Friday, December 13, 2013

François Mitjavile, Winemaker of the Year 2013 (“Der Feinschmecker”), St. Emilion, France

Picture: Christian G.E. and Annette Schiller with François Mitjavile, Winemaker of the Year 2013 (“Der Feinschmecker”), at his Tertre-Roteboeuf in Saint Emilion

Earlier this year, the German Gourmet journal “Der Feinschmecker” announced its wine wards of 2013, in 7 different categories: (1) The actor and musician Ulrich Tukur is the “Wine Gourmet of the Year”. (2) The Spanish winemaker Carlos Falcó, Pagos de Familia, got the award in the category “Lebenswerk/Live Achievement”. (3) The Champagne Dom Pérignon is the “Wine Legend of the Year”. (4) The winemaker Christiane Wagner of Weingut Dr. Heinz Wagner (Saar) go the “Wine Collection of the Year” award. (5) Arianna Occhipinti from Sicily is the “Newcomer of the Year. (6) 5 winemakers from the Franken region, who created the winemaker group “Trias” got the “Award for Friends“. (6) Last but not leasts, the “Der Feinschmecker Winemaker of the Year” is François Mitjavile, Château Tertre-Roteboeuf and Château Roc de Cambes in Bordeaux.

Picture: “Der Feinschmecker Winemaker of the Year”

The visits of and tastings with François Mitjavile were among the highlights of the Bordeaux Tours by ombiasy both in 2012 and 2013.

Bordeaux Trip September 2012, France
Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy
Ombiasy Wine Tours: Bordeaux Trip Coming up in September 2013 

Tour de France de Vin: 6 Days, 7 Regions, 3500 km - In 6 Days through 7 Wine Regions of France

François Mitjavile, Château Tertre-Roteboeuf 

Tertre Rôteboeuf is one of the finest châteaux in Saint-Emilion. Yet, it is not classified. 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 through the Place de Bordeaux.

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.

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

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.

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").

Pictures: François Mitjavile Lecturing

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 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.

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.

Pictures: Tasting in the Cellar

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.

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.

Wine Searcher Average Prices

2012 US$163
2011 US$169
2010 US$235
2009 US$243
2005 US$365
2000 US$407

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.

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.

Wine Searcher Average Prices

2011 US$ 60
2010 US$ 69
2009 US$ 71
2005 US$ 87
2000 US$ 71


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

"Der Feinschmecker" About François Mitjavile

“Like many a talented winemaker, François Mitjavile came to be involved with wine by a circuitous route. In the 1960s, Mitjavile worked in his family’s haulage company, where the monotonous tasks did little to fulfil him. But even when his then girlfriend and later wife inherited Château Tertre-Rotebœuf in Saint-Émilion, Mitjavile initially stayed away from the vines. It was only in the 1970s that the couple decided they themselves should cultivate the lands they had leased. With no prior oenological training, Mitjavile knocked at the door of one of the most respected wine estate owners in Saint-Émilion and was admitted by none other than Thierry Manoncourt from Château Figeac – who in 2007 won the WINE AWARD for lifetime achievement. Manoncourt took it upon himself to initiate Mitjavile into the mysteries of winemaking and in 1977 Mitjavile finally began his career as a vintner.

Pictures: The Vineyards

From that time on, Mitjavile has been producing one of the most strong-bodied and yet filigree Saint-Emilions at Tertre-Rotebœuf. A wine that nearly all critics can come to agree on: both those, who deem body to be the most important characteristic, as well as those who give preference to a wine’s elegance. In 1987 Mitjavile went on to purchase Château Roc de Cambes, also located on the right bank of Bordeaux’ river in the Côtes de Bourg. Even though this wine could also project Mitjavile to the top of the appellation, the winemaker remains modest. Bordeaux connoisseurs regard Mitjavile as a sensitive intellectual.

Pictures: With the 2013 Group

Mitjavile refused to become involved in the squabbles surrounding the reclassification of Saint-Émilion: Due to its privileged position on a steep slope on the edge of a limestone plateau and thanks to its irresistible wines, Tertre Rôtebœuf would undoubtedly be a candidate for a Premier Cru classé ranking. But Mitjavile has never even applied for a classification.

Anyone who has ever visited the winemaker in his manor house above the vineyard, or enjoyed his company during an animated conversation in his well-stocked library or during a wine tasting in the small, labyrinthine cellars knows that the furthest thing on this man’s mind are prestigious labels."

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