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Poesia is the story of several meetings.

First of all, the meeting of two people: Hélène Garcin, a woman of passion, and Patrice Levêque, a meticulous winegrower for whom the vine is a being in its own right. Their vision of working the vine and their ardent fascination for exceptional terroirs gave birth to a life project, which took form in the type of marriage where one partner feeds on the passion of the other.

Then came the meeting between the couple and the terroirs. A complex, inexpressible notion, which creates a dialogue in spite of everything, from the first moment, from the first stride across the land. Terroirs of the sort that present themselves to man as being self-evident.

Poesia is the story of what happens when they are given their chance. The chance to create something exceptional, with the greatest respect.
"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children"

A. De Saint-Exupéry.
Perched high on the limestone plateau of Saint-Émilion and swept by the wind, the Merlot vine, an age-old inhabitant here, finds the ideal conditions in this fresh soil to express its exemplary aromatic complexity.

A unique symphony of elements, where the clay and limestone base work together to offer the vine the assurance of having a perfect water supply whatever the conditions, and where the wind gently dries the leaves and berries, humidified by the exceptional climate of the region.

An arrangement between the elements that offers the vine a clean fight, an opportunity to transcend itself and thus offer the sort of fruit, rich and concentrated, whose expression bears the mark of the great wines of the limestone plateau of Saint-Émilion.
Far from decorum and worldliness, a sincere wine that speaks of the soul of the vintage and not of its reflection. In Poesia, only the truth of the terroir makes its mark: The mark of the great wines of Saint-Émilion.
A.O.C. Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
POESIA 35 000 bottles
Surface of production 8,865 ha
Soil Clay
Subsoil Limestone, Plateau of Saint-Emilion
Grape varieties 70% Merlot - 30% Cabernet Franc
Soil culture Sustainable, Biological control, Certified High Environmental Value 3
Harvest Hand picked
Fermenting vats 40 -120 hl concrete and stainless steel tanks
Barrels & Ageing New french oak barrels, 18-24 months
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Bols Blue to Bordeaux: Poesia

Many moons ago, around 1999 if I have my dates correct, I was invited to an impromptu lunch at the much-missed Hanover Bar & Grill, a rather dingy basement steakhouse that boasted decent Antipodean wines, a boisterous atmosphere and models from the Vogue head office opposite, picking at their salad. This was back in the day of long liquid lunches, when workers staggered back to their Mayfair offices and snoozed away the afternoon. A Bordeaux merchant introduced me to a young Hélène Garçin-Cathiard, then riding the crest of a wave after her 1998 Clos l’Église received a score that got her telephone ringing 24/7. Not wishing to tar all my friends in Bordeaux with the same brush, but she was different. She brimmed with joie-de-vivre, you felt that you could invite her out clubbing and she’d drink you under the table. She was a breath of fresh air and became one of the first Bordeaux proprietors I got to know well. Since then, she has hardly changed, indefatigable, feisty and funny with enough energy to solve the current fuel crisis, energy that she expends onto her properties, giving them a sense of momentum.

I visited her Saint-Émilion estate, Château Barde-Haut, last June, to conduct a comprehensive tasting of her properties together with her husband Patrice Lévêque. For this tasting we focused upon Barde-Haut, Clos l’Église and Poesia. Readers should note that their fourth property in Castillon, Château d’Arce, is well worth seeking out. Just to spice things up, the vintages were not revealed until after the tasting. 

“My first vintage was 1997,” Garçin-Lévêque tells me before broaching the first bottle. “I arrived in Bordeaux the previous year. Before that, I was at school and then I went to work in Canada. I was selling Bols Blue in clubs. I had a lot of fun. My family bought Clos l’Église at the end of 1996 and oversaw the élevage of that vintage, though we had to transfer the barrels to Haut-Bergey as we had to completely overhaul the cellar. So, the 1997 Clos l’Église was the first vintage that we made at the château.”

Hélène and Patrice Garçin-Lévêque. Notice the rare sight of a Bordeaux winemaker in work overalls instead of tailored suit.

I asked how she met her husband and became Garçin-Lévêque? Her better half is really a Burgundian at heart, one of the few winemakers you can guarantee will be upon his tractor whatever time you visit. Most Bordeaux proprietors would not know how to turn the tractor ignition on, let alone manoeuvre it through the vines for hours on end. Personality-wise they are yin and yang, her husband more laconic, a pensive winemaker who is constantly questioning his approach. Garçin-Lévêque answered my question in a typically candid fashion: “Patrice came to visit Château Haut-Bergey in 1996, and I told him ‘you need to take me out’ because his mother wanted to buy some land from us next to Chantegrive.”

Over the years, I have had many discussions with the couple about the use of consultants. In the past, they appointed Michel Rolland to assist from 1998 to 2001, Dr. Alain Reynaud until 2014 and then Thomas Duclos. But that has changed. “There are no consultants now, just Patrice,” she tells me. “It was very interesting to work with consultants, giving advice and informing what is going on around us, though they did not make final decisions. Now, we exchange ideas with many different people, but we have a clear vision of what we want to do at all our properties.

The most recent acquisition is Poesia, the same name as their Argentinean wine (Bodegas Poesia). The vineyard comprises of 8.87 hectares located on the border with Castillon. Unlike Barde-Haut, this is a very exposed vineyard, one of the highest points within the appellation, around 85m to 89m in altitude, only slightly less than Troplong-Mondot. As we tour the vineyard, Garçin-Lévêque points through a copse of trees where you can spy on the Mitjavile family’s adjacent Château l’Aurage. She tells me how hard she had to fight to secure this vineyard, then known as Château Haut Villet, and it is easy to see why. Firstly, you notice the outcrops of exposed limestone poking through here and there. This is prime terroir with a thin layer of soil, around 40-120cm deep. It feels exposed to the elements.

Whereas Barde-Haut is tucked away in its amphitheatre, Poesia occupies one of the highest points of the appellation. It presently comprises of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, and the vineyard husbandry is the same as Barde-Haut. At the time of my visit, reconstruction work was ongoing, including a new winery. The smell of cement hung in the air, though that would be gone when it received its maiden 2021 vintage. Poesia is matured in 40hL to 120hL concrete and stainless-steel tanks and then matured in around 60% new oak barrel, mainly from the Sylvain cooperage, for between 18 and 24 months.

This photograph shows limestone breaking through the surface at Poesia.

This is a Saint-Émilion with huge potential, and, in my opinion, it is Saint-Émilion’s hidden gem. Having toured many vineyards in this area, it is obvious why from the perspective of terroir, securing this prime piece of land when it came up for sale was not straightforward. Let’s just say that some big names were circling and the Cathiards had to fight hard to secure it. This was the first time that I had undertaken a vertical of Poesia and I came away with a higher estimation of what it can achieve. At a time when many winemakers’ main challenge is to capture acidity, vineyards like Poesia that might have once struggled to achieve phenolic ripeness now have an advantage. Of the three wines, this was the revelation. Watch this space!

When this tripartite tasting was complete, we gossiped for a while as customary and recalled our first meeting back at the Hanover Bar & Grill over two decades ago. I do not think either of us have changed much in all that time, though maybe our days of drinking Bols Blue are behind us.