Chateau de Beru
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Country of Origin: France
Location: Béru, Chablis
People: Athénaïs de Béru, Owner & Winemaker | Gaëlle Ribé, Assistant Winemaker
Viticulture: Certified Biodynamic
Beyond Burgundy: Domaine Béru - Chablis
Raw Wine: Château de Béru
MVTimes.com: The Sip: At the Heart of Chablis
Wine Terroirs: Wine News
The Béru family has owned the historical Château de Béru estate for 400 years. The phylloxera crisis at the beginning of the 20th century devastated the Chablis vineyards and nearly erased all the vines in Europe. Château de Béru was forced to uproot all of their vines in the 1890s. Until this point in history, wine was the sole revenue for the family. Chablis was replanted on a smaller scale, officially becoming an AOC in 1938. However, the vineyards of Château de Béru were not replanted until 1987! The Comte Éric de Béru, out of passion for wine, undertook to replant the Château’s vineyards, and in particular, the famous Clos Béru. The grapes were sold to Chablis co-ops until 2004.
Athénaïs de Béru left Paris and her career in finance to help her mother Laurence de Béru run the family estate after the death of her father Éric in 2004. Athénaïs immediately made many changes—produce wine under the Château de Béru name, adopt organic (2005) and biodynamic (2011) viticulture, intervene minimally in the cellar—to improve the quality of the wines and the status of the Château. Now, a decade later, Athénaïs has become one of the region’s rising stars. The quality and reputation of Château de Béru continues to improve as the wines gain energy and balance. Château de Béru has become a true reference for Chablis wines.
The Château de Béru sits high on a limestone hill in the middle of its vines on the most charming hillside in the village of Béru. The terroir is some of the most prized in Chablis, including their monopole Clos Béru, which owes its name to the 13th century wall (“clos”) that surrounds the vineyard. This privileged location enjoys an altitude of 300 to 400 meters compared to the usual Chablis altitude of 200 to 250 meters. Other remarkable parcels, all located within the village of Béru, complete the estate’s vineyards. Château de Béru has roughly 8 hectares in total. All the vines are around 30 years old. They are conducted in Guyot double shoot training system with the density of 6,500 feet per hectare. This allows competition to take place between the plants and leads to a natural yield regulation while guaranteeing enough foliage to grow to provide optimal grape maturity.
Athénaïs and Laurence have converted the entire estate to organic and biodynamic agriculture. While the Côte d’Or is starting to see the benefits of biodynamics, Chablis remains a stronghold for quantity-over-quality viticulture. Many rely on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to achieve consistent yields in a challenging region. Athénais recognizes biodynamics as the way to put life back into the soil. The estate is both certified organic and biodynamic by Ecocert and Demeter. Horses are used for all plowing. There are sheep and hens on the property. The estate uses natural elements such as sulfur and plants to protect the vineyards and increase their native defenses. The benefits of this careful work in the vineyard are already showing in the recent vintages.
Focusing mainly on the health of the vines, Athénaïs and Laurence choose to minimally intervene in the cellar. Thanks to biodynamics, the vines have reached a balance where the wine no longer needs much SO2. In the early years around 50 ppm SO2 was added, and now between 10-20 ppm SO2 is added. The grapes are heavily sorted by hand to prevent corrections or fining in the cellar. The goal is to always vinify naturally, even in a bad vintage. If this means throwing away half the fruit, then they do. Long élevage and cold cellars allow the wine to be bottle unfiltered. The shortest élevage is one year; otherwise it's 1.5 years or more. The Clos Béru is 2 years to 2.5 years.
Laurence and Athénaïs are members of Femmes et Vins de Bourgogne (Women and Wines of Burgundy), which gives them a unique opportunity to exchange and to share their passion with other local outstanding women winemakers, which are unfortunately still scarce in Burgundy.
"This was my first visit to quite a grand, historic estate that has been owned by the Béru family for four centuries. The château building dates way back to the 13th century. Winemaking was nixed after phylloxera and did not return until 1987 when Comte Éric de Béru began to replant the vines, including the three-hectare monopole, Clos Béru. I met with co-proprietor Athénaïs de Béru, who owns the estate with her mother Laurence and took over the running in 2004, and winemaker Gaëlle Ribé. Twelve hectares are under vine planted at 6,000 per hectare, though their portfolio includes labels from purchased fruit. Vines are farmed organically, and fruit is picked by hand, vinified using low levels of SO2 or in cases like the Montserre, none at all, then aged in regular Burgundy barrels, demi-muids are used for the Clos Béru and foudres. Their wines undergo a relatively long élevage for between 18 and 36 months. There is also a brand named Athénaïs that comes from purchased fruit. I have to say, Château de Béru served as a perfect start to my week, characterful, well-crafted wines that clearly shine in Clos Béru and Côte Aux Prêtres. Ribé had a real spark about her, lively and full of ideas, so it will be interesting to see how this estate evolves in the coming years."
Wine Advocate 8/30/2019
"Admirers of racy, mineral Chablis should give this important estate serious consideration."