A “Beautiful” 2011 Right Bank Grand Cru Classé “Already Strutting Its Stuff”
The modern glory of Château Bellefont-Belcier can largely be traced to the stewardship of Dominique Hébrard, whose family owned the esteemed Château Cheval Blanc until 1999. Under Hébrard’s care, the original 17th-century château was upgraded and modernized, both structurally and through investment in higher-quality equipment. He also applied everything he’d learned about best vineyard practices at Cheval Blanc to Bellefont-Belcier’s farming principles — all factors that have contributed to the quality of the estate’s output today.
The investment group that now controls Bellefont-Belcier continues to make improvements and upgrades to the winemaking facility, but crucially, has retained Michel Rolland to steer the winemaking. The renowned “Flying Winemaker,” author of several 100-point wines, has always held a special place in his heart for the Right Bank — even as he applied his assemblage talents in America to truly historic bottles from Harlan Estate, Bond, Staglin, and Bryant Family. Thanks to Rolland’s steady hand and excellent rapport with the estate’s new director, Emmanuel de Saint-Salvy, the quality of this Grand Cru Classé has soared from excellent to superb.
With a new infusion of cash, Rolland and Saint-Salvy were able to do something that cash-strapped châteaux cannot — hire workers to pick over multiple weeks. This alone has improved quality ten-fold. Here’s why.
Château Bellefont-Belcier’s vines are situated on south-facing slopes in the Côte Pavie, a stone’s throw from the renowned Château Pavie. Merlot vines planted on clay and limestone hillside soils typically reach physiological ripeness earlier than the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines planted on sandier soils. Picking over two separate weeks, beginning with Merlot, gives Rolland the luxury of blending three perfectly ripe varieties, rather than working with grapes at varying degrees of ripeness that happened to be picked at the same time. Grapes are vinified in cement vats, then aged in 80% new French oak for 18-24 months, depending on the vintage, prior to bottling.
It’s hard to top an impeccable vintage like Bordeaux’s 2010. But despite challenges in 2011, the grapes harvested at Bellefont-Belcier were healthy, clean, and supple. Parker called the 92-point 2010 “one of the finest Bellefont Belciers I have tasted” and “a very strong effort.” In 2011, Parker was equally impressed with this “beautiful” “sleeper of the vintage,” again scoring it 92 points. The Wine Advocate gushed over its youthful hedonism, writing that the wine is “already strutting its stuff” and “can be drunk now and over the next 10-12 years.”
Château Bellefont-Belcier’s 2011 is purple/black with a ruby rim. Sumptuous aromas of crushed black cherries, violets, and hints of cassis. Incredibly textured on the palate, with rich layers of ripe black fruit, plums, sappy cherries, and licorice. Earthy flavors and a strong mineral vein are on full display — the complex results of Merlot grown in the limestone-clay soils of St-Émilion. Drink now for its youthful hedonism, or cellar and enjoy over the next decade.
A refined 92-point Grand Cru Classé St-Émilion, with the stamp of Parker’s favorite “Flying Winemaker,” Michel Rolland. At $46.99 per bottle, this is a Right Bank Bordeaux lover’s dream wine — a pleasure upon release, gaining complexity year after year. Only 56 cases. Shipping included on 4.