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Winemaker Spotlight: Athénaïs Béru

Winemaker Spotlight: Athénaïs Béru

Athénaïs has been making the wines at Château de Béru since 2004. She has taken the domaine to a new heights with the implementation of organic and biodynamic farming. The wines see a long ageing (18-36 months) with low or zero sulphur additions resulting in deeply concentrated, crystalline wines with great terroir expression. 

The vineyards have been farmed organically since Athénaïs took over and biodynamic conversion started in 2010, the domaine is now certified for both. Low or zero sulphur additions mean the terroir can really shine - but Athénaïs does not follow a recipe and is disdainful of the dogma often attached to natural winemaking. If a wine needs a little sulphur she will add it, though she has found that since adopting biodynamic viticulture her wines are much more stable. Hers is a philosophy we admire and respect. 

She says that biodynamics completely changes your vision in the winery as it completely changes the wines. Year on year the grapes gain greater balance and complexity and the raw material has more energy, more balance and more potential.

The village of Béru is located 400 metres above sea level and the vines encircling this hill benefit from exceptional sunshine, especially the Clos Béru vineyard, (which dates back to the 12th century) located on the southern slope. The grapes are ripe, from low yields and produce ample, dense, complex wines with a bright spine of acidity (reflecting their high altitude site), a far cry from a number of insipid, bland and one-dimensional wines often made in Chablis. Chablis is not a standardised product and there is not one standard style of Chablis – the area is deeply complex and varied and discovering its myriad terroirs and wine styles is ever fascinating and truly exciting. Athénaïs is emphatic on this point and we couldn’t agree more. Chablis has the potential to make some of the most nuanced, thrilling and age-worthy wines on the planet. The terroir here is so unique and distinct and offers the world’s clearest defense of terroir; Chablis is Chardonnay in pure form.

What makes the terroir in Chablis so special is the Kimmeridgian limestone soils,  formed 150 million years ago and composed of limestone that has been deposited on an ancient seabed, interweaved with layers of fossil-rich marl, in part responsible for the unique expression of Chardonnay found here. 

At Château de Béru, as it’s so high compared to the rest of Chablis, the soils are very rocky and the Kimmeridgian limestone is very close to the surface creating very mineral, direct and focussed wines, full of tension.

Most of the domaine’s holdings are situated around the Château in the village of Béru though there is also a 1er cru Vaucoupin. 

There is also a range of excellent négoce wines under the label Athénaïs, made from bought in fruit from great sources and often friends of Athénaïs - all of whom work with organic viticulture. Like the rest of the range they see a wild yeast fermentation with no fining or filtration.

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