Henri Bonneau, a highly acclaimed French winemaker, has died at the age of 77.
Bonneau, a 12th generation vintner known for producing stellar bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the region of the same name, used traditional methods that date back to the 1600s.
Operating on only 15 acres, Bonneau did not keep track of his yields and preferred to harvest his grapes as late in the summer as possible, for the greatest complexity of taste. He also had little need for modern winemaking equipment, preferring only to age wine in a barrel and let the wood do all the work.
Then, Bonneau would bottle three wines when he felt the time was just right: The traditional Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the evelated Cuvée Marie Beurrier, and his flagship wine, Réserve des Celestins, described by one admirer as “massive and powerful.”
Unlike other producers who typically bottled their wines after two years or so of aging, Bonneau would wait up to six years before bottling, making for exceptional wines every time.
Twice in his life, in 1990 and 1998, Bonneau accidentally produced a fourth wine from barrels that were meant to become Celestins, but did not fully ferment. These barrels became Cuvée Spéciale, a rare port-like wine whose flavor will continue to develop over time.