent to fine wine production, it must be Bordeaux. No one is peddling carbonic Sangiovese here, or experimenting with Trousseau Gris in concrete eggs. Bordeaux is perhaps the ultimate expression of the AOC laws, of such adherence to tradition. ‘If it ain’t broke…’, etc.
So how is it that the term ‘biodynamic’ doesn’t instill shudders of horror or cackles of derision when a sixth-generation family of winemakers in Blaye is printing it on their labels? The reason is simple: biodynamic is a misunderstood term and does not just mean funky hipster wines whose grapes were trodden by dancing virgins and fermented in bathtubs under a quarter moon. In fact, many winemakers in the Old World have been following so-called biodynamic practices for time immemorial. It’s just that most of those wineries don’t have the luxury, or perhaps the motivation, to devote to earning the de facto certification. They did biodynamic, they just never called it biodynamic. The Huber family made the decision to get that certification almost twenty years ago, and haven’t looked back.
On the broad southern knuckle of the Gironde as it snakes it way inland, an estuary splitting off the famous tongue of land where some of the world’s priciest wines are made (think Lafite, Mouton, Palmer, et al) are perched the devoted winemakers Hubert, who craft the Merlot-driven, layered wines that inexpensively step into a crowded market heedless of the monstrous sums their neighbors command. For all the legends told in whispers of the mighty First-Growths, where would wine drinkers be without the honest and frankly magnificent in-their-own-right Bordeaux like Chateau Peybonhomme-Les-Tours? The setting is appropriate: the view from the crenellated 13th-century tower on the estate shows nothing but vineyards and small copses of trees nestled in the folds of this sacred earth where the Hubert family has been growing grapes and making wine since 1895. “Exactly since 1895” Jean-Luc is quick to point out. The word ‘tours’ in the name is not fanciful, as are many of the other names of this wine district, where little more than a tool shed is all that’s required to earn the indispensable “Chateau” in the name; le mot just. The tours, or towers, are real, dating from the 13th and 18th centuries. The wine is no less beautiful, true not only to biodynamic farming and winemaking methods, but to the spirit of Bordeaux and its history.
“We work as a family, with my daughter Rachelle and my son Guillaume…and we work as a team. We have a common point of view in working with wine.” says Jean-Luc. In 2000 he and his wife Catherine pivoted to a fully biodynamic operation, and Jean-Luc casually mentions that being ‘biodynamic’ is also a cultural choice, hinting at the fact that to be “biodynamic” in most of the Old World is more of a step back into methods that his forebears had been employing for centuries. The Hubert wines lacked originality before this change, he claims, “…and ignored the natural rhythm of the vines.”
Tasting the 2016 Bordeaux blend from this Chateau, it’s not a leap to sense the soul of the vines, the timeless respect of the farmer, the magnificence and the history of the estate, but mostly, just simply brilliant, elegant and incredible wine.
- HART & CRU
THE WINES OF CHÂTEAU PEYBONHOMME-LES-TOURS
CHÂTEAU PEYBONHOMME-LES TOURS, BLAYE CÔTES DE BORDEAUX ENERGIES 2017 : Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec
CHÂTEAU PEYBONHOMME-LES TOURS, L'ATYPIC 2017 : Malbec and Cabernet Franc
CHÂTEAU PEYBONHOMME-LES TOURS, PREMIÈRES CÔTES DE BORDEAUX 2016 : Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon
CHÂTEAU PEYBONHOMME-LES TOURS, QUINTESSENCE DE PEYBONHOMME PREMIÈRES CÔTES DE BORDEAUX 2016 : Merlot and Malbec
CHÂTEAU PEYBONHOMME-LES TOURS, LE BLANC BONHOMME CÔTES DE BLAYE 2018 : Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon