July 07: You might expect a Vin de France for as low as €2 (Rs.150) but a bottle of Liber Pater 2015 in that classification will set you back by €30,000 (over Rs. 2.3 million) and only 550 bottles of this pure Bordeaux wine from ungrafted vines with indigenous grapes used in 1855 made in Italian amphoras will be available in September from its owner Loic Pasquet who was a special guest at the delWine Excellence Awards organised by the Indian Wine Academy and delWine at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity on April 21 this year
Loic Pasquet is not your ordinary winemaker next door. Starting with his first vintage 2006 only in 2011 and selling it at €1000, he has announced that his 2015 vintage made entirely from Tarney Coulaunt, Castet, Saint Macaire and Pardotte is priced at €30,000-making it the most expensive wine in the world. But only 550 bottles are awaiting new labels for release in September though booking has been open for the last 6 months for members on the mailing list and many customers have reserved these wines.
Forget about the Top Growths of 1855 Classification of Bordeaux, no one had even heard about Loic Pasquet in or outside Bordeaux 15 years agowhen this Mechanical and Chemical Engineer working with Peugeot founded Liber Pater in Graves, a sub-region of Bordeaux. He had no formal wine education but this childhood appassionato bought an 8 hA of abandoned vineyard land in a small area which had escaped phylloxera in the late 19th century.
In 2010, he started growing pre-phylloxera grape varieties like Tarney Coulaunt, Castet, Saint Macaire and Pardotte because of the soil and position, making it possible for him to produce wines from grapes grown on their own and not American rootstocks. In the meanwhile he was producing wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot- half with the American rootstock and the balance with ungrafted wines.
He has announced that the 2015 vintage is being made entirely from the indigenous grapes in 1855 and with totally ungrafted vines, a rarity not seen before since phylloxera. Only 550 bottles have been produced but 240 will be offered for sale at the astronomical price of €30,000 EACH. And there are enough takers. Claudio Martins is the Global Wizard at Liber Pater. His role is global Sales, Marketing and Communications. He says about 80-100 bottles have been already reserved by buyers, including those in India.
India?!! When I coaxed him for more information, he indicated that 6-12 bottles are expected to be sold to Indians. These wines are under allocation with each of the 18 export markets, getting 6-12 bottles each. When I quizzed Loic about India also buying such unique but uber expensive wines, he said, the price was not set by him but the market forces. He was not sure about Indians buying the 2015 so far because he sells not only directly but also through Négociants so he does not know all his customers.
He sells about a third of his wines through ‘La Place de Bordeaux’ (a group of hundreds of Négociants of Bordeaux that make the market). He is also quite philosophical about the attitude of the fellow Bordeaux top producers towards him and his pre-phylloxera wines and laughs as he says,’10 years ago, they laughed at me; four years ago they wanted to kill me, and now they like to copy me. But I enjoy good relations with many châteaux now." When I ask him how the top producers of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Petrus and DRC have reacted to his new wine, he says, ‘I don’t know Petrus people but DRC has acknowledged that it is a pure wine.’
So what is he going to do with the rest of the 310 bottles if he sells 240 this year? ‘I don’t know,’ he replies.‘2015 was the year of birth of my daughter. These will be left for future for her. We will sell dually during the next 50 years,’ he says of the wines he stores in a special cellar (one hopes he has a well-locked cellar), skirting the issue of price in the future years. Skipping the 2017, he also plans to release 2018 vintage resting in the cellar.
His annual production is limited to 200 cases but 1,000-1,200 bottles in normal years. ‘I want to make the best wine in the world and unless I am sure, I do not release the vintage and simply let the fruit on the ground,’ he says. He did not make 08, 12, 13, 14,16 and 17 vintages after he released the maiden 2006 vintage in 2011.
No oak, no Parker
Loic Pasquet does not use oak at all to age and dislikes it as much as Robert Parker. He says it may get 100 points from Robert Parker but destroys the wine. ‘Parker has been a big mistake for Bordeaux wines. French had been making wine according to French culture-elegant, mineral and with beautiful acidity. He advocated full bodied, powerful wines with a lot of oak. His palate was based on the American culture that went with over-mature, high sugar over ripe grapes making fat wines. What did he know of the French culture, cuisine and our wines? The problem is the owners in Bordeaux changed the flavour for good score. It is good to see them changing back to elegance now,’ he says with disdain.
Loic started by pricing the wine at €1000 in the very first year. Every vintage saw a price increase; today the price is over €3,000-4,000; the cellar door price lists all the top label wines including white wine at an astronomical €6,000 each.
What is the ageing potential of these wines, I wonder. ‘Oh, easily 200 years’, he replies. So where are the pre-phylloxera wines 120 years after the disease that killed practically all the Vitis vinifera vines in the late 1800’s, including India. ‘You can still find some wines from that period. They are rare and very expensive but still pure in taste,’ he says.
He considers his wines and those in the pre-phylloxera era as a work of art- éphémère art. ‘People want to taste pure Bordeaux wines, not the wines destroyed by oak.’ He makes his wines in Italian amphoras and never uses oak.
Loic travels a lot with Claudio to meet his top buyers and expand the customer base. In fact, on my invitation he came to India this year to be the Special Guest of Honour at the delWine Excellence Awards 2019 at Hotel Pullman New Delhi Aerocity where he also presented a bottle of Liber Pater 2011 to the Hotel General Manager, Tristan de Lomenie for his outstanding contribution to wine promotion at the hotel since it opened in November 2015.
Although Castet has been recently approved as a grape varietal to be used in Bordeaux wines, other two are still not and he is obliged to label his wines as the most general and lowest appellation according to the French system- Vin de France. But the appellation does not limit the price on the bottle-in this case €30,000 a bottle.
For an earlier interview with Loic Pasquet and a few other Articles, please click
Star Interview: Loic Pasquet of Liber Pater Bordeaux
As pure as it gets: Liber Pater of Bordeaux is a glass apart
Creator of Bordeaux wine among star attractions at delWine Summit 2019
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