Overlooking the Dordogne River, Le Puy is steeped in history. It is currently run by Jean-Pierre, Françoise and Pascal – the 15th generation of the Amoreau family, who began making wine back in 1610. The vineyard now spreads across 35 hectares, over three plots, and is located on what was once known as the “Plateau of Wonders”. Old vines are used, often more than 50 years old.
Le Puy takes traditional winemaking seriously, building on past innovations. In 1921, Jean Amoreau began the practise of using only the finest grapes and destemming them before vinification, significantly reducing bitterness. This was built upon in 1934, when Robert Amoreau introduced the “chapeau immerge” extraction method. From 1990, Château Le Puy started to move towards sulphite-free vinification, with an extra focus on using only carefully selected grapes without added sulphites, sugars or yeasts, and then allowing it to barrel mature for 24 months, with regular stirring in accordance with the lunar calendar. No filtration or fining takes place. This process was implemented in full from the 1998 vintage.
Additionally, the grapes are carefully harvested to avoid damage, therefore avoid oxidation. Oak casks and barrels are used for maturation, which can take up to two years. During this time, the wine is tasted weekly to monitor its development. Bottling takes place without filtration and according to the lunar cycle. For the best expression of the terroir, the wine should be matured in bottle for several more decades.
Despite the march of time, production here harks back to an older era, following biodynamic principles such as a refusal to use chemical additives in the soil, small yields, natural yeasting, long ageing, and only the smallest amount of sulphites. As such, they are certified biodynamic by Demeter. These wines are capable of maturing for decades, and a further historical flourish is the naming of wines after Amoreau family members from history.
The estate produces six different cuvees. Blaise-Albert is made with grapes from plots called Les Rocs, made up of 85 per cent Merlot and 15 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. In order to find the best expression of terroir, different vintages are blended together. This results in elegant aromas of red fruit as well as smooth tannins. This cuvee is put into special one litre bottles.
Barthélemy is also made with Les Rocs vines, and again features a long period of maturation in oak barrels over around 24 months. All interventions in the process take place in accordance with the lunar calendar. This complex wine is deep purple with aromas of fresh grapes.
Émilien is made with 85 per cent Merlot, 7 per cent Cabernet Franc, 6 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 1 per cent Malbec and 1 per cent Carménère, aged in oak barrels and casks for 24 months. The wine is full bodied and a deep garnet red in colour, with a touch of ruby in the younger wines and orange in those that have aged further. It has a fruity nose of red- and blackcurrants, sometimes with notes of roasted almonds. It ages well for many decades.
Marie-Cécile is a 100 per cent Semillon dry white wine. This full-bodied cuvee has a golden robe, and aromas of fruit and exotic flowers, with a hint of minerality. Marie-Cécile is best served young, and should be drunk within several hours of opening.
Marie-Elisa is a sweet white made using Semillon grapes grown on a hillside. It relied on noble rot for its intensity of flavour, which is helped along by the early morning fog. The grapes are harvested in stages to ensure only the most mature are used, and then gently pressed before being fermented for two to three years in traditional barrels and then bottled unfiltered. The result is golden coloured wines with aromas of wild flowers and quince jelly.
Rose Marie, as the name suggests, is a rosé, which is made by running juice from a vat of fermenting Merlot, in a process known as la saignée. It is barrel fermented for six to ten months before being bottled without filtration. Rose Marie has light tannins and a floral nose, with colours ranging from ruby to rose.
Retour des Iles is something else entirely. Merlot (85 per cent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15 per cent) wine is taken on a world tour, leaving Douarnenez in Brittany for a year as it travels to the Spanish coast, Lisbon, Brazil, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Falmouth in Britain, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and back to Brittany. This makes for a full bodied wine with deep ruby colours and rich red fruit aromas.
Unlike most Bordeaux wines, which are blended from several grapes, this estate crushes grape varieties together, allowing the indigenous yeasts from different parcels and grapes to combine. This provides an extra layer of complexity during their natural fermentation process. The soils at Château Le Puy features silica, limestones and clay, and stand at 110 metres above sea level.