The Story

 

It was out of respect for the rich history of the terroir that Château De Béru decided to convert to organic and biodynamic winemaking. The Béru family have owned the estate for 400 years, and even writings by 9th-century monks note the vineyards growing here. It was during the Middle Ages that the wines here received international appreciation, often appearing on royal tables. This was also when the 13th-century château was built, along with the walled vineyard, Clos Béru, a cuvée of which is still made. There was a hiatus in production, however, following the devastation of the phylloxera outbreak in the late 19th century. It wasn’t until 1987 that Comte Éric de Béru decided to replant all of the vines, including Clos Béru. The first vines were planted by the Romans, probably in the 1st century, but part of its uniqueness has its roots even further back than that, about 150 million years, in fact. The Kimmeridgian soil is peppered with fossilised oyster shells from the Jurassic era.

Despite its long history, current owners Laurence de Béru and her daughter, Athénaïs, were aware that the soil was fragile, and that its survival depended on moving away from damaging conventional farming techniques. The fertilisers, pesticides and damage brought on through the use of tractors were gradually destroying the microorganisms in the soil that had served winemakers so well for so long. Since 2005, only organic methods have been used on the estate, and from 2010 they began to convert to biodynamic practices. Now only a limited amount of natural chemical intervention is used, such as treatment with sulphur, and a horse-drawn plough prepares the soil, rather than a tractor. It hasn’t always been easy for the family – in 2016, for example, they lost all of their crops to a late April frost. But despite this, the estate has recovered and continues to build on its already steadfast reputation.

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The People

Laurence & Athénaïs

Today mother and daughter team, Laurence and Athénaïs, manage the Béru family estate. They were conscious that the soil was fragile, and that its survival depended on moving away from damaging conventional farming techniques. The fertilisers, pesticides and damage brought on through the use of tractors were gradually destroying the microorganisms in the soil that had served the previous winemakers for so long. Since 2005, only organic methods have been used on the estate, and in 2010 they converted to biodynamic practices. Now only a limited amount of natural chemical intervention is used, such as treatment with sulphur, and horse-drawn plough to prepare the soil, rather than a tractor. It hasn’t always been easy for the family – in 2016, for example, they lost all of their crops to a late April frost. But despite this, the estate has recovered and continues to build on its already steadfast reputation.

Athénaïs de Béru also set up the Athénaïs brand to increase the variety of wines at Château De Béru. The wines with the Athénaïs label are made with grapes specially selected from local Burgundy vineyards that are then vinified at Château De Béru. The vineyards are all organic, or in the process of becoming organic, and the vinification process is without additional yeast, fining or filtration.

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The Place

Chablis, France

 

The 12-hectare estate is located on the southern slopes of the Béru Valley, on the Chablis Grand Cru foothills, some 300 metres above sea level. Along with the ancient oyster shells, the soil is made up of clay and limestone. Some 6,000 vines are planted per hectare.

The Chablis Orangerie is a powerful Chablis from another parcel in the Château De Béru, which expresses ripe fruit aromas and a stony limestone minerality. The clay and limestone soils bring out this harmony of the terroir, as does the careful vinification process, which involves hand-harvesting into 10-kilogram containers, gentle pneumatic pressing and 18-month barrel ageing.

Chablis Montserre is made from a single vineyard of Chardonnay on the flatlands of Béru, the soils of which contain mainly limestone with sharp rocky fragments. This natural wine has no sulphites at all and has the potential to age ten to 15 years. It is powerful, intense and very drinkable.

Côte Aux Prêtres is made with Chardonnay grapes from the windiest vineyard of Château De Béru, in deep calcium-rich soil. The wine has a slight salinity.