Chêne Bleu is a winery that is always coming up with surprises and new ideas. Its ‘Super Rhône’ status is well deserved. Geoffrey Dean explains how owner Nicole Rolet has teamed up with Thibault Pontallier to create a very special rosé as part of his Pont des Arts series of wines. It is already gaining cult status. Here’s how.
Geoffrey Dean on a special rosé that is a combination of great terroir, winemaking and art.
Investors who like a balanced portfolio of wines might want to consider a top-end rosé that is available in the UK from mid-August through Justerini & Brooks. “Rosé for investment purposes? Yea, right,” I hear you ask. But hold on and I will explain.
This particular rosé I’m going to highlight may be a bit of a punt but it will keep, unlike most rosés which are made to be drunk straightaway, and at £25 a bottle, it is not too heavy an outlay if you merely end up drinking it. And, having tried some myself, I can vouch for just how good it is.
Only 1,075 bottles (75cl) have been made, along with 480 magnums, so there is scarcity value.
Pont des Arts 2015 is the wine in question. It is made by Chêne Bleu, a winery which many critics have dubbed a ‘Super Rhône’ (like the Super Tuscans), and is made up of 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah. The vines of the former are old – around 65 years – and their grapes retain their acidity because of the estate’s high altitude. The yield was exceptionally low – 18 hl/ha – encouraging both complexity and a very long finish. More on the vinification later, but first the concept behind the wine.
How it came about
Thibault Pontallier, son of the late Paul, the Chateau Margaux supremo who tragically died of cancer earlier this year, approached the Rolet family, owners of Chêne Bleu, as he wanted to add a rosé as well as a Rhône wine to his portfolio of Pont des Arts brands. These feature a collection of stunning artwork on the labels by well-known contemporary artists.
The back-label on the Pont des Arts rosé explains the rationale succinctly. “Pont des Arts is an exclusive, limited collection of wines,” it reads. “It is a bridge between Art and Wine, East and West, and collectors and newcomers alike. It has married the best from the art world and wine world.”
“Yue is one of the most collectible contemporary Chinese artists, while Zao is revered as a grandmaster of modern Chinese art,” Nicole Rolet said. “Barcelo is very much an art historian, and his work interacts with medieval iconography. There’s a fiery boldness to his work.”
Having seen all eight bottles of the Pont des Arts series by these three artists, I can vouch that the eight different labels are stunning. As Rolet added: “They are perfect for people who like to have things others don’t have.”
The label for the rosé come from Barcelo and depicts a bull fight scene, which Rolet said was a perfect way to illustrate the “fiesty” nature of the wine (as she explains below).
Rolet told The Buyer how the wine was made: “The challenge was to make a rosé that wasn’t a pleasant crowd-pleaser, but rather a more muscular manifestation of this old-vine Grenache we have. It has a mineral finish and loads of texture with a pH of 3.5. The higher acidity we get from being higher up in the mountains – that’s our secret weapon. It gives freshness and is why the wines age well. The key to these highperformance rosés is to get as much contact with the lees as possible. The wine was on the skins for six hours and we also used ground organic pea powder as a fining agent, which is cutting edge.”
J&B have a mimimum order of £250, which means you effectively need to buy a case of Pont des Arts Rose 2015. But its allocation is a little under 200 bottles and they are all the bottles that can be found in the UK.
With such pedigree it is likely to become a collector’s item, but given its ageability, even if it does not, it will give drinkers a lot of pleasure.