A Bevy of Bergerac Beauties from Grande Maison

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We are tickled pink to bring back the outstanding wines from Domaine Grande Maison located in the Bergerac wine region of south-western France.  Last year, along with some good friends, we made an exhaustive study of the Bergerac area and concluded that the wines from Grande Maison were the ones we enjoyed most, by far. Renowned for their delicious, sweet Monbazillac (particularly the Cuvée des Monstres), the winery also makes delightful reds and whites. This time we offer you the 2012 Cuvée Dianaïs white, 2010 Tête de Cuvée white, 2009 Cuvée Opéra red, 2010 Cuvée Antoinette red, 2010 Tête de Cuvée red and two Monbazillac, the 2009 Cuvée du Château and the 2009 Cuvée des Monstres.


Your tireless tippler with Benjamin Chabrol

Likely doomed to be forever regarded as the poor cousin of Bordeaux, something the Bordelais have worked hard to perpetuate over the centuries, Bergerac is directly to the east of its much more famous and prosperous neighbour.  While their wines might not be as famous, the Bergerac countryside is much more appealing than that of Bordeaux.

The Bergerac area contains 13 Appellations d'Origine Contrôlées (AOCs) for red, white (dry, medium-sweet and sweet), and rosé wines. However, most Bergeracois count just six – Monbazillac, Péchermant, Saussignac, Montravel, Bergerac and Côtes de Bergerac. Approximately 1,200 growers cultivate about 30,000 acres of vines in soils not all that dissimilar to those found in Bordeaux.  The Dordogne River for centuries provided transportation to Atlantic seaports on the workhorse ‘gabarres’ and provides the region with excellent drainage.

The red wines are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, sometimes supplemented by Côt or, less commonly, by Fer Servadou or Mérille. They are often dark in color, with full-bodied flavours. The white wines are mainly a blend of Sémillon with Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle, to which Ugni blanc, Ondenc and Chenin Blanc are sometimes added. These combinations lead to the creation of fruity, dry white wines that can be powerful, and of medium-sweet or sweet wines that are aromatic and powerful.

Fifteen percent of the AOC wines produced are exported, principally to Great Britain, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (it was the Dutch who, since the Hundred Years War, stubbornly continued the region’s wine trade up until the Twentieth Century). 

Grande Maison

Grande Maison is comprised of twenty hectares of property, fourteen of which are planted with high quality vines (ten hectares are white - 60% Sémillon, 25% Sauvignon and 15% Muscadelle and four red - Merlot 90%, Cabernet Franc 10%). Situated just outside the village of Monbazillac (roughly, mon-baa-zee-ack – Hélène hates it when I do this!) the winery specializes in the sweet, botrytis-affected wines by that name and also makes very good whites and reds. It has been around a long, long time as the great house pictured to the left will attest – it was built at the end of the Thirteenth Century! Henry IV, in 1608 made gift of the property to a lawyer in Bergerac, Charles de Livardie.

In 1990 the winery was acquired by Thierry Després, variously described as jovial, a fanatic and an individualist, but no one will dispute his passion and ability for wine making, particularly the nectar called Monbazillac. He replanted virtually all of the vines on the estate and achieved ‘organic’ status over twenty years ago, long before it became the popular thing to do.

In January, 2012 the Chabrol family who hail from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence decided that they wanted to get into the wine-making business. They wanted a top-rated property for sure, but of equally high importance they wanted a large house in which to live. Grande Maison, which was for sale, fit the bill perfectly. Together, Benjamin Chabrol and his father Jean-Louis have carried on Thierry Després’ commitment to make the highest possible quality of Bergerac wines. It is Benjamin along with two full-time employees who carry on the day-to-day operations of this very special winery.                                                                                

The Wines of Grande Maison

Robert Parker in his ‘Wine Buyers Guide’ number 7 rated Domaine Grande Maison a five star winery - one of only four ‘Outstanding’ producers in the south-west of France.

We are now offering two whites, three reds and two succulent Monbazillac along with a mixed-case sampler that includes one of each of the featured wines (except the Cuvée des Monstres).  Each is certified organic (Ecocert), very, very well made and absolutely delicious. Each comes from a very good vintage. We are going to take your orders to the LCBO on Friday, August 9th.

2012 Cuvée Dianaïs (White) – Bergerac Sec – 13.5% Alc./Vol.                              $22/$132 for 6
Crafted from 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Sémillon and 5% Muscadelle, this pale yellow refreshing white is harmonious, elegant and pleasantly crisp. It sees no oak. The yield is a low 40 hectolitres per Hectare and just 8,000 bottles were crafted.  The nose offers up complex aromas of citrus fruit (grapefruit and lemons) with delightful mineral notes. In the mouth it is beautifully balanced with tangy edges and is just plain delicious. It would go marvellously with smoked salmon, shellfish and roast chicken or serve as a fabulous patio sipper. Be sure to serve well chilled. It is drinking delightfully well now and will evolve and keep nicely for at least another three years. Order your fresh, zesty Bergerac white now.

2010 Tête de Cuvée (White) - Bergerac Sec – 13.5% Alc./Vol.                                          $28/168 for 6
This is Grande Maison’s finest white and is made from their best Sauvignon Gris (50%), Sauvignon Blanc (30%), Sémillon (10%) and Muscadelle (10%). The yield is a low 30 Hectolitres per hectare and only 3,000 bottles were produced. This wine is aged for 12 months in new French oak. It is a bright, clear yellow with green tints. The intense nose contains rich aromas of apricots, peaches, almonds and lemon zest. In the mouth it is full and fruity with a delicate silky texture and pleasant acidity and minerality; the finish is long and persistent – a simply delicious white. It too is drinking wonderfully now and will keep for at least another five years. It seems to have been made for fish in sauce, lobster, crab and shrimp dishes. Order your very special Bergerac white now.

2012 Cuvée Opéra (Red) – Bergerac – 13.5% Alc./Vol.                                                      $20/$120 for 6
Made completely from hand-picked Merlot, 70% of the wine rested in oak barrels for nine months. The yield was only forty Hectolitres per hectare and 8,000 bottles were made. It is a bright ruby colour and presents fruity aromas of raspberries, strawberries, plums, exotic spices, cocoa and a trace of new leather. All of this carries through in the mouth to be joined by silky smooth, soft tannins, excellent depth and surprising length. This most pleasant sipper is just screaming out for the barbeque, pizza or a roast chicken.  Open and decant a couple of hours before serving. It will keep for another couple of years; but why wait? It tastes great right now. Order your Bergerac red charmer now.

2010 Cuvée Antoinette (Red) – Côtes de Bergerac – 13.5% Alc./Vol.                              $23/$138 for 6
This truly yummy red is made from 90% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. This is very serious stuff – hand-picked fully ripened grapes, eighteen months of barrel aging and no filtering. The yield was 40 hectolitres per hectare and only 4,000 made the final cut. It is a deep purple-red and shouts out aromas of strawberries, prunes, sour cherries, tobacco and a hint of rawhide. It is a medium-bodied wine with excellent balance, lovely tannins and a wonderful lingering finish. It is very elegant and reminds me of a good Graves. It will be a perfect match for game, roast beef and lamb. Right now it needs a least a couple of hours in a decanter before diving in and will keep happily for at least ten years. Order your terrific Bergerac red now.

2010 Tête de Cuvée (Red) - Côtes de Bergerac – 13.0% Alc./Vol.                                     $32/$192 for 6
This stunner is made from hand-picked Merlot (90%) and Cabernet Franc that comes from Benjamin’s finest parcel of land. It is really something! The yield was 35 hectares per hectolitre and a scant 2,500 bottles were made. A dark purple red, it rested in new oak for a year and a half and was not filtered before bottling. It yields powerful aromas of black currants, raspberries, ripe plums, exotic spices, cocoa, anise and leather. This is a very elegant medium-bodied wine, smooth and supple with rich tannins, great balance and a long, lingering aftertaste.  It will go brilliantly with grilled meats, medium cheese and most meat-based pasta dishes. It really is too young to drink now, but if you must, open it in the morning of the day you are going to drink it. Otherwise, keep your cotton-pickin’ fingers off it for two or three years; better yet cellar it for a decade. Order your case of Grande Maison’s best Bergerac red now.

The Monbazillac from Grande Maison

These are the sweet wines for which Grande Maison is renowned. We are offering two, the 2009 (a great year in Monbazillac) Cuvée du Château and the Cuvée des  Monstres. Both are being offered in half bottles, twelve to the case (the winery only provides the half bottles in twelve-bottle cartons). Grande Maison has a good supply of other vintages and formats of their Monbazillac. Please get in touch with me if you are interested in something not on offer.

2009 Cuvée du Château (Sweet) – Monbazillac – 13.0% Alc./Vol.                                    $27/$324 for 12 half-bottles
The Monbazillac Cuvée du Château is Grande Maison’s premium cuvée that is exceeded only by their very rare Cuvée du Monstres which costs almost twice as much. This elegant, powerful bottle of succulent sweetness is created from 60% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Muscadelle from grapes that have been subjected to that Noble Rot – Botrytis Cinerea. The yield is just 10 to 12 hl/ha! The grapes of course are all hand-picked with several passes through the vineyards to collect only truly ripe grapes and it rests in new oak barrels for eighteen months. This is very, very serious stuff. It is a light amber colour and emits wondrous aromas of honey, apples, candied fruits, bees wax and a hint of smoke. In the mouth it is simply heavenly – rich, full, sweet (natch), elegant and pleasingly crisp. Drink this wine as an aperitif, with foie gras, spicy cooking, blue cheese or desserts with fruit. It is drinking well right now and will mature nicely for at least ten years. Marvellous stuff.  Order your most memorable Monbazillac now.

2009 Cuvée des Monstres (Sweet) – Monbazillac – 13.0% Alc./Vol.         $53/$636 for 12 half-bottles
Monbazillac simply doesn’t get any better than this. It was crafted from 60% Sémillon, 30% Muscadelle and 10% Sauvignon Blanc from vines 70 to 100 years old. The yield is a ridiculously low 4.5 hl/ha and but 700 bottles were made! It rested in new oak barrels for three years. A clear orange colour with brown tints, this treasure offers up an expressive nose of candied fruits, beeswax, citrus jellies and honey. In the mouth it is powerful, highly concentrated, wonderfully balanced and very long. Simply put, this is a sweet wine treasure not to be missed. It tastes great now and will continue to evolve and will be ideal to drink in about 30 years! It screams out for foie gras, stinky cheese, passion fruit sorbet and strawberry or apricot tarts.  Order your sensational sticky wine now.

THE Grande Maison Bergerac Sampler – 13.0 -13.5% Alc./Vol.     $28/$168 six-bottle case
You get one bottle each of our featured Bergerac wines from Domaine Grande Maison: the 2012 Cuvée Dianaïs (White) – Bergerac Sec; the 2010 Tête de Cuvée (White) - Bergerac Sec; the 2012 Cuvée Opéra (Red) – Bergerac; the 2010 Cuvée Antoinette (Red) – Côtes de Bergerac; the 2010 Tête de Cuvée (Red) - Côtes de Bergerac and a full bottle (750 ml) of the wonderful 2009 Cuvée du Château (Sweet) – Monbazillac. So there you have it - six really interesting and delicious wines from the mysterious Bergerac region of south-western France. Give yourself a real treat and order your complete Bergerac treasure trove now

Important Note
The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

LCBO Random Delivery Audits!

The LCBO is performing random audits on transactions conducted by their Private Order customers and import agents. Hélène received a phone message yesterday from an Ismael Tan, Operations Analyst, Specialty Services, LCBO, asking her to call him to confirm a delivery from the agent, Arthur Sellers & Co. When she returned his call, he told her he was going to email her a message asking her if she received the wine and the correct number of bottles as well as provide copies of her invoice from Arthur Sellers & Co. Attached to the email was a copy of the LCBO invoice for the transaction, the same one that the LCBO said they are sending out with each delivery (see our previous message regarding  this subject).

Should you receive a call, please feel free to contact me if you would like any assistance with your reply.

LCBO Delivery Notices!

The LCBO has started to mail out delivery notices to all our Members who order wine. This notice is being sent when the wine has arrived from overseas and has been cleared for delivery by the LCBO. The form letter is two sided, one with the numeric details of the transaction and the other with pick-up instructions. Please note - the pick-up instructions do not apply to our Members.


First, they instruct our Member to pick up the wine at the LCBO’s warehouse loading docks at 33 Freeland Street in Toronto. Our Members don’t have to do this – we either cause the wine to be sent to an LCBO retail store that is conveniently located near our Member or we personally deliver the wine.

Second, they infer that our Members owe them for the wine and warn that they will be penalized if the wine is not picked up within a prescribed period of time. Our Members have already paid for their wine and don’t owe any additional money. We look after payment for them.

Please disregard these form letters when you receive them.

We have requested that the LCBO either correct the message or not send it at all. We also asked that they send the message electronically (they have the e-mail addresses of everyone who orders) to save money and be environmentally responsible. They have thanked us for our suggestions and we hope they will act on them.

Why is the LCBO sending out these notices?

When we inquired, we were told that this has always been their procedure; they just haven’t been following it.

We can surmise that it is in response to last year’s ruling by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario (IPC) ruling that the LCBO stop taking personal information from wine club customers. In a subsequent Ontario Superior Court of Justice appeal hearing, the case was remitted back to the IPC for reconsideration, i.e., the LCBO and the other involved parties were told to work out their issues between themselves. A key point in the ruling was, “it is not clear whether the IPC actually made a clear or consistent finding on the issue of whether the LCBO's customer is the club or the club member.” Since then, the LCBO has been determined to make certain that we are all fully aware that it is they who control the customer relationship when it comes to the purchase of beverage alcohol in the Province of Ontario.

To reinforce this point, they have instructed us to prominently post the following wherever we display our prices:

The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

If you have any comments for the LCBO, please address them to Margaret Plant, Supervisor, Private Ordering (margaret.plant@lcbo.com) and copy Archie Karanxha, Acting Manager, Specialty Services (arqile.karanxha@lcbo.com) and Geoff Allaire, General Manager Operations, Toronto Retail Service Centre, Vintages Warehouse (geoff.allaire@lcbo.com).

All this reminds me of a very old joke. It seems that a little devil was involved in a most unfortunate tangle with one of Toronto’s Red Rockets that resulted in his tail being severed. He was rushed to the Toronto General Hospital but was refused admission. The ER receptionist explained, “I am afraid you will have to take him to the LCBO ... they are the only ones in Ontario allowed to retail spirits.”

Kate joins the team!
We are delighted to announce that our eldest daughter Kate (shown here with a bottle of Penfolds Grange from her birth year!) has officially joined the Arthur Sellers & Company team. She is an avid wine enthusiast with a very fine palate and is renowned for her frequent thirsty assaults on Arthur’s Cellar. Kate will be assisting us with the day-to-day operation of our wine club and will introduce our fine wines to her market demographic (recognizing that this old tippler needs a little help marketing to the younger aficionados of the fruit of the vine). Please join us in welcoming Kate to our wonderful world of wine.

Hélène's 2014 Tour to Provence is Sold Out; But ...
She is taking reservations for September 2015. Long our favourite part of France, Provence is filled with so many wonderful things – marvellous markets, gorgeous perched villages, exquisite Mediterranean cuisine as well as the Mediterranean itself, a bevy of awe-inspiring Roman ruins, medieval towns, olive oil mills, Southern Rhône vineyards, sophisticated cities with great shopping, and constantly changing, spectacular scenery. And, you get to spend it all comfortably ensconced in your very own castle for a week, the enchanting Château du Goult. Maybe even get a group of friends to join you. That way, Hélène can massage her itinerary to meet your special interests.

Please contact Hélène for all the delectable details.

Where’s My Wine??
Generally, it will take three to four months from the time you order your wine till it is delivered. To find out where your next treasure is on its long journey from Europe, just click on Delivery Status in the side bar to the left. We update it regularly.

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