Francois Mitjavile – St Emilion’s French Kept Secret
Francois Mitjavile at Tertre Roteboeuf (Photo credit)
Operating outside of the U.S. press for the past seven years, Francois Mitjavile severed his connection with Robert Parker in 2006. Despite the 98 Parker points that he received for his 2005 vintage, Mitjavile, whose declassified Tertre Roteboeuf is well known in France, had decided to not be beholden to the influence of Big Red. “In France, he’s given the same accolades as the well known St Emilion houses like Cheval Blanc,” said Patrick Burke, our French Portfolio Director, “but here, his wines are unfamiliar. Those who do know the wine consider it a value in comparison to Cheval Blanc and Pavie.”
Available at less than half the price of Chateau Figeac, at less than one-quarter the price of Chateau Cheval Blanc, and at less than one-sixth the price of Chateau Ausone, Tertre Roteboeuf recently scored higher or equal to recent vintages from all of the aforementioned chateaux. On November 8, 2013, Les Echos, (France’s equivalent to the Wall Street Journal), scored ten wines from St Emilion, giving the highest score of 18.5/20 to Chateau Cheval Blanc St Emilion Grand Cru Rouge 2011 and to Tertre Roteboeuf St Emilon Grand Cru 2012. Chateau Ausone and Chateau Figeac received scores of 18/20.
Tertre Roteboeuf (Photo credit)
“The terroir is undeniable,” said Burke. Now totaling 5.6ha in the commune of St. Laurent-des-Combes, the south facing amphitheatre-shaped property sits on a ridge that includes the likes of Ausone and Pavie. Planted to 85% Merlot (45+ years old) and 15% Cab Franc (5+ years) the vineyard contains limestone soils that are joined by 4-5 subsoils of clay. Cool in temperature unlike the gravel that best supports Cabernet across the Dordogne, it is these soils that enable Mitjavile to give his Merlot long hang time. “We pick when we think we’re losing the brightness of fruit,” said Loulou Mitjaville, the son of Francois and his wife Miloute, who launched his first vintage at L’Aurage in 2007. “We are looking for overripeness, with jammy flavors but not with heavy character,” he added. “The more you push the ripeness, the more you have the character of the vintage.”
Born to a different family business, it took some 13 years after his wife inherited the 2ha of vines at Tertre Roteboeuf for Francois Mitjaville to decided he wanted to try his hand at wine. Without knowledge of the vineyard or cellar, Mitjaville opened doors at Chateau Figeac where he studied winemaking for two years, from 1975 to 1977, and in 1985, despite his choice to operate outside of St-Emilion’s official classification, Mitjavile’s wines were discovered by the press. Eventually expanding the family’s 2ha vineyard, which they had received in poor shape, the couple’s holdings at Tertre Roteboeuf are now nearly 6ha.
The soils at Tertre Roteboeuf (photo credit)
In 1988, the couple founded Roc de Cambes and Domaine de Cambes in Cote de Bourge, just opposite Chateau Margaux. At 12ha, the soils of Roc de Cambes are the same as those at Tertre Roteboeuf, but since its closer to the river, the temperatures are different. Planted to 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec, the estate sits on a slope, separated from the Dordogne by Domaine de Cambes.
Domaine de Cambes, as a part of Roc de Cambes, sits at the foot of the slope. Planted to 40% Cab Franc, 55% Merlot and 5% Malbec, the soils here are also a mix of clay and limestone.
In the cellar, Mitjavile vinifies Tertre Roteboeuf whole berry, no matter the age of the fruit. “Even if we have new vines, we include it in the production,” said Loulou, “it’s a part of the history.” Following malolactic fermentation in new French oak, the wine is then aged for 18 months in new French oak, where the wine undergoes micro-oxygenization every two to three weeks, with the use of a cliquage, which sprays the juice over the cap like a fountain. In addition to stabilizing the wine, the cliquage helps the wines to age slowly. “After ten years,” said Loulou, “more concentrated wines age faster than our wines.”
For Tertre Roteboeuf, read more here.
For Roc de Cambes, read here.
For Domaine de Cambes, read here.
For L’Aurage, read here.