Chateau Béard La Chapelle
Situated in the Gironde, in the village of Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, one of the eight communes in the Juridiction of St Emilion which has been classed as an official World Heritage UNESCO site since 1999. The 18 hectare estate of Béard La Chapelle is an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Saint Emilion Grand Cru. The Appellation of Grand Cru St Emilion stipulates a planting density of only 5,500 vines per hectare and a maximum yield of 49 hectolitres per hectare.
This yield is one of the lowest in Bordeaux and enforces producers to reduce the production of each vine making the grapes harvested more concentrated in terms of colour, tannins and aromas.
History of the Property
The property of Château Béard La Chapelle has been in the same family for 9 generations and has had two main chapters in its history. In 1980, Richard Moureau took over the vineyards from his parents and built a cellar next to the single vineyard plot “Béard”, the site of an ancient chapel from which the property took its name. He received the following year the « le Chapitre des Honneurs » of Saint Emilion for his 1981 vintage awarded to him by the famous oenologist, Emile Peynaud. In 2006, Richard’s son Franck left his career in journalism to take over the running of the estate.
In 2009 his sister Laurence takes in charge communication and export issues. The estate has grown by a few hectares, vines have been replaced and the density of the vineyards has been increased to 7,600 vines per hectare. The winery has been updated and procedures such as “green harvesting” deleafing, desuckering and removing the superfluous bunches of grapes) have been introduced systematically.
The Vineyards, Terroir and Grapes
There are 18 hectares of vineyards grow in clay and limestone soils on the slopes of St Emilion and deep sand on the base of the slopes. The average age of the vines is 40 years and the density of the vines is 5,500 per hectare for the oldest parcels of vines and 7,600 vines per hectare for all of the plots that have been replanted. Béard La Chapelle is a wine made from the three main grape varieties of the appellation:
- Merlot (90%) : The predominance of Merlot in this wine gives a good aromatic complexity of red and black fruits. The signature of Béard is a floral perfume of rose and violets. The tannins are supple and there is a roundness on the palate with a smooth silky finish.
- Cabernet Franc (7%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (3%) : The Cabernets give spicy notes to the wine and a good structure which helps to give it further ageing potential. Château Béard La Chapelle is a feminine wine of elegance and finesse.According to the type of soil, the vines are grafted with 101.14 root stocks (for the lighter soils), and 3309 (for the deep well draining sands).
Making the Wine
Béard La Chapelle produces 100,000 bottles per year. Franck Moureau is the wine maker and runs the property with the help of two full-time workers (and their wives who work part-time in the vineyards). They have worked for the property for over 20 years.
In addition, seasonal workers are employed for jobs such as the “green harvest” and for deleafing prior to harvest-time. Franck’s sister, Laurence, is in charge of the promotion of the vineyard brand and the development of international sales.
A Year in the Vineyard
Between mid December and mid February when the sap is in the roots of the vine, pruning takes place ; “Guyot simple” (1 branch with 7 buds). In the summer the the excess leaves of the vine are removed to give good aeration and to better expose the bunches of grapes to the sun. A “green harvest” is also carried out to ensure that there are only 7 bunches of grapes per vine. In parallel the vines are treated to protect them from disease but only when absolutely necessary. Alternative practices (such as spraying with an organic adjuvant and use of “intercep” machinery) are being trialled to ensure that Béard La Chapelle is produced as naturally as possible.
Grass is grown in between the vines on alternate rows which allows any excess water to be absorbed. In addition alternate rows are cultivated to encourage microbial life and to encourage roots to delve deep.
A Year in the Cellar
The winery has a capacity of 2,000 hectolitres and the stainless steel vats are thermo-regulated. The equipment in the winery includes a pneumatic press for gentle pressing, a destemming machine and a sorting table. The underground ageing cellar holds 300 french oak “barriques” from five different coopers (medium toast). At the time of harvest after destemming, the grapes are sorted by hand on the sorting table. A cold soak is carried out during a period of five days at 7° before fermentation begins. The vinification is traditional with four gentle pumping overs per day and with one rack and returns carried out during the period of fermentation. The total time in vat is between 3 to 4 weeks. The wine is aged for 12 months, in one third new barrels, one third barrels of one “wine” and one third barrels of two “wines”.
The wine in barrel is racked on average four times during its ageing depending on the vintage. At the end of ageing, the different lots of the wine are blended before being fined with egg whites. The wine is bottled at the property.