Luc Bizard, Chateau d’Epiré                                                 (1749)

The origins of the property date back to the 1640s, although the Chateau that exists today was built in 1850. It is set in a formal park complete with ornamental pond and has its own orangerie. However it is where the wines themselves are made that provides the greatest curiosity. An 11th century Roman church which stands astride the boundary wall of the Château was deconsecrated and converted into a cellar in 1906 after the construction of the Église Saint-Aubin in the village. The are over 11 hectares of vines here, one of which is planted to Cabernet Franc, with the Chenin being planted over three different parcels within the commune.

The estate is owned by Bizard family whose ancestors have been here since 1749. Luc Bizard took over from his sister in 1990 after a 17 year career in the French navy. She had managed the domaine since the death of their father, Armand, in 1984. During this era, the wines were made by Robert Daguin, d'Epirés rotund cellar master.  

Wine Overview:
The day to day running of the cellar is under the guidance of mâitre de chai, Christophe Onillon. There are essentially four different cuvées of Savennières produced here along with ‘Clos de la Cerisaie’, an Anjou Rouge. The ‘classic’ cuvée represents around 25,000 bottles, or about 65% of the domaine’s total production. It is generally sourced from the same parcels each year from vines with an average age of around 25 years. The wine is raised in tank with a small barrel component and is bottled in July following the harvest. As per the standard wine, the ‘Cuvée Spéciale’ is released each year and comes from vines which sit behind Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. The first vintage was in 1985. ‘Le Hu Boyau’, old French for ‘high wood’, is a barrel fermented cuvée from a specific parcel that sits on black volcanic schist directly behind the wall of Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. These are also the oldest vines at the domaine, dating back to 1960. The production here is small, representing about seven 400 litre casks a year, of which one barrel is replaced annually. Prior to 2000 this wine formed part of the generic blend, and Bizard admits that its creation is purely down to a commercial demand for oak aged wines. Finally, there is an ‘occasional’ release of a moëlleux, although in the past few vintages, it has become a regular addition with examples in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. These are generally produced from passillerage berries collected at the start of the harvest. Production is kept deliberately small at around 1,500 bottles a year as the demand for such wines is limited. These typically have around 35 – 40 grams of residual sugar and can be expected to age for a decade or more. It is interesting to note that the style of winemaking changed here in 2002 with the acceptance that malolactic fermentation can play a useful role in the generic cuvee. Bizard believes this technique is a commercial necessity to overcome the austere, bitter characteristics that Chenin brings in the leaner years. This shouldn’t imply that the second fermentation is systematic; ideally the conditions of the vintage mean that it is not necessary to induce it at all, but it is now considered as an option. 

The Wines:
As the longest standing producer in the appellation it seems normal that Château d’Epiré should enjoy some of best distribution around the restaurant tables of Anjou, but that should be no reason to risk complacency or even mediocrity. Luc Bizard suggests his ‘classic’ cuvée will ‘drink up to 10 years’, although I find that they begin to tire and fall over much before that, failing to deliver little more than a sound expression of the appellation. One needs to step up to the level of the ‘Cuvée Spéciale’ to begin to find any real degree of quality here, and even then I find there is a lack of consistency between vintages. It grieves me to say it, but I think these wines should be much better than they currently are.

2009 'Cuvée Spéciale'
Polished. Green appearance. Clean, linear and floral nose. Authentic and delicate in style. Slightly phenolic edge. Despite its youth the wine already tastes too advanced for its age, with notes of white flowers. Dry, mineral finish. Somewhat ordinary. (02/11)

2008 ‘Le Hu Boyau’
Clean, restrained nose. Wood is evident, but much better integrated than previous attempts. Currently backward and not very expressive. Typical and authentic without the rustic elements I've associated the property with in the past. Floral elements, which include white flowers, to the finish. Good, clean thread of mineral acidity running through the wine. Promising and a move in the right direction. (02/10)

2006 Savennières
Light delicate nose and already showing some maturity with aromas of white flowers. Builds well on entry, although the acidity is still a little unknit. Mineral to finish. Still quite an old fashioned style. Drink now and over the next 3 – 5 years. (02/08)

2006 ‘Cuvée Spéciale’
Polished. Mid-full with green hints. Shows some ripeness, although still quite austere and mineral on the nose. Broad and obvious residual sugar on the palate. Well balanced. An old fashioned but classic style. Slightly austere and phenolic on the finish. Approachable now, but would benefit from more time in bottle. (02/08)

2006 ‘Le Hu Boyau’
Polished. Deep appearance but with some youthful green hints. There is evidence of wood on the nose, but not dominant with the wine showing some potential for evolution. Rich on entry with a creamy texture (100% malolactic this vintage). Chalky, with good weight and concentration. This would really benefit with more time in bottle. (02/08)

2005 Savennières
Lovely ripe nose. Very elegant and open. Floral, with white flowers and acacia. Mid weight with some mature flavours on entry but the structural profile is still quite fresh. Still firm, but delicate. Drinking now, but could hold and evolve over the next five years. (02/08)

2005 ‘Cuvée Spéciale’
Restrained nose. Taut and mineral. This shows the ripeness of the vintage (15% alcohol) and is a bit phenolic on the finish. Clumsy and unknit. This may evolve and come together, but I have my reservations. (02/08)

2005 ‘Le Hu Boyau’
Polished. Mid-depth with green hints. The oak dominates the nose and palate. This is clumsy and heavy handed. A bit too ripe with some bitterness on the finish. I can’t see this coming together. I prefer the simplicity of the classic cuvee this vintage. (02/08)

2005 Moëlleux
Attractive and very ripe passillerage nose with delicate honey and quince. It displays apple and pear flavours to both nose and palate. Well textured and very delicate with good freshness, balance and length. Approachable now, but should age gracefully. 1,500 bottles produced. (02/08)

2004 Savennières
Very pale straw appearance. Hint of green. Clean but neutral nose. Simple and lacks concentration and definition. Authentic and somewhat old fashioned. Falls short on the finish. Drinking now and unlikely to improve much further. (02/08)  

2002 ‘Le Hu Boyau’
Deep appearance. Yellow-gold. Viscous in the glass. The nose is not unlike Vin Jaune and is a little grubby with no evidence of the oak used in the raising of this cuvée. Bruised apple character to both nose and palate. Powerful acidity to finish. Undistinguished. (04/09)

2001 Savennières
Deep appearance. Delicate, floral nose with some white flowers. Bone dry and austere on entry with striking acidity and a dry, orange peel-like botrytis character. This is very distinctive and a wine that shows the characteristic of this vintage. Drinking now, but this will continue to hold and possibly evolve. A wine for purists only. (02/08)

2000 Savennières
Deep, mature appearance. Rustic and unclean on the nose. Faintly fishy. The nose is open, but shows some oxidiative (oxidised?) character. Flat and a bit dull with some evidence of ‘dry’ orange skin botrytis. The palate shows good concentration, but is dry and pithy to the finish with some aggressive, unknit acidity and some advanced terpine like flavours. Very rustic. Drink up. This won’t improve. (04/08)

2000 ‘Le Hu Boyau’
The first vintage under this label. This accounted for four new oak barrels (representing 15% of the total) with the rest of the wine raised in tank before blending. Polished. Youthful pale green appearance. There is no real sense of the oak on the nose, but the palate is very planky, austere and taut (there was no malolactic this year). Good length. This really still needs more time to soften in hope that the wood on the palate finally integrates. (02/08)  

1996 Savennières
Polished. Mid-full yellow-gold. Mature appearance. Attractive, if a little atypical. Tired, savoury nose with Vegemite, coconut and marzipan aromas. Light and shallow on entry. Savoury again with notes of Marmite. Rich, evident of the vintage, but falls short and lacks any real structure. Drink now. Unlikely to develop further, although should hold. (04/09)

1996 ‘Cuvée Spéciale’
Deep orange/bronze appearance. This shows some oxidation and is tiring quickly, loosing any remaining fruit and charm. Austere and phenolic on the finish. Drink up. (02/08)

1996 Moëlleux
Bright. Mid depth, yellow. Tight nose. The ripeness shows here, but is otherwise quiet. Some quince. Delicate on entry, with distinct sweetness. A touch clumsy, showing ripeness on the palate, but lacking balancing acidity. Flat on the finish. Some faint liquorish flavours. Unlikely to evolve further. Drink up. (06/04) 

1995 Savennières
Mid full. Yellow. Advanced nose with some white flowers. Broad, flat and dull on the palate with very firm acidity to the finish, otherwise this is quite short. Some flavours of quince. Ordinary. Needs drinking.            (06/04)

1995 Demi-Sec ‘Cuvée Armand Bizard’
Bright. Mid depth. Copper/bronze appearance. Advanced nose. The palate is better, but remains very simple. Lacks definition. Short finish with some advanced toffee-like flavours. Drink up. (06/04)

1994 Demi-Sec
Bright. Advanced bronze appearance. Simple, delicate nose of honeycomb. Quince, apples and liquorish. Attractive leanness and balance. There is some evidence of residual sugar here, although the wine finishes dry. Malic with sweet and sour flavours, but is balanced. Should hold, but not likely to improve. Juicy finish. Decent. (06/04)

1990 Demi-Sec ‘Cuvée Armand Bizard’
Deep, copper/bronze. Delicate apple and honeycomb nose. Reminiscent of Vouvray. The palate is more expressive with honey and quince. Well focused with good texture and delicate complexity. Very good length. This may evolve further. (06/04)

1989 Savennières
Mid depth. Light, but ripe and delicate on the nose. Some advanced characters here. Very light and mineral on the palate. Tired, short and uknit acidity. Dried out. (06/04)

1989 Demi-Sec
Pale. Green hints. This is not very giving behind a reduced, gunflint, smoky nose. The palate is better with decent texture. Builds well with some good concentration to finish, but will it throw off its reductive cloak? Lacks definition. This will hold but there is a question over its ability to mature fully. (06/04)

1986 Demi-Sec
Deep appearance. ‘Dry’ botrytis-like nose of oranges and quince. Mid full and complex. Delicate on entry with liquorish and spice. Very fresh acidity. Builds well. Good focus. Juicy. Very good length. Drinking now, but will hold. (06/04)

1983 Savennières
Polished. Mid-full yellow with green hints. Taut, smoky, terpine nose. Striking acidity on entry although the flavour profile shows this wine to be mature. The acidity will outlive the fruit. Very traditional and old fashioned in style. Just drying out now on the finish and needs drinking. (02/08)

1983 Demi-Sec
Deep, copper coloured. This looks old and tired. Mature nose. Very rustic. Tired, short and drying out. Sadly past its best. (06/04)

1971 Savennières
Polished. Golden appearance. Some terpines on the nose. Low on fruit character. Powerful, but one feels this is drying out. Tired on the palate with some sweetness showing. Flavours of chocolate and oranges. High acidity. This is now past its best. Drink up quickly. (06/04)

2006 ‘Clos de la Cerisaie’ Anjou Rouge
100% Cabernet Franc raised in tank.
Taut, mineral and clean, but quite old fashioned with firm acid and grippy tannins. Shows the fact that it is grown on schist. May soften in time, but will always remain a bit rustic and bitter. (02/08)  

 

 

 

 

 

Luc Bizard
Chateau Epire
T:+33 2 41 77 15 01
F:+33 2 41 77 16 23

luc.bizard@wanadoo.fr

www.chateau-epire.com

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