Thursday, 30 November 2017

The strange case of Liber Pater

Liber Pater was a Roman god of wine and vines. The estate Liber Pater (in the Graves area of Bordeaux) was bought by Loïc Pasquet, a former engineer with Peugeot in 2006. It comprises 7 hectares and is planted with some old vine Semillon and Sauvignon vines as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot.

Loïc Paquet himself

So far so normal. Loic Pasquet had the idea of doing something exceptional with his vineyard and has planted a rumoured some 14 old Bordeaux and other varieties in order to re-create a pre-phylloxera vineyard. He hopes to revive the taste of what Bordeaux was like BP (Before Phylloxera).

The Spanish mule

Planting is done in as close proximity as the rules allow (20,000 vines per hectare) ungrafted and subject to organic (Ecocert certified) farming by just himself with a mule. Yields are minuscule. The 14 varieties are not listed as far as we can see but the following 6 have been mentioned;

Camaralet (a white grape associated with several areas in SW France but not Bordeaux)
Castets (a red grape to be found in St. Macaire in the Bourg/Blaye area of Bordeaux)
Lauzet (a white grape from Jurancon)
Mancin (aka Tarnay Coulant - a red grape formerly quite widespread in the Gironde including Bordeaux but now down to less than 1 ha.)
Pardotte (red grape considered productive but giving an ordinary wine low in alcohol and flat. Unclassified, there were 183 ha. in 1958 in many Bordeaux sub-zones, a few in 1988 and in 2011, none.)
Prunelard (a red grape nursed back to life by the Plageolles family in Gaillac. Although parent of Cot (aka Malbec or Pressac in Bordeaux) is is not a Bordeaux grape.

So out of these 7 varieties, only 3 have any history of being grown in Bordeaux which is peculiar and moreover, Marselan is also mentioned but this is a modern cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon so seems completely out of place in this list. We'd love to know what the other 6 are.

In fact the proportion of 'heritage varieties' is very small in the make-up of Liber Pater wines so far but we applaud the general ambition of M. Pasquet.

A different label for each wine

Where things get rather strange is in the pricing of his wines which are de-classified by the way. These are available for around $3,000 - $5,000 a bottle in some cases which makes it the most expensive wine in the world.

We have nothing against a producer charging what they will for their wines and tasting notes of Liber Pater wines are favourable. However, all these unusual elements in Liber Pater have ruffled some feathers and M. Pasquet has suffered the crminal destruction of 500 of his vines and various legal attacks from official quarters. He has successfully appealed against some of these and so lives to fight another day.

We wish him well even if would prefer at least one of his wines to be affordable and his heritage varieties to be more closely associated with Bordeaux if we really are to have a taste of what the wine was like BP.

Labels with quite a lot of busty substances to appeal to big spenders?

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