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TERTRE ROTEBOEUF- ONE OF THE BEST BORDEAUX WINES - AND THIS PROPERTY ISN'T EVEN CLASSIFIED!

By Izak Litwar

My very first meeting with Francois Mitjavile and Château Tertre Roteboeuf took place in May 1987, after I read wine-guru Robert Parker's superlatives about this small property in his "The Wine Advocate". Meeting with the articulate and eloquent Francois Mitjavile and his wine surpassed all my expectations. The things he explained about soil, grapes varieties and vinification, were so captivating to listen to, that four hours flew away at rocket speed. His wine was so eminent, that I fell in love with it at first sip!

This Grand Cru property, situated in commune St.Laurent-des-Combes, few kilometers south-east of the picturesque town Saint-Émilion, is a small vigneron house build in the 18th century. The name of this property can sound a little strange – it refers to the time many centuries ago, when vineyard and vines have not existed yet here. The hillside was used to feed the cattle then and the name "Roteboeuf" originates from that.

 

Francois Mitjavile took over Tertre Roteboeuf in 1978 from his father-in-low (Gilard family), and this vintage was the first one, he made entirely by himself. Before that, he worked 2 years at the famous Château Figeac, and afterwards spent several years at Tertre Roteboeuf, in order to learn as much as possible about wine.

His breakthrough on the wine scene was 1985-vintage. A new cult-wine was born, and since then the quality has improved all the time, so now Tertre Roteboeuf can easily compete with Premiers Grand Cru Classés in Saint-Émilion and the best 2. Crus Classés in Haut-Medoc, and even challenge First Growths.

 

TERTRE ROTEBOEUF

There are 5.7 ha of vines planted with 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Merlot-vines are on average 45 years old, while Cabernet Franc ones are 5 years older. The subsoil consists of four different kinds of clay, which are resting on the bed of lime-stones. This combination of subsoil which is typical for the majority of vineyard in Saint-Émilion "Côtes" (slopes), is described as "cold soil", because clay needs a long time to be warmed up, and lime-stones are always humid and cold. It means that grapes get the opportunity to get maximum advantage of the sun and reach perfect maturity very late.

In the really good vintages, you will often see in Tertre Roteboeuf's vineyard, that grapes are not really ripe in the skins (lacking phenolic ripeness). When skins are ripe, then grapes end containing sugar that corresponds to 14-15% alcohol, and "everybody" is happy.

This cold soil is just like created for Merlot, but not for Cabernet Sauvignon, which rather prefers the so-called "hot soil" (gravel and quartz pebbles, which reflect sun-heat at vines), who is present in Haut-Medoc and Graves.

 

Francois Mitjavile waits until very late with harvest – the grapes must be perfectly ripe, resulting in raisin-like lusciousness (Tertre Roteboeuf's trademark). He risks thereby, that his grapes will be destroyed, if the bad weather comes. Until now, the Gods of weather have been quite nice to him – several of Francois Mitjavile's vintages could easily have been labeled "vendange tardive".

This very late harvest combined with long alcoholic fermentation and extraction at 35°C, should result in powerful, sappy and well-structured wine with much fruit-sweetness and meatiness, where fruit and tannin make an extremely harmonious "mariage". Fermentation at 35°C is bounded with a great risk of whole thing turning to acetic acid, but Francois Mitjavile says, that "his" yeast cells easily can cope with so high fermentation temperature. Another thing, which is also characteristic for his wine-making, is the low yield per ha – max. 36 hl.

He will very much have personality and character of soil-conditions in his wine, even if this costs him maybe some complexity, but don't want to keep same style every vintage at any price. "Let us see, what soil and weather have cooked together this year, and get the best possible out of it. The miracle comes first of all from Mother Nature", he says.

In mid 90's, he was presented for a following statement from a taster: "Monsieur Mitjavile, in 1988 you made an elegant wine and in 1989 an opulent wine". The answer came immediately, "I am not responsible!".

Francois Mitjavile stands rock solid by his views. An oenologist's advice to filter the super-concentrated 1989, because it would leave a lot of deposit (so what?), was turned down immediately.

 

What's really the secret behind Tertre Roteboeuf's and Roc de Cambes' success? All the work Francois Mitjavile does, is extremely well thought out, it is his love to wine and intuition who drives him. In addition to it, he has a lot of courage and self-belief. Francois Mitjavile takes often risks, which other winemakers in Bordeaux do not dare. At the same time, he is incredibly self-confident and focused. This makes him a really complex winemaker, whose skills are close to genius-like. Francois Mitjavile does actually walk in the vineyard during the night, with his hands on his back and talking lovingly to the vines.

It is very obvious, that Tertre Roteboeuf and Roc de Cambes have Francois Mitjavile's personal "signature", because the style of both wines is different, compared to many wines in Bordeaux. This different style (raisin-like lusciousness and lots of perfectly ripe fruit) acts like ultra strong magnet on many wine-lovers, resulting in enormous demand.

Since 1994 vintage, he removed word "Château" from the label at both wines. He thought maybe, that this famous word sounded too pretentiously and did not fit in his way of working.

 

Today, he is acknowledged and respected by the majority of château-owners in Bordeaux (the big "guns" included), but this was absolutely not the case in the end of 80's. At that time, he was considered as an odd person with strange ideas. More winemakers of his kind and Bordeaux has absolutely nothing to fear.

I've visited Tertre Roteboeuf in 1987, 1988, 1990, 1993 and then every year since 1995. Every visit has been not only a great experience, but also a learning one. Not only because of his magnifique wines, but also by the fact that Francois Mitjavile is very cultivated person and knows immensely much about other things than wine, like for example culture and politics.

--- 

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History

Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf, is a St. Emilion Grand Cru property that is in the very top echelon of St-Emilion producers. Le Tertre Rôteboeuf is owned by François Mitjavile who also owns Château Roc de Cambes in the Côtes de Bourg. François produces just over 2,000 cases a year from his tiny 5.7-hectare vineyard, which is situated on a steep slope on the edge of a limestone plateau.

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Vineyards

There are 5.7 ha of vines planted with 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Merlot-vines are on average 45 years old, while Cabernet Franc ones are 5 years older. The subsoil consists of four different kinds of clay, which are resting on the bed of lime-stones. This combination of subsoil which is typical for the majority of vineyard in Saint-Émilion "Côtes" (slopes), is described as "cold soil", because clay needs a long time to be warmed up, and lime-stones are always humid and cold. It means that grapes get the opportunity to get maximum advantage of the sun and reach perfect maturity very late.

In the really good vintages, you will often see in Tertre Roteboeuf's vineyard, that grapes are not really ripe in the skins (lacking phenolic ripeness). When skins are ripe, then grapes end containing sugar that corresponds to 14-15% alcohol, and "everybody" is happy.

 

This cold soil is just like created for Merlot, but not for Cabernet Sauvignon, which rather prefers the so-called "hot soil" (gravel and quartz pebbles, which reflect sun-heat at vines), who is present in Haut-Medoc and Graves.

Francois Mitjavile waits until very late with harvest – the grapes must be perfectly ripe, resulting in raisin-like lusciousness (Tertre Roteboeuf's trademark). He risks thereby, that his grapes will be destroyed, if the bad weather comes. Until now, the Gods of weather have been quite nice to him – several of Francois Mitjavile's vintages could easily have been labeled "vendange tardive".

 

This very late harvest combined with long alcoholic fermentation and extraction at 35°C, should result in powerful, sappy and well-structured wine with much fruit-sweetness and meatiness, where fruit and tannin make an extremely harmonious "mariage". Fermentation at 35°C is bounded with a great risk of whole thing turning to acetic acid, but Francois Mitjavile says, that "his" yeast cells easily can cope with so high fermentation temperature. Another thing, which is also characteristic for his wine-making, is the low yield per ha – max. 36 hl.

 

He will very much have personality and character of soil-conditions in his wine, even if this costs him maybe some complexity, but don't want to keep same style every vintage at any price. "Let us see, what soil and weather have cooked together this year, and get the best possible out of it. The miracle comes first of all from Mother Nature", he says.

In mid 90's, he was presented for a following statement from a taster: "Monsieur Mitjavile, in 1988 you made an elegant wine and in 1989 an opulent wine". The answer came immediately, "I am not responsible!". Francois Mitjavile stands rock solid by his views. An oenologist's advice to filter the super-concentrated 1989, because it would leave a lot of deposit (so what?), was turned down immediately.

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Winemaking

The grapes (Merlot 80%, Cabernet Franc 20%) are harvested by hand and are fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks. Le Tertre Rôteboeuf is then aged in 100% new oak barrels for 18 months. Yields are kept very low and consequently this is one of the most concentrated wines to be found in Bordeaux.

Typically, Le Tertre Rôteboeuf is deeply coloured, richly aromatic on the nose and packed with blackcurrants, overripe cherries, liquorice, roasted caramel and vanilla notes on the palate. A hedonist's delight!

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Inside information

What's really the secret behind Tertre Roteboeuf's and Roc de Cambes' success? All the work Francois Mitjavile does, is extremely well thought out, it is his love to wine and intuition who drives him. In addition to it, he has a lot of courage and self-belief. Francois Mitjavile takes often risks, which other winemakers in Bordeaux do not dare. At the same time, he is incredibly self-confident and focused. This makes him a really complex winemaker, whose skills are close to genius-like. Francois Mitjavile does actually walk in the vineyard during the night, with his hands on his back and talking lovingly to the vines.

 

It is very obvious, that Tertre Roteboeuf and Roc de Cambes have Francois Mitjavile's personal "signature", because the style of both wines is different, compared to many wines in Bordeaux. This different style (raisin-like lusciousness and lots of perfectly ripe fruit) acts like ultra strong magnet on many wine-lovers, resulting in enormous demand.

 

Since 1994 vintage, he removed word "Château" from the label at both wines. He thought maybe, that this famous word sounded too pretentiously and did not fit in his way of working. Today, he is acknowledged and respected by the majority of château-owners in Bordeaux (the big "guns" included), but this was absolutely not the case in the end of 80's. At that time, he was considered as an odd person with strange ideas. More winemakers of his kind and Bordeaux has absolutely nothing to fear.

 

I've visited Tertre Roteboeuf in 1987, 1988, 1990, 1993 and then every year since 1995. Every visit has been not only a great experience, but also a learning one. Not only because of his magnifique wines, but also by the fact that Francois Mitjavile is very cultivated person and knows immensely much about other things than wine, like for example culture and politics.

Izak Litwar

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Wine Moments

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 Izak Litwar / The most important Scandinavian Bordeaux Critic, Pro (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  161 wines 

Bordeaux 2016 vintage!

7d 18h ago

 Andrew Caillard MW, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  126 wines 

Every now and again one stumbles across a paradox that confounds the accepted natural order of things. The 2016 Bordeaux vintage was born out of a growing season that was near-catastrophe and near-perfection. After the Hesperian Dragon’s relentless torment, the Titan God Atlas had seemingly kept the sky aloft with the help of a Phoenix. Following five months of diabolical weather patterns, a warm to hot dry summer arrived in the nick of time, not only saving a vintage, but creating one of the most spectacular vintages in a lifetime.


 The sense of relief in Bordeaux must have been as thrilling as avoiding the bullet of Russian Roulette, or the adrenalin of surviving a base-jump. The razor’s edge has never been so exquisitely fine. While the end result is not always perfect, with the odd abrasions here and there, the overall quality of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage is remarkably consistent with many Chateaux making some of their best wines in 50 years. Typically, the wines have deep colours, pure fruit aromatics, generous saturated flavours, dense rich tannin structures and bell clear acidities. Precision, freshness, elegance, smoothness and “delicate opulence” are words that are being used by various Chateaux to describe their wines.


 The Bordelais are, of course, the world’s greatest spin doctors. They leave snake charmers for dead when it comes to the art of mesmerising. The newly opened and impressive Cité du Vin, which sits on the banks of the Garonne River in Bordeaux, sparkles like a polished turd; a monument to the exaggerations and optimism of this particular type of fine wine game. Momentum is achieved through belief. There is no room for wavering or self-doubt.

10d 16h ago

 Christer Byklum / Leading Scandinavian wine blogger, Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  75 wines 

In 2016 Pauillac has made some excellent wines and on the top, Mouton has made something very special and might be wine of the vintage competing with Petrus. Lots of estate has made excellent wines from Pauillac this year. Saint-Estephe has also made stunning wines and Cos d'Estournel has made one of the greatest wines I have ever tasted from them. Northern Médoc is far better in 2016 than in 2015, but for me, 2016 on a whole delivers more. 2015 for me eas a bit hyped even if the wines were very good indeed. 2016 probably has the edge over 2011 as well that is seriously undervalued in the market, but will give many some surprises for the future.

12d 3h ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Pro (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  30 wines 

My TOP 30 wines of the Bordeaux 2016 vintage.

13d 23h ago

 Izak Litwar / The most important Scandinavian Bordeaux Critic, Pro (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  10 wines 

MY TOP 10 WINES OF THE 2016


1. Château Montrose 1990  100p


2. Château Latour 2000       100p


.....

3m 23d ago

 Izak Litwar / The most important Scandinavian Bordeaux Critic, Pro (Denmark)  tasted  27 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  44 wines 

Tertre Roteboeuf  1981-2015 / My very first meeting with Francois Mitjavile and Château Tertre Roteboeuf took place in May 1987, after I read wine-guru Robert Parker's superlatives about this small property in his "The Wine Advocate". Meeting with the articulate and eloquent Francois Mitjavile and his wine surpassed all my expectations. The things he explained about soil, grapes varieties and vinification, were so captivating to listen to, that four hours flew away at rocket speed. His wine was so eminent, that I fell in love with it at first sip!

4m 15d ago

 Chris May / Wine Dealer, Pro (Netherlands)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  33 wines 

“Some of the greates wines I have tasted during 2016.”

7m 23d ago

 Izak Litwar / The most important Scandinavian Bordeaux Critic, Pro (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  50 wines 

“Bordeaux 2015 Vintage Part I / I did have quite great expectations for 2015 vintage while tasting barrel samples in two first weeks in April 2016. Mainly because I witnessed during 10 days stay in Bordeaux (28.09 - 08.10), exceptional quality of grapes, their ripeness inside and outside, and very favourable weather in September and October, which promised so much. Expectations weren't fulfilled 100% unfortunately. Anyway, 2015 has nothing to be ashamed of!”

11m 6d ago

 Michael Scott / Wine Importer, Pro (Canada)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  45 wines 

“Bordeaux vintage 2000-tasting / 2000 was a very consistent vintage for Bordeaux, with most producers throughout the region making very successful red wines. The best of these are rich and ripe, yet very lively and fresh, with firm tannins that may need another decade or more to resolve. Others offer similar or even greater levels of ripeness, and perhaps even more richness of texture, but lacking perhaps the brightness of the finest examples of the vintage.”

11m 14d ago

 Christer Byklum / Leading Scandinavian wine blogger, Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  41 wines 

“Bordeaux 2015 Vintage TOP 40 / The wines on this list is chosen for their believed future score and and thereafter in the order that I would like to buy them to have them in my collection (if I had money dripping from my finger tips) but there are, luckily, some wines on this list that are not overly expensive. After five hundred and fifty plus wines tasted of the 2015 vintage more or less everything there is to taste of names have been tasted, some, when in doubt about the sample has been tried again if possible. The wines are very good if maybe not at the level som have suggested. It does not rival 2010, not 2005 either. 2000, 2001 and 2014 in parts seems to be somewhere to put it, and 1985 has come to mind several times over with the pure fresh elegance and charm.

The wines are far more precise and concentrated than 1985 ever was, but the style seems similar. These are wine that will be very easy to enjoy with high quality and on a whole, the best vintage since 2010, especially on the Right Bank. Some excellent and superb wines in Pomerol, and a more fine grained and fine tuned and fresher, more brilliant style of Saint-Emilion. Left bank is more varied, Margaux and Saint-Julien the most homogenous. There are many great wines just off this list, these are the ones I expect to land at 95 score or higher. None at one hundred this time around. The wine are fragrant, red fruity, many has used everything they had of Cabernet Franc, so a violets note is quite typical, especially on the Right Bank.

1y 21d ago

 Christer Byklum / Leading Scandinavian wine blogger, Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Tertre Roteboeuf . In a tasting of  36 wines 

“2013 Château Cheval Blanc /Ruby. Shut nose, dark berries, vanilla, floral and scented nose, spices, maybe a faint hint of the exoticness typical of Cheval. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, lively, fresh and nuanced, leaner, elegant and refreshing, long. 92-94 points”

1y 5m ago

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