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Posts Tagged ‘Clos du Papillon’

Just a quick response and banter to the September 9th Wine Spectator article, “No Merlot di Montalcino : Brunello winemakers reject a plan to allow grapes other than Sangiovese in Rosso di Montalcino”. The gist of the article is that the local Consorzio rejected pressure from 30% of its growers to allow for a 15% non-Sangiovese blend in its Rosso di Montalcino. I posted a non-edited version of this article to the comments section of the Wine Spectator article …

I love history and terroir and maintaining a special niche for certain wines, but COME ON ! A debate over allowing just a 15% non-Sangio blend in the Rosso, the younger sibling to Brunello ? … Grow up Consorzio ! At the end of the day growers and vintners don’t JUST “do it” for passion and family. Winemaking is also a business and people need to maintain their livelihood. Giving producers more flexibility in vinification (and again, just a BIT more, not A LOT) would provide for more strategic maneuverability in the market and more options to stand out and separate their wines from the pack.

A lot of New World growing regions allow wines to be labelled Merlot, even with a 20% blend of other grapes, for example. Granted this might be a bad comparison and I’d air on transparency in this case and require that the “other” varietals be listed on the back label, which I believe is the case, although I could stand corrected.

In the end winemakers MAKE wine for it to be consumed right ? If there’s a drop in sales and a disinterested market, then let’s be progressive and creative and stir the pot a little (or vat and barrel rather), trying out some new recipes !

PS : Okay so this is just a very brief and rather generic counter to the Consorzio’s vote and the majority opinion of the local growers. What does the rest of the public have to say ? I’ll kick-start the counter to my arguments with a very interesting August 31st article on JancisRobinson.com, “Keep Rosso di Montalcino pure!”, including a letter to the Consorzio from Nicolas Belfrage MW, urging against allowing the 15% non-Sangiovese blend.

PPS : And just to admit that I’m a total hypocrite, I worked in business development (just a quick 6-month contract) for Domaine du Closel, a Savennières producer of the Clos du Papillon, Loire Valley Grand Cru and a representation of Chenin Blanc at its pure state of hedonistic perfection ! How’s that for objectivity ?! ;-) I can’t say that I’d support even an ounce of blending in these wines. It’d be sacrilegious ! So do I have any argument against my hypocrisy ? Not really although wait I think I do ! I guess the key difference is that Clos du Papillon (and Coulée de Serrant and Roches-aux-Moines) are designated Loire Valley Grand Crus. Savennières is essentially legislated and syndicated as the birthplace and essence of the beauty, expression and typicity of Chenin Blanc, whereas Rosso di Montalcino is the litter sister (or brother) to Brunello. Therefore, I’m sorry but little brothers and sisters get beat up on sometimes. So i say preserve the integrity of 100% Sangiovese in Brunello di Montalcino and loosen up the little sibling a bit. Although I do love the irony in the 2008 comments of Ezio Rivella, one of Italy’s most prominent oenologists and current President of the Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino. Ezio referred to 100% Brunello blends (i.e. Sangiovese) as “undrinkable”.

In either case I digress, the vote already passed and no changes will be made anytime soon. So on that note, cheers to 100% Sangiovese ! ;-)

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This past Friday and Saturday, on location at my new gig at Domain du Closel - Château des Vaults, I took the opportunity to visit three more neighboring Savennières producers. After visiting six Savennières producers in three days, I’m extremely pleased with the quality and diversity that we all have to offer. Domaine des Baumard, very well-known in the US, might be the first Savennières producer to experiment with screw caps. All of their wines are now bottled with screw caps, which is very much a “New World” approach, and can be considered quite provocative among the traditionalists of France. My second visit was with Claude Papin of Château Pierre Bise. Claude is an anti-communicator communicator. Boy can the man talk ! He is passionate about terroir, a “terroirist” if you will. He believes a good wine should sell itself through its terroir, not through marketing and promotions. Although this is a very admirable and inspiring approach, my personal and professional belief is that like a good wine, it should always be a balance of the two. After all, if we make a good wine, then we want people to drink it ! Unfortunately, this usually requires a little bit of business communications. In either case Claude is a great viticulturist and winemaker and should be respected as such. My final visit on Saturday was with Jo Pithon of Pithon-Paillé. Jo is what some refer to as a “peasant” winemaker. He is very friendly, approachable and casual and is knee deep in his winemaking. His Anjou Rouge is one of the best I’ve ever had.

Below are the wines I tasted … (more…)

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This past Wednesday In Vino Veritas hosted one of its last tastings of the year.  As a fitting near end to a great year, Phil invited a producer from within the ranks of the association.  Romuald de Pontbriand, Sciences Po student and member of In Vino Veritas, is also part of the family that owns Domaine du Closel, located in the Anjou-Saumur region of the Loire Valley.  Romuald highlighted ten different wines, produced by his family’s domaine.

Domaine du CloselMichèle de Jessey, Romauld’s grandmother, is the General Manager of the domaine.  She is quite accomplished and in fact was the first women president of an AOC in France, presiding over the Savennières appellation in 1990 and 1993.  The Domaine du Closel has 15 hectares of vineyards, plus 7-8 hectares reserved for future plantings.  The domaine specializes in white wines from the Savennières appellation, which is comprised of a total of 130 hectares.  The required grape varietal is chenin blanc, also known locally as Pineau de Loire.  The domaine also produces wines from the Anjou and Anjou-Villages appellations.  Anjou comprises 3,200 hectares and the grape varietals permitted are chenin blanc (minimum 80% in white blends), chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and pineau d’aunis, also known as chenin noir.  However, the domaine only makes Anjou rouge.  Anjou-Villages is a much more restricted and smaller appellation than Anjou with only 300 hectares of vineyards.  Anjou-Villages is strictly a red wine appellation.  Cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon are the only permitted grape varietals.

Chenin BlancDomaine du Closel owns the following vineyards—Clos du Papillon, Les Caillardières and La Jalousie.  Clos du Papillon’s soil is composed of schist, and is enriched with volcanic rocks, producing elegant dry wines of complexity and lingering fragrance.  Furthermore these wines are known to have good minerality and aromas of smoked roasted almonds, apricots, and white flowers.  They age well, developing notes of beeswax and honey.  Les Caillardières has the same soil composition but in varying proportions, producing an often times off-dry wine with more expressive floral aromas.  Regarding vinification all grapes are manually harvested and in the case of Savennières there is no maceration on the skins.  Anjou and Anjou-Villages receive from 10 to 22 days of maceration on the skins.  Additionally all wine are released approximately one year after harvest and are meant for drinking young.  Although, as I already mentioned, the Clos du Papillon ages rather well and the Anjou-Villages can age for 5 to 6 years.

Here’s what we tasted …

2005 Domaine du Closel “Une Emotion”, Anjou
Blend: cabernet franc
Tasting Notes: Electric purple in the glass.  A fresh nose with cherry, acid, and raspberry cream aromas, followed by secondary notes of leather.  A light-bodied, dry wine with moderate tannins and a refreshing acidity.  There are flavors of dark chocolate and black cherry.  Drink young.
Rating: 12/20
2003 Domaine du Closel, Anjou-Villages2003 Domaine du Closel, Anjou-Villages
Blend: 50% cabernet franc, 50% cabernet sauvignon
Tasting Notes: Dark violet in the glass.  An elegant nose with mineral and violet notes.  More tannic than the prior with bitter acidity and black fruit flavors.  Unbalanced and disjointed.
Rating: 11/20

2007 Domaine du Closel “La Jalousie” Savennières2007 Domaine du Closel “La Jalousie”, Savennières
Blend: chenin blanc
Tasting Notes: Straw yellow in the glass.  A ripe and fleshy nose up front that mellowed out to a crisp minerality and notes of flower and apple.  A medium-bodied, dry wine with a silky and simple structure.  There are flavors of apple and ginger with subtle peach and mineral notes.
Rating: 12/20

2003 Domaine du Closel “Les Caillardières”, Savennières
Blend: chenin blanc
Tasting Notes: Light golden yellow in the glass.  A fresh and complex nose suggestive of brioche and with more floral aromatics than the prior.  There are notes of spice, minerality, white pepper, and pear.  Off dry with balanced acidity, apricot and pear flavors along with a subtlety of canned peaches on the finish.
Rating: 13/20

Domaine du Closel “Les Caillardières” Savennières2004 Domaine du Closel “Les Caillardières”, Savennières
Blend: chenin blanc
Rating: Light golden yellow in the glass.  Good finesse and elegance on the nose with still more floral notes, along with peach and a very subtle green pepperyness.  Still more finesse in the mouth and a sweet acidity, although a dry wine.  There are flavors of apple, grapefruit and apricot and great minerality.
Rating: 14/20 (WS 90)
Price: $21 @ Wine Spectator

2006 Domaine du Closel “Le Clos du Papillon”, Savennières
Blend: chenin blanc
Tasting Notes: Light honey in the glass.  A very mineral nose with great floral notes, along with spice, peach and grass.  Citric and fruity in the mouth with good minerality and a bitterness that lingers from the midpalate through to the finish.  Reminiscent of rubber tire, although not unpleasant.
Rating: 14/20

Domaine du Closel “Le Clos du Papillon” Savennières2004 Domaine du Closel “Le Clos du Papillon”, Savennières
Blend: chenin blanc
Tasting Notes: Light honey in the glass.  A ripe and plump nose with a mild and pleasant funk, and notes of honey, butter and beeswax.  Dry, medium-bodied and good balance in the mouth with peach flavors and a bitter finish.
Rating: 14/20
Price: $26 @ Wine Spectator

2001 Domaine du Closel “Le Clos du Papillon”, Savennières
Blend: chenin blanc
Tasting Notes: Light golden in the glass.  A beautiful and complex nose with strong violets pushing through and notes of tropical fruit, mango, peach, and peppermint.  Light to medium-bodied with good acidity, well-balanced and a silky texture.  There are flavors of peach and violets and a very mild bitterness.
Rating: 16/20 (WS 89)
Price: $19 @ Wine Spectator

2003 Domaine du Closel “Le Clos du Papillon”, Savennières
Blend: chenin blanc
Tasting Notes: Light golden in the glass.  A plump nose with good fragrance and notes of almond, butter, mineral, ginger and graham cracker.  Full-bodied and semi-sweet with a silky texture and a balanced acidity.  Flavors of orange and honey.
Rating: 15/20

2007 Chateau des Vaults, Cremant Rosé
Blend: cabernet sauvignon
Tasting Notes: Strawberry pink with very light copper tones in the glass.  Fizzy and demi-sec with great balance and good acidity.  There’s good minerality, a subtle and pleasant bitterness and flavors of raspberry, strawberry, white peach and maraschino cherries. This wine is a new addition to the Domaine’s selection and only recently made it out of the laboratory.  I’d say the experiments paid off!
Rating: 15/20

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