One doesn’t often get the chance to compare fine Burgundy and Bordeaux side-by-side in a single tasting, but at a recent lunch in London, CA (Crédit Agricole) Grands Crus offered this very privilege. Sat around the table in one of 67 Pall Mall’s private dining rooms, CEO Anne Le Naour presented current and back vintages from the Bordeaux estates in CA’s freshly streamlined portfolio: Château Grand-Puy Ducasse, Château Meyney, and Château Blaignan. Across the table was the newly appointed director of CA’s large Burgundy estate, Château de Santenay, Jean-Philippe Archambault. Together they highlighted the improvements made in winemaking and vineyard management so far and plans for the next vintages.
Diving straight into Pauillac, “We’ve installed brand-new equipment into a brand-new winery, to vinify block by block and pick the grapes at optimal maturity,” said Anne.
“We want to make the best Grand-Puy Ducasse ever, one that will fully express the diversity of all the different soil types in Pauillac.” Besides investing in new equipment, which will be ready for the 2022 harvest, and which will allow the separate vinification of more than 63 plots across the 40 hectares (200 acres), a further change will be the introduction of Petit Verdot from Château Meyney to be part of the Grand-Puy Ducasse vineyard and final blend.
“Meyney is also increasing its quality,” explained Anne. ”The price is not the price of a classified growth, but you get the quality in the glass. People in the wine industry know that Meyney is a good challenger to St-Estèphe classified growths.”
And on the decision to sell Château Blaignan (Médoc) and Château La Tour de Mons (Margaux), Anne stressed that CA’s intention was “to sell two of our Bordeaux properties in order to focus more on Grand-Puy Ducasse, Meyney, and Château de Santenay.” She also emphasized that her renovation plans included human investment as much as developing the estates themselves.
Jean-Philippe, who started at Château de Santenay only in May 2019 after a 15-year tenure in Chablis as head winemaker at Simonnet-Febvre, was full of enthusiasm. “We have a huge opportunity. We are managing 96 hectares (237 acres) of vineyards in Burgundy. That’s quite a large area in Burgundy!”
Château de Santenay has the majority of its vines in Mercurey, where it holds 65 ha (165 acres), as well as two vineyards in the Côte de Beaune and, since March 2019, 7 ha (17 acres), in the Côte de Nuits, including Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, and Clos de Vougeot. Jean-Philippe exclaimed: “We have a 60km [37-mile] long strip, stretching from Gevrey to Mercurey, and a château with more than 1,000 years of history!”
Explaining the new Bourgogne Côte d’Or appellation (established in 2017), Jean-Philippe said of the first wine he presented, “This used to be classified as Hautes Côtes de Beaune. We do believe it’s an important appellation because the grapes (red or white) are only coming from the Côte d’Or, only from the main villages.” There are 40 villages in the appellation and Château de Santenay’s grapes are primarily from Saint-Aubin, where it has 12.5 ha made up of 60 different blocks.
Perhaps the most important feature of Château de Santenay is its revival of Mercurey as a counterbalance to the rising prices of many wines in the Côte d’Or. CA Grands Crus replanted 95 percent of the domaine with better quality vines since its purchase more than 22 years ago. “It is a very important area for us because we are farming about 65 hectares (160 hectares),” said Jean-Philippe. “Previously it may have been seen as mass production and not very high-quality wines, but instead of having one blend of white Mercurey, and one blend of red Mercurey, which used to be the case 15 years ago, we separate and vinify almost 60 different climats. Mercurey offers many different expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.” At the tasting, he presented Mercurey premier cru Les Peuillets which is almost a monopole given that CA owns 7.5 ha (17.5 acres) of the total 8 ha (19.7 acres). CA aims to launch a new terroir-driven cuvée almost every year, identifying each climat on the label.
Focusing on its strengths, and with Anne Le Naour at the helm, CA Grands Crus is entering an exciting era and offering the precious and rare combination of quality and quantity.