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Henri Bonneau
When legendary winemaker Henri Bonneau died in 2016, the French wine world went into mourning. A man of such viticultural talents that the future of Chateauneuf du Pape seemed uncertain. Funny, mischievous and really quite naughty, he was considered as Chateauneuf's poster boy; tender and oh so Provencal, his modernity hid his encyclopaedic knowledge of wine, cellar work and vines.
Learning the old-fashioned way
Such was the legacy that was left to Marcel Bonneau, Henri’s son and the 13th generation of Bonneaus. Having worked alongside his father for some time, Marcel was used to his father’s seemingly arbitrary approach to winemaking. Skills were passed down from generation to generation and learnt the old fashioned way - i.e. by toiling the land and not in a classroom. Vinification was kept as traditional as possible - grapes were rarely destemmed prior to blending, then fermentation in cement vats that honestly look like they had seen better days. Then came the barrels for ageing: a far cry from the steel vats or new oak barrels of his competitors, many of Bonneau’s barrels pre-date Henri (who was 73 when he died). His cellars were the stuff of wine journalists’ nightmares: a network of tiny rooms, some tracing back to Roman times, they were notorious for their dinginess and the impressive array of fungi that bloomed on the walls. "No micro-oxygenation, no tricks," he is reputed as saying during an interview. "Besides, I need time to go fishing."
Réserve des Célestins is on the up!
Still, as the French say; “c’est dans les vieilles casseroles qu’on fait les meilleures soupes” and Henri Bonneau’s wines are considered some of the best in the Rhone valley. The wines are among some of the most expensive on the market from the area. The week of Bonneau’s death, markets were selling a magnum of Réserve des Célestins 2007 (95/100 on aggregate scoring) for €1,160 and despite a minor drop in 2018, the wine has more or less retained its value and remains well above the benchmark cost for a wine from the southern Rhone Valley. Fabulously long ageing times contribute to the desirability of the Réserve des Célestin, Bonneau’s final vintage - the 2012 - is already selling at €300 (Q2, 2019) per bottle, despite only getting 92/100 on aggregate scoring. French wine investors, take note.
Notable facts and vintages
  • In September 2018 a three-bottle lot of 1978 Henri Bonneau Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée des Célestins fetched approximately €11,304 (US$13,145) at Chicago auction house Hart Davis Hart’s massive, record-breaking sale which featured some of the world’s finest wines.
  • Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Special, produced only in exceptional vintages (1990 and 1998) continues to spark interest and prices on the whole are up year on year, averaging €1,126 per bottle in Q2 2019.
  • With average prices increasing year on year, Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Marie Beurrier is among the highest-priced wines of the region; the 2003 vintage was given 95 points by Wine Spectator and its prices are up +37% over the past two years, commanding an average of €259 per bottle in May 2019.