Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Afternoon with François Mitjavile at his Tertre Rôteboeuf - A Saint Emilion Cult Wine Producer

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with  François Mitjavile at his Tertre Rôteboeuf  -  A Saint Emilion Cult Wine Producer

Tertre Rôteboeuf is one of the finest châteaux in Saint-Emilion. Yet, it is not classified. And, it is not part of the spring hype when the en primeur releases take place. That is so, because François Mitjavile is far away from St. Emilion mainstream. He does not bother to be included in the prestigious Saint-Emilion classification and he does not sell his wines en primeur through the Place de Bordeaux.

Pictures: Tertre Rôteboeuf

20 years ago, Tertre Rôteboeuf was unknown. But since then, Tertre Rôteboeuf has become a cult wine producer in St. Emilion and the price of Tertre Rôteboeuf has gone up significantly.

This has been spearheaded by a unique individual, François Mitjavile, helped by his wife Miloute, his son Louis and daughter Nina.

See also:
Bordeaux Trip September 2012, France
Tour de France de Vin: 6 Days, 7 Regions, 3500 km - In 6 Days through 7 Wine Regions of France
Ombiasy Wine Tours: Bordeaux Trip Coming up in September 2013


The origins of  Tertre Rôteboeuf  lie with a vineyard named Le Tertre that was owned by François Mitjavile's late father-in-law. After he passed away in 1961, the property was inherited by his daughter Miloute. She leased it to her cousins, who owned Chateau Bellefond-Belcier.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Annette Schiller, Ombiasy Wine Tours, at Tertre Rôteboeuf in early 2012. See also: Tour de France de Vin: 6 Days, 7 Regions, 3500 km - In 6 Days through 7 Wine Regions of France

Meanwhile, François Mitjavile was working at his family's successful haulage business. He decided to change course in life and try his hand at winemaking.

Between 1975 and 1977, he went through the school of Chateau Figeac. When he returned to Le Tertre after the 2 year apprenticeship, he suffixed Rôteboeuf (its literal translation is the unsavory "hill of the belching beef").

1978 was the first vintage that François Mitjavile made entirely by himself. His breakthrough on the wine scene was with the 1985-vintage. Since 1994-vintage, he removed the word “Châteaux” from the label at his wines.

Tertre Rôteboeuf

Tertre Rôteboeuf  looks a bit garagiste - a small estate with a vigneron house build in the 18th century lovingly tended by Miloute and François Mitjavile, two kilometers south-east of the village of Saint-Emilion, not far from Chateau Troplong Mondot and Chateau Larcis Ducasse.

Pictures: Presentation in the Backyard

The limestone based vineyards of Tertre Rôteboeuf (5.7 ha) are planted with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The Merlot-vines are on average 45 years old, while Cabernet Franc ones are 5 years older.

François Mitjavile's winemaking approach: He picks the grapes as late as possible and maintains low yields. The wine stays on the skins for a long time and is aged in 100% new oak barrels for 18 to 24 months. The very late harvest combined with long alcoholic fermentation and extraction at 35°C results in a voluptuous, full-bodied, and very complex wine. Super-ripe Merlot is the key.

The estate does not produce a second wine.

Pictures: François Mitjavile

When François Mitjavile took over, he was considered as an odd person with strange ideas.Today, he is acknowledged and respected by the majority of château-owners in Bordeaux.

But François Mitjavile is very much his own man. He has never applied to be a Grand Cru Classé. Nor does he sell his wines through the Place de Bordeaux.

Estate Walk and Barrel Tasting

In September 2012, one of the highlights of the Bordeaux tour of the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim, was an estate walk and barrel tasting with François Mitjavile . We met a very articulate and eloquent wine maker, a very cultivated person and a passionate communicator, who likes to illustrate what he wants to say about his wine with parallels from music, art and philosophy.

Pictures: The Vineyards

All the time during his presentation in his backyard, he walked back and forth, barefooted. I was told that Francois Mitjavile actually walks in the vineyard during the night, with his hands on his back, talking lovingly to the vines and I believe it.

Pictures: Tasting in the Cellar

Tertre Rôteboeuf Wines at Le Bouchon Restaurant in Saint Emilion

Following the visit at Tertre Rôteboeuf, we had dinner at Le Bouchon at the main square in Saint Emilion. Le Bouchon carries an amazing selection of Tertre Rôteboeuf wines, from the 1980s to the most recent vintage.

Picture: Different Vintages of Terte Rôteboeuf (in Euro)

Wine Searcher Average Prices

2011 US$163
2010 US$209
2009 US$248
2008 US$182
2007 US$174
2006 US$193
2005 US$365
2000 US$395

Roc des Cambes in Cotes de Bourg

Roc de Cambes is a Côtes de Bourg estate and one of the finest producer in the appellation today. François Mitjavile bought it in 1988 by.

There are 12 hectares of vines, planted with 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. The soil here is a blend of chalk and clay. Vines are on average 50 years old.

The grapes are harvested as late as possible, and are then vinified in temperature controlled cement vats. The wines are massive and dense, spending two years in 100 per cent new oak.

When Francois Mitjavile bought Roc de Cambes, it was in quite bad shape. He put renovation and modernizing in full swing immediately. In just a few years, he Roc de Cambes one of the top-wines of  Côtes de Bourg.

The second wine labeled as Domaine de Combes comes under the basic Bordeaux appellation.

The Mitjavile family owns another Bordeaux property located in Cotes de Castillon. Louis Mitjavile is completely in charge.

Wine Searcher Average Prices 

2011 US$ 58
2010 US$ 66
2009 US$ 73
2005 US$101
2000 US$ 71

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