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ROCHEYRON 2023

“If 2023 were an actor, it would be Kenneth Branagh – a modern interpretation of a classic.”
Peter Sisseck, responding to our “rather odd question”, April 2024

Peter Sisseck

Rocheyron is a cool site. So cool, in fact, that its vines escaped the infamous 1956 frost, which decimated much of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. The sap had still not started moving in Rocheyron’s vines, which remained in their dormant, protected phase.

Nearly 70 years later, Rocheyron’s cool terroir is again proving a boon in the age of climate change. You can see how its ability to retain freshness and its enviable location on the edge of Saint-Émilion’s famous limestone plateau, appeal to Peter Sisseck.

Bordeaux was where Peter’s winemaking career began, before he moved to Spain and founded Dominio de Pingus. His return to take on Rocheyron in the 2010 vintage was therefore a completing of the circle.

Rocheyron was the surname of the family who owned the estate in the seventeenth century. The cellar and vineyard team is managed by Régisseur Mathieu Raveraud, who has worked alongside Peter here since the estate was acquired in 2011 and in his quiet, assured way, has been a key ingredient in the success of Rocheyron.

The estate has been certified organic since the 2020 vintage and continues in biodynamic conversion, having started the process in 2014. This is a château that has found its path – the past few vintages have produced beautiful wines which hit the sweet spot between aroma and density, with that underpinning limestone tension.

I spoke to Peter at Rocheyron in April – have a watch of the short video below…

GUY SEDDON
HEAD OF FINE WINE BUYING
May 2024

THE VINEYARD

vineyards

The 7.4 hectare vineyard comprises two main plots. The larger of these, covering around three quarters of the total area, is home to the younger Merlot vines, which are planted on hard limestone soils. The other, a plot called La Boutisse, is on more fractured limestone and is planted with 80+ year old Cabernet Franc and Merlot, bringing up the average vine age to over 45 years.

Three passes through the vineyard are made to harvest young Merlot, old Merlot and finally Cabernet Franc, which are all then vinified separately. Yields tend to be around 25-35hl/ha. 2023 came in at the top end of this range, at 35hl/ha.

As at Pingus, organic and biodynamic practices are central to the approach. Organic certification was obtained in 2020 and the estate has been a member of Biodyvin since 2014 and currently in biodynamic conversion . Peter is not an advocate of green harvesting, saying he would rather encourage a natural balance in his vines (which was found in 2023 ‘thanks’ to the mildew).

He has encouraged biodiversity, planting bushes and shrubs at the borders of the vineyards. In his words, “I think there is a lot that can be done in Bordeaux to improve the environment.”

THE CELLAR

Peter’s aim is to produce a classic, terroir-focused style of Saint-Émilion.

The manageable size of the estate, with its modern, functional cellar, allows for vinification by parcel and vine age. Fermentation takes place at a moderate 22°C, so as not to extract too much from Rocheyron’s very concentrated grapes. As Peter diplomatically puts it, “excess concentration is not really the way forward.”

His comments on alcohol are also interesting – the higher the alcohol, the greater the extraction, which needs to be borne in mind, especially with Bordeaux’s increasingly warm summers. It is also interesting that Peter claims the effect of climate change on his corner of Bordeaux has, so far, been beneficial.

Following 28 days in concrete vats, the 2023 is now being aged in a third new oak, with the remainder split between one-year-old and two-year-old barrels, plus a large foudre, which accounts for 15% of the volume. Although this is down from 50% in 2020, Peter has said he values the influence of oak in Rocheyron (in contrast to his approach at Pingus). The wine will remain in barrel for around 18 months and will be bottled without filtration.

the cellar

INTERVIEW WITH PETER SISSECK

Watch Peter Sisseck speaking to Guy Seddon at Château Rocheyron in April 2024

THE 2023 VINTAGE, IN THE WORDS OF PETER SISSECK

“The weather resulted in a natural selection – it helped us to achieve very good concentration and pushed us to harvest quite early.”
Peter Sisseck, April 2024

vintage

The mild winter, early budbreak and even flowering led to a very big crop that set off a few alarms. How could we drop fruit without stressing the vines too much? By June, rain set in – nature’s own crop-limiting effect.

But then, help… mildew!! We lost around 35 % of the Merlot, but the Cabernet [Franc] escaped. This proved to be a help in disguise. If we had avoided the mildew, the Merlot crop would have been too big, leading to certain dilution in the wines.

We were able to start the harvest very early – in fact, we had to, as sugars were rising fast – on 10th September. This is a more usual start date for nearby Pomerol, who normally harvest 10 days earlier than us.

Because of the concentration of the low yielding Merlot and the relatively high potential alcohol, extreme care had to be taken to avoid too much extraction. A low fermentation temperature (around 22°C) and 30% of normal pump-overs were used.

The 2023 vintage, although extreme, enjoyed particularly favourable conditions at the key stages in the vine growing cycle and the ripening process. Our clay-limestone terroirs are outstanding for Merlot. Fruity but without even a hint of over-ripeness, smooth yet well balanced, this grape is irresistibly sophisticated and charming. The Cabernet Franc was very successful, with radiant aromas that add another dimension to the blend, and a characteristic texture that contributes to our wines' freshness and balance.

THE WINE

    Rocheyron wine

    CHÂTEAU ROCHEYRON 2023

    Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

    Peter Sisseck’s Rocheyron is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc in 2023. Open, inviting aromas of violets, cedary spices, raspberry and blackberry. The palate is richer than the nose suggests, offering dark, saturated berry fruit of velvety texture, framed by supple, detailed tannins. The finish is long and focused, with lingering notes of plum, cocoa and rhubarb. The yield was 35hl/ha. Following fermentation at cool temperatures of around 22°C, the wine spent between 25 and 28 days in concrete vats, before being transferred to oak barrels where it will undergo 12 months of élevage in a third new oak barrels. The equivalent of 20,000 bottles has been produced.

    Corney & Barrow Score 18+

    Recommended drinking from 2029 - 2040+

    £415/CASE OF 6 Bottles
    £145/CASE OF 1 Magnum
    £315/CASE OF 1 Double Magnum
    £605/CASE OF 1 Imperial

    All prices are quoted in bond UK

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