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We're delighted to again offer the wines of Jean-Pierre Boyer at Château Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre in Margaux! We're told that M. Boyer is doing well "with incredible energy for his age" - the 2019 harvest was his 70th vintage! (The most recent release is the 2012 offered today.) We wish him well and thank him for these extraordinary wines!
(Wines arrive in early May, and come directly from the Château, thanks to our colleague in Bordeaux who helps M. Boyer with the shipments.
(For a recent assessment of the estate, please see Neal Martin's excellent article in Vinous "Last Man Standing: Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre.")
On our first visit to the estate in January, 2013, we were astonished and delighted to find someone who was so totally "apart" from the techniques and styles of modern Bordeaux. As we have noted in past articles, the wines will not appeal to everyone, and a lengthy decant - or opening the night before - is required to really appreciate the wine's quality. As M. Boyer says "de boire mes vins jeunes est de couper le blé en herbe." Roughly translated as "to drink my wines young is to harvest the wheat when it's green" - this is something to bear in mind when opening any bottle of BAMA. We think, however, that the wines are well worth trying and in fact are quite beautiful and extraordinarily complex, if given enough time to awaken.
The estate's principal French retailer (the excellent "Vins Etonnants") calls the wine "untypical and rare, vinified as in the 19th century." Indeed, we were transfixed by the delicacy and complexity of the wines, which bear no resemblance to the dark, oaky, fruit-bombs of today. More a "claret" in style, the wine undergoes a long, slow natural fermentation, with no extraction, then stays in cuve until spring. After a six-month passage in old barrels, the wine spends two to three years or more in cement vats before bottling and release. (The most recent release is the 2012 offered today.) The estate has about thirteen hectares, with a few parcels of very old vines, the main parcel being approximately 50 years-old, planted at 10,000 vines per hectare, with part of the vineyard next to that of Château Margaux. M. Boyer currently farms only about 3 hectares with the remainder rented to his famous neighbors. While not certified organic, there are no modern treatments and only a bit of organic compost as fertilizer. The blend is approximately 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet, 20% Cabernet Franc with Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère.
(For those who read French, check out the excellent article on Bel Air - Marquis d'Aligre by Jacques Perrin "Le Rayas de Margaux.")
We look forward to trying the 2012 - it was bottled in the spring of 2017 after four years aging in vat.
We have yet to taste the 2005 - here's Neal Martin's review in Vinous: "The 2005 Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligre has a strict, backward, tobacco and graphite-tinged bouquet with more black fruit than red, unlike the 2001. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, harmonious and crisp with a fine thread of acidity. There is a gentle build in the mouth, quite linear but delivering a very nuanced, lightly spiced, clove-infused finish. This Margaux is endowed with impressive density compared to other vintages tasted, the fruit veering towards black plums and a hint of balsamic. I admire the transparency of the wine, one that makes you feel as if you are peering directly into the vineyard."
A Margaux like no other, more akin to a 19th century claret than to a modern Bordeaux.The 2004 from Jean-Pierre Boyer shows a lovely deep garnet color and smoky red-currant aromas with earth, violet, licorice, spice and citrus peel. The palate is dense and mineral with firm structure, but showing velvety blackberry, cassis and red currant with earth and mineral flavors and a bit of bitter licorice. The finish is long and firm. Suspend your ideas of Bordeaux and enjoy this complex and Burgundian Margaux. Carafe four hours in advance or cellar ten to twenty years.(On day 2 the wine has deepened and softened into a lovely Burgundian Bordeaux)
2001 is another vintage of Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre that we have not yet tasted. We apologize, but judging from the various consumer reviews, this is an excellent vintage for BAMA that is drinking beautifully now...
(Five hour decant) The 1998 is a complex and unusual Bordeaux in mid-life, showing more secondary and mineral qualities than the riper 2000. The wine shows a light, slightly browning garnet color; the aromas are quite floral and earthy with spicy black currant, clove, graphite and citrus peel. The palate shows dark earth and mineral flavors yielding to bright black currant and cassis fruit with dark spice and sous-bois flavors backed by very firm acidity. The wine held up well with an additional few hours open and will obviously benefit from another ten to twenty years of aging. David Lillie