Château de Béru
I have a confession to make…
I, Brandon Loper, once sent back a bottle of Chardonnay because it was not “buttery” enough.* It was a rare warm night in San Francisco at the hottest new farm-to-table restaurant in 2007. If you haven’t noticed, outside of the South and in pockets of big cities all over the world, there are people that crave fried chicken and biscuits with whipped honey butter. And on this night, this guy needed a little extra butter with his biscuits. In the form of a tall cold glass of buttery, golden wine- Chardonnnnneigh! I will usually tell this story after a few glasses and get a good stir out of the group, but the following day I’ll think about it and am so embarrassed on so many levels. I was so confident that I knew what I wanted and what I liked, even though, at the time, I had little experience with wine other than being the guy in college drinking a jug of Carlos Rossi while watching an Alabama game. Roll Tide. But what I always come back to when I think about this moment is that we are all on our journey with wine, and we are all in different places. That is unequivocally OK! Fast Forward 14 years, and a few non-buttery Chardonnay wines under my belt, and my tastes have changed a bit. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste some great wines made from Chardonnay- wines that show a sense of place, wines that have tension and beauty, wines that spark hour-long discussions among friends, and wines that go down easy by the pool.
The wines from Château de Béru somehow fit all of the elements of what I’m looking for in a Chardonnay. Unique. A sense of place. Tension and great acidity. So last year, when we were looking to connect with producers while in France, Béru was at the top of our list. We’ve been working with the wines since we opened, so I was thrilled when they had availability at their B&B on-site at the Château. We arrived around 3 pm after driving from Paris through the majestic hillsides of Chablis, landing atop the hill of Béru. We knocked on the large wooden door, and after a few minutes, the assistant winemaker Gaëlle answered the door, she was not aware of our visit, and Athénaïs had left on vacation. Ruh roh… I thought to myself as I walked, head sunk low to the car. I don’t blame Gaëlle for not welcoming us in anyways; she was feverishly trying to clean the winery as they had just transferred all of the ‘21 vintage’s wine to old neutral barrels and for some wines demi-muids ( 600 L Oak Barrels ). We decided to head to town to have a very french lunch consisting of Cheese and Chablis, discovering a few other wines from producers we work with, such as Domaine Oudin and Domaine de l'Enclos. We headed back to the Château, and to not bother Gaëlle, we drove straight into the gate as it was open, thinking that our host would be there to let us in our B&B. Getting a closer look at the Château, you really get a sense of how much history is in a place like this. The family has had the property for over 400 years. We decided to take a look around and see if we could spot our host. While doing so, we explored the beautiful Clos Béru vineyard, where the fruit is sourced for the Monopole bottling. After doing a few laps pondering why we don’t live in this beautiful place full-time, we get word from Gaëlle that Countess Laurence de Béru, our host, had a family emergency and was on the way home from Dijon. We were welcomed inside by the fireplace to enjoy a wine from the cellar while we awaited her return. It was a magical room filled with artifacts from the past- the family crest hanging proudly on the wall, children’s toys, French literature, and historical photos from the property all around.
Enter Countess Laurence de Béru. The Countess is a tall French woman who, when she smiles at you, makes you feel like she has been spending every holiday with you for the past 20 years. She loves showing people the Chateau, and after a quick hello and a short night’s sleep, we found out she also makes a beautiful breakfast spread. We started our tour in the cellar, and you get a sense that, despite the large Château, this isn’t a huge operation. The cellar is lined with barrels, but the ceiling isn’t too high, a true below-ground cellar that sinks into the Kimmeridgian limestone that they are known for in Chablis. We pass by vintage wines dating back to when Laurence's daughter, Athénaïs, took over the winemaking in 2004. Two years into taking the reigns, Athénaïs had all of the Domaine vines converted to organic farming, and now they are certified Biodynamic for the Domaine wines, and all of the négociant wines ( grapes that they purchase from vineyards they don’t own ) are in Organic conversion.
After touring the cellar, we followed Laurence to the tasting room to taste through the current vintage of several wines, including one of my favorites from the tasting, the 2018 Athénaïs de Béru Bourgogne Aligoté. The fruit comes from Saint-Bris, a village 25km west of Chablis. We have a little less than a case left, so grab a bottle here if you are interested in the négociant wines. The Domaine wines are all incredibly age-worthy natural wines and the 2018 Château de Béru Chablis “Montserre” is a stellar example of what Athénaïs and her team are capable of producing.
We have very little wine to sell from Béru, but I want you to know about the wines because what they are doing is important and the Countess is the sweetest lady you could meet in a foreign country.
*When a waiter pours you a taste of a wine that you ordered by the bottle, it is a courtesy to “check” the wine to see if it is corked or not. It’s not necessarily a chance to go back on your choice. If you absolutely hate it, most places will make it right, but please learn from my ignorance, and don’t send back a bottle of wine if it’s a little different than you were expecting. Ask questions about the wine before ordering. In some restaurants, a Sommelier will open the bottle and taste a small taste to make sure the wine is sound. This is to your benefit, they are not stealing your wine :)