It was great to meet and taste with François Lurton. His father, Andre Lurton, is a very important figure in Bordeaux. Lurton senior, who owns Château Bonnet, was active in establishing the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation and helping improve the quality of the affordable white Bordeaux wines that come from here. The family also own several other Bordeaux Château, including La Louvière in Pessac-Léognan.
Andre has seven children, and two of them, François and Jacques, became well known for their consulting work, beginning in the 1980s. As a team, they were important in developing wines that, mostly, ended up in supermarkets, offering good quality at an affordable price. In 1992 they went to Argentina, and worked with Catena. There they were taken by the Uco Valley in Mendoza and its potential, and in 1996 they bought what is now Chacayes. At the time, no one else was here: in the north there was Tupungato, and in the south La Consulta, and in between was a desert.
They pioneered viticulture in this central band, planting 100 hectares of vines, registering the name Chacayes for their top wine, after the place. Ten years ago the neighbouring vineyards that had been planted asked if they could use the name, and now Los Chacayes is a GI within the Uco Valley. It’s an alluvial fan coming down from the Andes, and has quite heterogeneous, low fertility soils. In 2007 François and Jacques stopped working together, and now all the projects come under the banner François Lurton, with wineries in France, Spain, Chile and Argentina.
The Uco Valley estate is called Piedra Negra, and when they began they planted a range of different varieties, including Pinot Gris, which has been a huge success and now accounts for a third of their production. They also planted Friulano, which is a phenolic variety with lots of tannins in the skin: he ferments this in oak. The reds are Malbec based, with some vine material coming from Argentina and some from southwest France.
Piedra Negra Pinot Gris 2018 Los Chicayes, Mendoza, Argentina
This is fresh and taut with nice citrus fruit and some grapey notes. Good texture. Fresh and supple. 87/100
Piedra Negra Gran Lurton Corte Friulano 2018 Los Chacayes, Mendoza, Argentina
This is fermented in oak. It’s supple and textured with nice sweet pear and citrus fruit with a touch of oak. Very supple and fresh with good structure and character. Lovely weight with fine spicy notes and potential for development. 91/100
L’Esprit de Chacayes 2017 Los Chacayes, Mendoza, Argentina
This is unoaked, and it’s a blend of Malbec and Cot (Malbec from southwest France). Cold maceration before ferment, from high density vineyards harvested at 9 tons/hectare. Lovely floral blackcurrant and black cherry nose showing freshness on the palate with good structure to the sleek black fruits. Focused, and carries the high alcohol (15%) very well. 93/100
Chacayes 2015 Los Chacayes, Mendoza, Argentina
This is from an insanely close planted vineyard, with 20 000 vines per hectare. It is fermented in barrels which are sealed and then rolled to get very light extraction. Ripe and luxurious with lovely sweet cherry and plum fruit, with firm but fine structure. Fresh and detailed, with ripeness but also firm tannins and some nice brightness. Very expressive. Lots of concentration and structure but some finesse, too. 94/100
Chacayes 2014 Los Chacayes, Mendoza, Argentina
Lovely floral black cherry and plum fruit. Very polished with good structure and finesse. There’s some impressive tannin here, but also good balance with sweet black fruits and structure in nice tension. Has freshness as well as weight, and a nice salty note on the finish. 94/100
Chacayes 2007 Los Chacayes, Mendoza, Argentina
This was François’ first year alone with this project. It’s from slightly lower density parcels that are the oldest on the property. It’s ageing beautifully with fresh black cherries, some plums, subtle herbs and earth. Still has good structure and weight. Has aged really nicely. 93/100
Chacayes 2002 Los Chacayes, Mendoza, Argentina
This was made with his brother Jacques, and the vineyard was then 7 years old. This is developed, with notes of earth, spice and herbs. It’s a bit animal and spicy with some earthy characters. There’s lots to like, but it does taste quite old. 90/100
François also let me try some of his southern French wines. He went to the Languedoc looking to make varietal wines, but fell in love with some of the terroirs, and ended up buying a few domaines.
Domaine de Nizas 2018 Languedoc, France
From Pezenas, this is from vines grown on basaltic soils from the massif central. It’s silky and fine with sweet black cherry fruit. Fine, smooth and elegant with lush fruit but also nice meat, salt and olive complexity. 93/100
Château des Erles Fitou 2017 France
François Lurton purchased this 30 hectare domaine in 2001, and it now has 23 hectares of vines. This wine is half Syrah with the balance Grenache and Carignan, and it’s aged in one-year old oak. Supple sweet fruit with a touch of roast meat, a hint of coffee and some cinnamon. Sweet black cherry fruit with well integrated tannins. Ripe but expressive with nice finesse. 92/100
Mas d’en Janeil Sans Soufre 2018 Côtes de Roussillon Villages, France
No added sulfur dioxide. Fresh, with nice focus and sweet cherries and plums. Bright berry fruits with some raspberry character, and some grip and pepper. 91/100
Mas d’en Janeil Blanc 2016 Côtes de Roussillon Villages, France
Francois Lurton believes that there is huge potential for white wine in the Roussillon. This is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeo. It’s supple and limey with nice pear and peach fruit, with a touch of fennel and hints of mint. There’s a lovely fresh, chalky finish. 92/100
Mas d’en Janeil Le Pas de la Mule 2015 Côtes de Roussillon Villages, France
This is Grenache from the highest plot on the property. Dense and sweetly fruited with nice weight and structure. Good weight and density here with grippy tannins and some alcohol. A rich, dense wine. 91/100
Mas d’en Janeil Rosé Sans Soufre 2018 Côtes de Roussillon Villages, France
Fermented in concrete eggs. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Supple and fresh with nice sweet pear fruit and a hint of red cherry. Fresh and fine with nice texture. 92/100
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