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A Tragic Love Story…From the Southern Rhône?

Outside of some very rare and highly-rated Burgundy that we brought in for our upcoming Burgundy dinner, these two wines are just about the most exciting (and some of the rarest!) French wines I’ve managed to get my hands on since I started here at Rockbridge some eighteen months ago! The wines themselves are highly-allocated, receive excellent ratings (though this vintage hasn’t been rated yet), and are one of the very cool, unique offerings from the always-amazing Wilson Daniels portfolio. But…I admit…there was another reason I brought them in. I desperately wanted a pair for myself (and have set one of each aside as I save up for ’em!). Why? They remind me of my days in graduate school, studying medieval history and monasticism, when I first learned about Peter Abelard and Heloise d’Argenteuil.

To be sure, it’s a rather tawdry story, at least initially. Peter Abelard was one of the greatest minds of the entire medieval period, renowned as a famous philosopher, poet, composer, and brilliant churchman. He was also some 20 years older than the beautiful, precocious, and stunningly brilliant Heloise, to whom he was assigned as a tutor when she was all of about 17 years old. Their relationship was initially sparked by their mutual devotion to learning, but it quickly grew into something more romantic and physical. Their affair produced a son, who they named Astrolabe (you seriously can’t make this stuff up) and they later married in secret. Things took a…uh…rather dark turn after that. As external pressure on their relationship mounted, Abelard convinced Heloise to enter a convent for her own safety. Thinking that he’d abandoned and spurned his niece, Heloise’s uncle had Abelard brutally castrated and he, in turn, retired to a monastery in shame. Both Abelard and Heloise eventually became the heads of their own monastic houses (abbot and abbess, respectively) and wrote a number of touching, highly-emotional letters to each other, which have come down to us today and are still studied. In the end, they stand as two of the most brilliant minds of the medieval period, and Heloise especially is often referenced in the context of female learning and education in the Middle Ages.

Ok, so you didn’t come here for a history lesson. What of the wines? These two wines, from stunning producer Chêne Bleu are meant to pay tribute to these two remarkable people and to reflect a bit of their personalies via the wines themselves.

2014 Chêne Bleu Abelard-“We named our Grenache blend ABÉLARD to reflect its forceful, masculine, brooding intensity. ” Organically- and Biodynamically-produced from Grenache vines that are 60+ years old and Syrah vines that are 50+ years old, this wine is fermented in wooden tanks (on the skins) for 5 weeks before aging in French oak barrels (of various sizes and ages, with medium- and medium-plus toast) for 18 months. Finally, prior to bottling it spends an additional year in concrete tanks, before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah.

2014 Chêne Bleu Heloise-“Restrained but unwavering elegance.  Our Syrah blend is named Héloïse for its balance of concentration and restraint, and its ripe, supple texture.” Drawn from the same 50-60 year old vines (Grenache and Syrah, but in different proportions and with a splash of Roussanne) this gorgeous wine is meant to be a sort of counterpart/foil to Abelard. 100% Organic and Biodynamic, it’s fermented in wooden tanks for 5 weeks on the skins before resting in French oak for 18 months prior to bottling without fining or filtration. 70% Grenache, 26% Grenache, and 4% Roussanne.

Both of these wines are quite serious and will age beautifully. The producer recommends decanting for two-three hours if enjoying now, so make sure you plan your holiday meal accordingly! We only received an allocation of six bottles of each, and won’t see any more for at least a year! I’ve got one of each squirrelled away for myself when I can swing it, which leaves 5 of each for y’all to squabble over 🙂 Come get ’em before they’re gone…we’ve got a few in the ‘high end’ cabinet and a few out in our French section.

$84.99/bottle (each)




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