It is being called the find of this century! At least in the beer world. One wag on Facebook labelled the re-discovery of a special stash of Cantillon’s Saint-Lamvinus as “Probably the greatest archeological find since Howard Carter’s discovery in the Valley of the Kings.”
OK, the Beer Idiots might go along with that sentiment cause how weird is it that Cantillon and a French wine maker forgot that they had stored 500 bottles of Saint-Lamvinus in a cellar 24 years ago?
Well pretty weird. Cantillon announced the find on Facebook on 17 February in the afternoon and almost 24 hours later it had attracted almost 700 comments. Not bad for a beer!
Cantillon started making Saint-Lamvinus in co-operation with Château Belair, which is based in the Saint-Emilion wine region, one of the best in Bordeaux (my favourite by the way). Saint-Lamvinus is a blend of lambics with Merlot grapes.
The first blends were done in Bordeaux in the 90’s, where the lambic was sent from Brussels to Saint-Emilion and then blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Château Belair, says Cantillon in the Facebook post.
The vinter, Pascal Delbeck, next tried a blend using grapes frozen after the harvest in 1994. It is strange that the grapes were frozen after the harvest. To make ice wine, which is very sweet and delicious, the grapes are normally frozen while still on the vine. However, this is beer after all and perhaps the grapes were frozen after the harvest!
The story is continued, presumably by Jean Van Roy: “The grapes were thawed and pressed in early 1995, the must was then blended with our Lambic and then transfered into barrels. The beer was bottled that summer, at the Tour du Roy in the presence of Philippe Debesse, the owner, and Pascal Debeck, the vinter. Jean-Pierre was unable to be present for the bottling, so the batch was cellered in await of its eventual return to Brussels…
Last year, a vinter friend of mine told me a seemingly impossible story… that during a conversation with Philippe Debesse, the topic of Cantillon came up, and that’s when Philipppe suddenly remembered that he still had around 500 bottles of St. Lamvinus aging in his immense cellar. Pascal and Jean-Pierre had also forgotten the existence of this little treasure trove, so the bottles had been left to age without the slightest disturbance in the deepest reaches of the cellar.
We recently had the opportunity to taste this precious brew, steadfastly conserved in the most exceptional conditions for the last 25 years – a cellar temperature of 12°C and a steady 90% humidity. The result? The beer is sublime. This forgotten edition of St. Lamvinus will be featured at our upcoming Quintessence, May 1st, and during other special events in the future.”
On its website, Cantillon describes the current Saint Lamvinus. The idea for the combination came from Delbeck, who back then was the steward of Château Belair in Saint-Emilion. The first two batches were produced in the Bordeaux region, as Cantillon sent two-year-old lambic to Saint-Emilion.
As the beer became well known among the nerds, production has stepped up and Cantillon now does the blending and ageing at its site in Brussels. The brewer is now using Merlot grapes from the Côtes de Bourg region of Bordeaux since 2000. The grapes are soaked in the lambic for about 8 weeks to extract all the tannins.