I’m Charles Carron Brown, the Head Sommelier of Henrock by Simon Rogan based in the Lake District, and I love Wine & Food. The world of wine is a truly remarkable place. Filled with discoveries, stories, history and of course, delicious goodness. Being a Sommelier gives me a very unique perspective on the world of wine, through the people that I meet to the wines that I get to taste, it’s an incredible way to live.

The idea of Biodynamic viticulture isn’t exactly new. It was a charismatic man called Rudolf Steiner (who some call the daddy of Biodynamics), where the entire vineyard has become an entire eco-system that has a more celestial meaning. Nicolas Joly of Coulée de Serrant (arguably one of the greatest biodynamic wines in the world) mentions in his fantastic book on the subject, ‘When you drink a real wine, when you are transported by particular tastes or aromas, it is really a far-off, ethereal world that you are admiring, one distant from earthly laws. Each biodynamic agricultural act respects and sustains this other reality, transforming it into a physical quality which thereby becomes perceptible to our senses.’ I can see where he is coming from with this, that incurable sense that we have something that we can tame, control, but still something that is wholly bigger than us humans, that reap the rewards of such an item is a joyous thing to behold.

This leads me onto one of my favourite biodynamic producers: Pierre Fenals of Maison en Belles Lies. His is an interesting story, mainly because it doesn’t involve generations of family beforehand, but actually starts with a book, written by our daddy of Biodynamics – Rudolf Steiner. The tale goes while wondering around at a Parisian “Puce” (market to the rest of us), he stumbled across a pile of books, on which sat on top, Steiners.

Pierre Fenals of Maison en Belles Lies
Pierre Fenals of Maison en Belles Lies

Pierre was originally a scientist, who (after a stint in the fashion industry) at past the ripe age of 50 in 2002 decided to return to his home turf in Burgundy and study viticulture. After learning from a couple of the greatest winemakers in France – Jean-Louis Trapet (Gevery Chambertin) & Marcel Lapierre (Morgon, Beaujolais), as well as a few local cooperatives (apparently to understand every aspect of the wine-making cycle). He eventually started his own Domaine in 2009 within a couple of regions of Burgundy that many didn’t consider prime vineyard locations; the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune & Maranges (totalling around 2.5 hectares).

He also rents some land in which he grows grapes too, and its these vines that I’m most interested in. He produces on average 30,000 bottles which are all bottled under the name of Maison en Belles Lies. Interesting to know that the name “Maison en Belles Lies” actually comes from a practice that 17th-century monks would carry out, which involved rubbing the inside of the barrels with lees of the previous vintage before leaving them in a cool cellar. He then scrapes them clean a few months later which he then fills with water. Right before the harvest he takes some hot marc (grape alcohol) and rubs down the inside of the barrels, which he then flames – this would also explain why he doesn’t believe in using SO2.

I enjoy his wines for their complexity, their character, and their fruit-driven nature. They have this undeniable charm to them that is rather unlike Burgundy. They are always screaming of the place of which they have been made, or “terroir” if you fancy. He is a full believer of using whole clusters and allowing his grapes to speak for him, and they do. With nearly all of this vines with the age of 50 plus years, you can expect to find wines of incredible depth and purity.

One other aspect of being a Sommelier is “food pairing”. That idea that one can enhance a given dish with some wine is something that is taught to every Sommelier when they start their career. I personally love using ingredients at their finest, and when they are in season. During lockdown, my partner and I have been experimenting with plenty of fresh produce available to us from local farms and shops here in the Lake District. It’s all been incredibly satisfying. One dish that I loved was a simple pasta dish, comprising of some delicious spinach, various herbs & cresses from “Our-Farm in Cartmel”, peas and a home-made pesto, all topped off with some grated cheese. If you can get your hands on a bottle of the Monthélie 2017 from Maison en Belles Lies, this would be a great pairing. I like to think of it as simplicity at its finest.
A couple of his wines that I enjoy especially are.

Monthélie 2017

This small parcel (0.4ha) of 50-year-old Chardonnay vines is situated within the commune of Monthélie. It is a small commune tucked away between Meursault, Volnay & Auxey-Duresses. There is a total of 119ha of vines in this village covering both village and 1er cru level. You’ll find nearly all of the 1% of Chardonnay grown here on the top of the hill where the slopes are steepest, which means the production of this wine is tiny. The wine spends around 14 months in 350 litre (4-year-old) barrels before being bottled. The wine is fresh, pure, mineral with plenty of orchard fruits, floral with a zestiness that accompanies the acidity perfectly. It has a mouthfeel that is full and flavoursome. This is a great find within Burgundy.

Available from
£24.82 ex VAT

Maranges 1er Cru, ‘Les Clos Roussots’, 2016

This comes from 60-year-old Pinot Noir vines grown in a 0.49ha plot. Whole bunches are used here, with the wine then being aged in 3 to 7-year-old barrels. This wine has subtly. It’s perfumed with seductive cherry characters, floral in nature with a freshness that carries itself on the palate. Maranges isn’t a part of Burgundy that one would typically go for, it’s a bit further south than most. It has around 140 hectares of vines with 100 of those entitled to 1er cru status. The AOC only came into being in 1989, and the wines are known for being robust and full of flavour and providing some exceptional value for money (within Burgundy that is).

Available from
£26.42 ex VAT

Words Charles Carron Brown
Illustration by Anaïs Mims

Every month Charles tells the story of one region, one producer and two wines plus one food pairing, all in the name of understanding that thing called ‘natural’ wine.

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