Sunday, September 13, 2009

2005 Clos Rougeard: A must Have Vintage

Well the much anticipated 2005 wines from Clos Rougeard have arrived and the verdict is in: without doubt some of the finest expressions of Cabernet Franc I have ever had. This vintage, from this estate, is an absolute must have for my cellar.

To me, Clos Rougeard is one the benchmark wineries in the world, occupying the same rarified space as some of my other "desert island wines" like Lopez de Heredia, Giacomo Conterno, Donnhoff, Rousseau, and Raveneau to name a few. This is a winery that quietly and gently coaxes pure, seamless, complex and elegant wines out of the soil and terroir of their splendid plot of land in Saumur -Champigny. These are wines that get mentioned in the same breath as Cheval Blanc. When visiting wine makers see them in our shop they are floored to see them, with several Bordeaux wine makers commenting that the Clos has the best Cabernet Franc vines in the world and that they are trying to buy cuttings for their own vineyards.

Saumur-Champigny in the Loire Valley is not the first place that most would list when thinking of where some of the greatest red wines in the world are made, but there it is, defying popular misconceptions. The Clos is owned by brothers Nadi and Charlie Foucault, and has been in the family for generations. They hand-craft wines from organically grown grapes, crop at tiny yields, and vinify in barrel, where they slowly and naturally mature them in their cold cellars, and bottle them unfiltered.

I get asked all the time "if you had to have just one wine, what would it be?". And while I hate that question, (too much to love out there!) these wines are definitely on the short list. It is an incredible line-up, with wines that in some way seem to embody the elegance and transparency of great Burgundy, the depth and class of right bank Bordeaux, and the cool minerality of their Loire Valley roots.

The wines are imported by Louis Dressner Selections who sum up the estate on their web site in their typical droll manner:

"Just our luck. We have a cult estate. Every three-star restaurant in France hustles to get a small allocation. No one in America, outside of the lucky few, has heard of it..... Would you like to buy some? It is exceptionally expensive. And it is sold out."

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the case, with the only change being that the Americans do know about them now, as the wines have been discovered by the press and an increasing number of savvy wine buyers. A must have - and if you want some, don't wait!

Clos Rougeard 2005 - I absolutely refuse to call this the "entry level wine", the "regular" bottling or in any way refer to it in the diminutive! There is absolutely nothing "regular" about it, and were it the only wine made by the freres Foucault, they would still have a reputation for making some of the best red wine in the Loire Valley. So let's call it the "Clos". It is produced from 25 year old vines and matured in older oak barrels. To me it is the generally the most forward and accessible of the reds, fine, cooler and more classic in some ways. The 2005 is absolutely lovely Cabernet Franc; herbal, finely boned and elegant, with earth notes and underbrush underneath, and some dark fruits as well. Lovely burst of flavor at first, but with fine grippy tannins; focused and linear when first tasted, opening and expanding with a bit of time in the glass, showing the depth and character of the vintage and a glimpse of what those patient enough to hold on to this delicious wine for 6-10 years or so will enjoy. $57* per bottle.

Les Poyeux - The Poyeux is from 40-60 year old vines, and fermented half in new Allier barrels and half in one year old barrels from Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau Margaux. Right out of the gate this is fuller, more aromatic and expressive than either of the other two. A sweetness of dark fruits, kirsch and hint of smoky/charred wood and tobacco; complex, layered. Even more expressive with time in the glass. This is riper and more complex than the lovely "Clos", with more exotic spice box nose and darker fruits, more forward than the brooding Le Bourg. Ripe tannins are ample, but they well-integrated and woven into the wine, mainly showing in the finish. Cellar this for 7-12 years. $76* per bottle

Le Bourg - This wine is from 80+ year old vines pruned to extraordinarily low yields, fermented and aged in 100% new Allier barrels with minimal racking. This to me is always the most reserved, closed and structured wine of the trio, and the 2005, even with the concentration of the vintage, holds true to form. Slightly closed at first, with a deep core of locked up dark aromas and flavors that take time to evolve. Solid and fine, with cedar, cigar box, earth, truffle; definitely more rigidly structured than the others. Less up front in nature, but very deep - almost Bordeaux like. This should be aged from 10-15 years and perhaps even longer. $110* per bottle

To purchase these fantastic wine, visit us online at 56 Degree Wine or call us at 908.953.0900.

* Wines are net, no further discounts. Prices valid while supplies last or through September 30th 2009.

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