Chateau Clinet, Pomerol 

Retrospective 2004-2011, Ronan Laborde's first 10 years at the estate

 

Tasted at the chateau with Ronan Laborde, December 2013

 

Ronan by Clinet AOC Bordeaux 2011

This entry-level Bordeaux, now in red and white, is one of Ronan Laborde’s recent extensions of the Clinet brand. As of next year a full winemaking facility will be built in Pomerol, specifically for the Ronan by Clinet branded wines. He sources the grapes (and wine) for this mainly from the Right Bank; eight producers across Entre deux Mers, Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon and Francs, and Lussac St Emilion. The wine is 100% merlot. This 2011 wine was bottled in June, and has a touch of tightness on the first nose, but there are good red fruits coming through, some clean redcurrant. Abv is 13.6% but has a good balance, maybe a touch of heat on the finish. Not great length, but it is delicate and lifts nicely. Staves used instead of oak barrels, introduced during ageing to give a touch of spiciness, without the expense of barrels – certainly oak is not intrusive, but the finish is a little abrupt. And as 300,000 bottles of this are produced, it makes sense. 16/20, 87/100. Recommended. Drink now and for next few years.

 

Ronan by Clinet AOC Bordeaux Blanc 2012

(Tasted at the end, after all the reds). First vintage that they have produced a white wine within the branded range, mainly sauvignon blanc with 20% semillon 20% and 5% muscadelle. Just 13,000 bottles in this vintage, but going up significantly, and will be 48,000 in 2013. The grapes come from a single producer next to Sauveterre de Guyenne, Armand de Reignac, whose vines are at the highest point in Entre deux Mers. This is a very interesting style, fairy weighty and round, clear lees stirring and oak barrels impact. Ronan says they experimented with many different styles, and took one year to decide on the best one, tried a more ‘typical Bordeaux’ zesty white but decided this more luxurious style matches better with the Clinet signature. It’s fairly rare to find this style of white Bordeaux, with lemon rind and orange blossom, and should have a slightly longer drinking window than most Entre deux Mers wines. Should be on shelf at €8.50, similar to red. 15.75/20, 85+/100. Recommended. Drink 2013-2016.

 

Fleur de Clinet AOC Pomerol 2011

This evolved from being the second wine of Clinet (since 1987) into a vin de négoce since 2006. What that means essentially is that production has expanded, and it has become an accessible branded Pomerol. About 10-30% of final production of Clinet goes into this, as with a traditional second wine, but the rest of the production is bought from neighbouring estates through the Clinet négociant company. Production in 2011 was 65,000, up from 50,000 in 2010, but will go down again in 2012 and 2013 because of low yields. Grapes (and/or wine) come from seven Pomerol estates, plus Clinet, all of whom have been partners since 2009. This wine is sold on the shelf for €28-€30, which crazy as it might sound is an entry level price for Pomerol. Even at two years old, you can already feel the ripe, soft texture on this, and there is a lovely aromatic nose. Aged in barrels, but no new oak, from a blend of 95% merlot, 5% cabernet franc. Has a good grip, some touches of liqourice, would I identify it as Pomerol if tasted blind? Perhaps not in this vintage, as the generosity of the appellation is not necessarily there, but the fruit builds on the palate, and there is real charm and easy appeal. 88/100, 16.5/20. Recommended. Drink 2014-2020.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2004

The first full year that Ronan took over running the property. This wine is now approaching its 10th birthday, and has some lovely ruby tints around the rim, a beautiful colour that is just starting to budge and soften its anthocyanins from ruby reds to russet orange. And it’s achieving that lovely soft smudged nose of an older Pomerol. This was the first vintage in the new winery with oak vats and an underground cellar. Until 2003 they had entirely used stainless steel tanks, whereas today there are oak tanks of 4,000 litres and 6,000 litres plus very small stainless steel tanks (120 and 250 litres each) because work so carefully plot by plot. On the nose I get clear goudron, tar notes, empyreumatic, almost certainly from the 60% new oak and 40% one year oak used in this relatively fast ageing vintage. This is I would say ready to drink. 89/100 16.75/20. Recommended. Drink 2013-2024.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2005

Far more closed and young on the nose, incredible that these wines are only one year apart. This was the first time at Clinet where Ronan brought in the new (and continuing) system of stopping and starting harvest as required, depending on ripeness of individual plots and plants – so started on September 15th and finished three weeks later. They also experimented with de-stemming by hand on a plot called Grand Vignes next to Pomerol church; rented a refrigerated truck, kept the grapes cold for a night so it would be easier to destem and keep the berries intact (they stopped doing this for a few years from 2009, but reintroduced it in 2012 on the oldest vines, so perhaps 10% of overall crop). Whether it made a difference in 2005 is hard to say, but certainly there is a wonderful creaminess to the wine, the texture is like silk, and this is a wine that makes you smile. The oak is less tarry than with the 2004, and there are beautiful crushed raspberry aromas and ripe summer red cherries on the palate, which a tiny hint of liquorice that keeps the fruit cradled and not spilling out. A huge step up from the 2004, and the beginning of the Clinet style that we see today. Seems almost ready to drink, makes me want to open a few of my Pomerol 2005s and see how they are doing... 95+ / 18.75. Outstanding. Drink 2014-2030.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2006

A well-concentrated, fairly austere vintage. Until end of August most Pomerol producers were very excited about the quality equally 2005, until it rained at the end of August. On one day on 19 September over 20mm fell, and nearly everyone in the appellation harvested, and got their berries in. Ronan feels that they reached maybe 97% of optimal maturity. I really enjoy the nose on this, the colour still young and clean, no smudging. There is an explosion of fruit on the attack, some bitter orange, creme brulée. Not the balance of the 2005, and a touch of heat on the finish, so perhaps not full phenolic maturity, throwing things slightly off kilter. The blend is 85% merlot, 12% cabernet sauvignon and 3% cabernet franc. It takes some thinking about, as the wine settles in to itself in the glass. I like the feeling of restraint and firm tannins, it needs time, still quite tight, but definite potential for good drinking in a few years time. 93/100, 18/20. Highly recommended. Drink 2016-2028.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2007

Clearly a more forward vintage, from the first approach. A very open nose, with quite distinct smokiness (apparently they increased the use of new oak here – and for me I would say 2007 was probably not the year to do this, as there was less fruit to balance it out). However, the oak does add a mocha, cappuccino coffee taste which is pretty sexy. Perhaps less of a Clinet signature in this vintage, there is still dark cherry fruit, soft tannic structure and good length. No need to wait too long to open this, and an excellent way to get some of the seductive Pomerol fruit without cellaring for years. 90/100 17/20. Highly recommended. Drink 2013-2023.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2008

Fruit is immediately dense, tight, clean, the colour is deep, not quite primary fruit but very close, this is still a young young wine. Instant tastebud hit, this makes me sit back and smile – a great example of how they are now regularly over-performing the vintage. Here we are back to 2005 in terms of completeness and balance, but I prefer this one, it has real creamy texture, some excellent empyreumatic oak flavours, touches of eugenol cloves, but nothing overpowering, just feel that the whole wine is humming, ready to take off in a few years time. Really a wine that makes you stop and think, quite clear that great winemaking is going on here, and that something special is going on a Clinet from this vintage. Blend is (as fairly usual in most years) 85% merlot, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 3% cabernet franc. 2008 was the latest harvest since 1986, started and finished in October. 14%abv, but perfectly balanced. If you want to know where there has been an increasing buzz around Clinet in recent years, get hold of this wine. 98/100, 19.5/20. Outstanding. Drink 2016-2032.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2009

This is the vintage that has won plaudits on all sides, and you can see why. Even on the nose you get the silky texture of this wine. What overpowers here is the fruit, the incredible purée of sweet summer fruit, very ripe cherries, rich damsons, the oak is totally melted, soft hits of coffee and cinammon integrated with the overall experience. Feels like a warm embrace of sun-drenched fruit. Started here around 10 September picking, so fairly early, but were able to take the whole thing at a leisurely pace, picking when the fruit felt right. 14.5%abv, I can feel it more than I did on the 2008, but not aggressive. Liquorice, red cherries, this is mellow embrace, feel I am at a full moon party in Koh Panyang, sun rising over the ocean. Clearly a lovely lovely wine, but I can honestly say it doesn’t make me sit up and beg for more in the way the two vintages on either side do, where the fruit is so cleanly defined you can almost touch it. 97/100, 19.25/20. Outstanding. Drink 2017-2032.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2010

Colour is deep and rich, and right from first attack the fruits are tight and restrained, even on the nose you get the triumvirate of acidity, tannin and fruit. This is an amazing wine, incredible aftertaste as with the 2008, so much is happening once the wine leaves your mouth, building in power and complexity for a good minute. Layers and layers of liquorice, black truffles, bilberry fruits, rich cherry, this would stain your mouth but joyously so. Hard to imagine a wine getting much better than this and remaining within the reach of normal drinkers (you can get Clinet for under €100, which I know is still a crazy amount, but does make it relatively affordable at this level of quality). We are nowhere near the drinking window of this wine, and yet the sense of excitement that it creates is simply stunning. 99/100, 19.75/20. Outstanding. Drink 2019-2036.

 

Chateau Clinet AOC Pomerol 2011

A softer, gentler wine, as befits a vintage that needed a softer hand in the cellar. In terms of taste profile, we are going back to a smooth, silky expression of Pomerol. This has a beautiful level of fruit, here good liquorice expression, again the silkiness of the fruit, there is a level of confidence that is striking. Many similarities in terms of the vintage to the 2004, even 2006, but really feel that the team here have an easy touch, are aware of how far they can push the fruit and get the best out of it. You could cellar this for a few more years, or I would suggest that two hours in a good carafe would get this going sooner. Excellent proof of what the new Clinet can do. 94/100, 18.25/20. Highly recommended. Drink 2015-2027.