Chateau Bel Air in Blasimon has been sold to a Chinese investor. Those of you who know Bordeaux-Undiscovered‘s wines well will recognise the name as this one of two clarets made by Philippe Moysson le Collen that I discovered a while ago, the other claret being Chateau Teyssier.
Philippe actually produces three wines from his 100 acres of vines, named for the hamlets around the chateau: Teyssier, Le Bédat and Bel Air. Philippe’s reason for selling his business is because at the age of 65 he had no successor, his two daughters being involved in other careers.
The origin of Chateau Bel Air goes back to the 11th and 12th centuries. In the Middle Ages monks planted their vines here. For a long time it was also the meeting place for hunting, used by the Counts of Rudel, Lords of Rauzan.
These were times of the Crusades, Knights and Medieval troubadours – Jaufré Rudel, was famous for his songs on unrequited love. The fortress of the Lords of Rauzan lies between Saint Emilion and Sauveterre de Guyenne and centuries later it was this family who gave their name to the Margaux Second Growths Chateaux Rauzan Gassies and Rauzan Ségla.
Philippe sold his estate to steel manufacturer Zhi Gen Lai from Shanghai. Zhi Gen Lai also owns a chain of wine and spirits stores and has been selling Philippe’s wines in China for the last couple of years.
It’s not known how much the estate was sold for but the French press are reporting that Philippe has said it was over the ‘going rate’. Zhi Gen Lai purchased the existing stock as well as the estate and Philippe is due to hand over the reins once he has brought the 2012 harvest in.
Zhi Gen Lai is interested in investing in the vineyards and attracting Chinese tourists to the local area as well as producing wine.
Philippe’s family bought the estate in 1929 and Philippe took over in 1972. He completely reformed the vineyards, replanting red grapes to replace the white that had been grown by its previous owner. After forty years of hard work he says that what he can be sure of is that Zhi Gen Lai inherits a beautiful terroir, on stony ground covering both sunny hillsides. Zhi Gen Lai also inherits some rather good claret.
As Philippe says, the Entre Deux Mers has been disadvantaged by lying in the shadow of more well known Bordeaux appellations: “the situation has become difficult today, despite the opening of export markets, our production costs are too low compared to our operating expenses.
L’Entre-deux-Mers is an area that suffers. And when it came to the question of the succession, my two daughters have other career choices. I could not see myself continuing at an age where I aspire to retire.” However there are many estates within the Entre Deux Mers that make good clarets, if you know where to look – Philippe’s being one of them.
The Chateau Bel Air 2009 is a skilfully made claret and the 09 is a good vintage. It has notes of blackberry, blueberry, and oak with a hint of cherry and vanilla. It is a fruit forward, supple wine that is perfectly counterbalanced by a good tannic structure and an elegant finish. This wine will be great with beef wellington, casseroles, steak and kidney pudding, roast duck and even lightly spiced, rich oriental dishes.
Chateau Teyssier 2009 is an ample and well rounded claret with wonderfully mellow tannins. It has great aromatic richness in which the blackcurrant notes stand out. It’s aged in Limousin oak barrels for 12 months and has notes of oak and vanilla as well as raspberry and liquorice. In the finish it demonstrates suppleness and good length.
Teyssier is a good pairing with pheasant, guinea fowl, Peking duck and chicken as well as tomato based dishes such as spaghetti bolognese and cured meats like salami.
It’s notable how many chateaux in the Entre Deux Mers are being snapped up by foreign parties and I think we may see the profile – and prices – from this region start to rise in the future. It will be interesting to see how the estate develops under its new ownership and I wish Philippe well in his retirement.