Le Quinze Vins in Wan Chai Hong Kong looked like any other wine bar from outside, till I entered and saw an entire wall lined up with vintages from hallowed French estates. The kind that you bow down and pay homage to.
This is where I was meeting Gordon Rodrigues, a Hong Kong based banker, wine aficionado and an avid wine collector, on a recent visit to Hong Kong.
Gordon was a facebook friend whom I had known for over a year. This was the first time we were meeting in person.
The world of wine has connected me with some wonderful people across the world. There is always someone in every city willing to share a glass or a bottle and talk about their wine journey. Cultural barriers are transcended, views aired and often an everlasting friendship is formed over wine.
What Gordon had chosen for me that evening, was a Clos Rougeard “Brézé 2008”, a single vineyard Chenin Blanc from the legendary wine estate, Clos Rougeard, in Saumur region of Loire Valley, France.
This was the first time I was trying out wine from this revered, though somewhat low profile estate, famous for its “cult” Cabernet Franc.
To say that Clos Rougeard is to Loire what Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) is to Burgundy, will not be an exaggeration.
The estate produces three red wines Le Bourg, Les Poyeux and Le Clos, all from 100% Cabernet Franc, under the appellation label Saumur Champigny.
According to some, it is the finest expression of Cabernet Franc in the world and some vintages of Le Bourg, the leading cuvée of Clos Rougeard, fetch a higher price than Bordeaux classified growths such as Cos d’Estournel and Palmer.
Ever since the death of Charly Foucault, the eighth generation co-owner of Cos Rougeard, in December last year, the price of these wines has shot up even more.
Since production is limited to only 2500 cases a year, the wines get sold out very quickly and are hard to find.
Latest reports suggest that Clos Rougeard has been sold to Martin Bouygues and his brother Olivier, owners of Chateau Montrose in Bordeaux.
Clos Rougeard wines are truly artisanal in every sense and pioneers of organic viticulture (wines produced sans pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilisers) in the region.
The brothers Charly & Nady Foucault continued their father’s tradition of keeping vinification chemical free and made wines the way they should be made, with minimal oenological intervention. Wines are produced from low-yields, using wild natural yeasts and bottled without filtration.
More and more vintners are now turning towards organic viticulture, but Clos Rouegard has always been making wines in this manner without a drop of chemicals.
Saumur Blanc “Brézé” is a rare white wine made from 100% Chenin Blanc from hundred year old vines grown in just a one hectare plot. Brézé is acknowledged as the best terroir in Saumur appellation for Chenin Blanc, a celebrated white grape of Loire Valley.
High in acidity and potentially long living, this is a white wine that can be aged for a long time. It is a “collector’s item” like the Cabernet Francs from Clos Rougeard and you are unlikely to find it on the wine list of restaurants, even in France.
Long and slow élevage (18-24 months) in cold Tuffeau cellars (local limestone of the Loire Valley) helps in adding complexity. 50% of the wine is aged in new barrique. This gives the wine great depth, length and richness.
Light gold in appearance with a dry sherry like nutty oxidative intensity, this precise, deeply perfumed and elegant Chenin Blanc with superb freshness and lively acidity, completely enveloped my senses. The wine expressed the complexity of the soil, such was its purity.
Reminding me slightly of a Hermitage Blanc, but with more richness, denser minerality and deeper concentration, the Clos Rougeard Saumur Brézé 2008 is one wine I will not forget in a hurry.
By : Lavina Kharkwal