Sherwin Lao | Nov 18, 2014
I got another exclusive interview courtesy of Wine Story, this time with one of Bordeaux’s most famous characters during the 1990s explosion of the “garagiste’’ wines. The term “garagiste’’ created by French writer Michel Bettane refers to winemakers laboriously and primitively making “low-crop’’ wines in a garage (or garage-like size area) due primarily to lack of funding and big winemaking facilities. In this decade, also due to the influential high ratings of Robert Parker, these “garagiste’’ wines were trendsetters in Bordeaux and leading the pack were Chateau Valandraud, La Mondotte, La Gomerie, Quinault L’Enclos (now under the Lurton group of Chateau Cheval Blanc), Le Dome, Le Asteries, and Le Carre—all from Saint-Emilion (Bordeaux right bank). The latter three wines are from Chateau Teyssier, owned by Jonathan Maltus, the person I would chat and drink wines with.
Jonathan Maltus is a very “worldly’’ man in its true sense. Jonathan is an Englishman born in Nigeria and makes wines in three continents covering Bordeaux, Napa and at one time in Barossa. An engineer by profession and a business owner who once control companies employing over 500 people, Jonathan’s entry into the wine industry was more of an accident than a plan. Because of sweet persuasion from his wife, who was then concerned with the frequent traveling of her husband, Jonathan Maltus decided to sell his successful gas business in the early 1990s. The couple then went to France looking for a home to start their family. A chance meeting with a “vigneron’’ (as differentiated from winemaker; a vigneron refers to the person tendering the vineyards and a humbler title for a winemaker who acknowledges terroir contribution over winemaking skill in making wines; I wrote about this in several previous columns—author’s note) in an event in Cahors, Southwestern France led Jonathan to the wine business through the backdoor. He was offered a job by a Cahors vigneron, a fellow Englishman and in around three years, Jonathan learned winemaking, producing wines in the Cahors AOC made from Malbec. By this time, Jonathan already caught the wine bug, but being a businessman, he knows that Cahors is not the ideal region to sustain a wine business. So the Maltus couple decided to go west towards Bordeaux and was able to find and purchase Chateau Teyssier in Saint-Emilion in 1994. Chateau Teyssier was then a neglected 5-hectare estate, but the new owners immediately made investment to modernize the winery. This would be the first of several parcel acquisitions that led the Maltus couple reach their present 52 hectare size and still growing (as I found out during the interview).
Author: Of all places in Bordeaux, why did you choose Saint-Emilion to start your wine business? Why not Medoc for example?
J. Maltus: “In Medoc if you want to buy, the parcels are actually quite big ranging from 70 to 100 hectares, so you have to have a lot of money to buy in this region, and it is simply too big of an investment. The advantage in Saint-Emilion is that at that time (of my purchase), Saint Emilion pracels are much smaller between 3 to 5 hectares and therefore this is something I can afford. And Saint-Emilion is a major appellation too.”
Author: We know that the Grand Cru title in the context of Medoc means so much, but in Saint-Emilion where there are hundreds of Grand Cru, it means less. Doesn’t it bother you that your wines are not at the Grand Cru Classe level at the very least?
J. Maltus: “I actually never applied my wines to be upgraded to Grand Cru Classe level. I do know that my wines could easily make the Cru Classe or even Premier Cru Classe grade, the problem is there is one rule that says that the wine to be submitted should represent 50 percent or more of the winery it is representing. At Chateau Teyssier we make all our wines in the same winery. At Teyssier, we make around 30,000 cases of wines of which my Le Dome is only 1,000 cases. I am also not convinced perfectly that the Cru Classe level helps in the prices of the wines. However where it has an advantage is that it changes the value of the property. So for example if I want to sell my property to a rich gentleman in China, then it will be worth more.”
Author: You used to make wines in Barossa, Australia. What happened to that business?
J.Maltus: We sold the business already during 2009. We started in 2002 and made two wines, which Parker rated 98 and 95 points. Then we started making other wines, but like all high-end Australian wines, we are dependent on Parker ratings and the US market. When the financial crisis of 2008 happened, all the premium Barossa wines were affected. So by early 2009, we have to make a business decision, so we sold the company. The U.S. market was 75 percent of our entire Barossa wine business.” (Note: The Australian brand is called The Colonial Estate, and the wines were never sold to Asia)
Author: Why did you name your Napa winery World’s End? Is this not a bit morbid? I also noticed the peculiar wine names? Good Times, Bad Times? If Six Was Nine?
J. Maltus: “It is not too morbid. When I met my wife I was living in Chelsea London, and in the middle of King’s Road there is an area called World’s End, so that is where the name came from. And the wine names are actually from songs during my youth, like Good Times, Bad Times is a Led Zeppelin song, and If Six Was Nine is a Jimi Hendrix song, as well as all my World’s End wine names are named after my favorite songs.”
Author: Since you are still winemaker by heart and profession, what is your dream wine to make?
J. Maltus: The only wine that I probably do not make at the moment that I like is Riesling. Though, I actually make some Riesling from the Sonoma, which I use to blend with my World’s End Chardonnay under the Rebel, Rebel label. I used only 15 percent Riesling so I can still call my wine a Chardonnay.” (Note: Californian Wine Label rule states that 75 percent of a single varietal can be labeled as that single varietal)
My Customary Tasting Notes
• Chateau Teyssier 2008 St-Emilion Grand Cru: 85 percent Merlot and 15 percent Cabernet Franc; Jonathan Maltus mentioned that this is the largest Saint-Emilion brand sold, with annual volume of around 15,000 cases; “more subtle nose, red berries, cigar box, soft on the palate, well-balanced, with nice flinty finish’’
• Le Carre 2006 St.-Emilion Grand Cru: 80 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Franc from a single vineyard; only 300 cases made; “black currant, peppercorn, supple texture, excellent mouth feel, long and peppery on the finish’’
• Les Asteries 2007 St.-Emilion Grand Cru: 70 percent Merlot and 30 percent Cabernet Franc from a single vineyard; only 300 cases made; “mocha nose, racy berries, cassis, weighty on the palate, minerally and a bold round finish’’
• Le Dome 2007 St.-Emilion Grand Cru: 73 percent Cabernet Franc and 27 percent Merlot; Jonathan Maltus mentioned that 2007 was a turning point vintage wherein they moved from 100 percent oak treatment to 80 percent and since then all Le Dome will be following this same 80 percent oak ratio; “a fruit bomb, with all the intensity of black fruits, cedar and tobacco leaves, full bodied with bitter sweet tannins and a luscious long finish’’
• World’s End If Six was Nine Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Napa: With 10 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc; “signature Napa Cabernet nose of fruit opulence, ripe berries, anise, big and bold, firm tannins, yet a lovely surprisingly dry finish’’
• World’s End Against the Wind Cabernet Franc 2009 Napa: With 12 percent Merlot and 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon; named after a Bob Seger song; `raspberry nose, brambles, rich and seductively fragrant, tannins still quite noticeable, but with lingering raisin like finish’
• World’s End Crossfire Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Napa: 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from a single vineyard; named after a Steve Ray Vaughn song; 500 cases made; `a huge fruit bomb, dusty, peppery, mocha, juicy tannins bursting with berry flavors, and a sweet delectable finish’
• World’s End Good Times, Bad Times Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Napa: 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from a single vineyard; 350 cases made; `brambles, prunes, dark chocolate, relentless nose, full bodied and quite viscous, bitter sweet tannins, luscious from first sip all the way to its long jammy finish’
Jonathan Maltus has done an amazing job from being a pioneering “garagiste” to now a major mainstream Saint-Emilion player. His Napa project is starting to look quite like his earlier Chateau Teyssier days of starting small, but moving up fast quickly. There is definitely more to come from Jonathan Maltus that all oenophiles should look forward to in the years to come…. a top new world dry Riesling perhaps to compete with the Germans? With may be a song title wine label I can identify and recognize too?
Chateau Teyssier and World’s End wines are available in all Wine Story stores: Shangri-La Mall in Edsa Mandaluyong, Serendra in the Fort, Taguig City, and One Rockwell West Tower in Makati. You can also visit their website at www.winestory.com.ph.
For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am a proud member of the Federation Internationale des Journalists et Ecrivains du Vin et des Spiritueux or FIJEV since 2010. You can also follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/sherwinlao.