Chateau L'Eglise Clinet Vertical
Held at Laboratoire Rolland, Catusseau (Pomerol), June 2014
The vertical was held to look at how the estate had progressed from the years 1995-2000 and 2005-2010 under the ownership of legendary winemaker Denis Durantou.
Among the changes on display:
From 1991, Durantou has used less cabernet franc in the final blend, plus he has moved towards later harvest in recent years, more spread out and more plot by plot. Previously always the end of September, today goes often to mid October (but Durantou is never a really late harvester compared to some of his neighbours). From 1995, there has been no more engrais (fertiliser) in the vines. The density has changed also from 7000 or below, to at least 8000 vines per hectare since 2005.
The oldest plots in L’Eglise Clinet vineyard are from 1935, planted by Denis’ grandfather, a mix of cabernet franc and merlot, used for his massal selection programme. He has been doing this for the past 30 years, has a 1/2 hectare conservatory today at another of his estates, Chateau Les Cruzelles (a vineyard that he bought, he says, because it had such homogenous terroir that it was perfect for his wine conservatory). He now also has one at Chateau Montlanderie, and says all his vines are now virus free, totally healthy, but his favourite clones are from the 1935 plants. All his vines, even where the cabernet franc and merlot are planted together in the vines because such old plots, are harvested together and co-fermented. Plants are around 15% cabernet franc in the vineyard, although he uses less and less of it in the main wine.
The main changes since 2000 have come in the cellars – he now practises less racking (which before was every three months, now every six months as he prefers a more reductive aging, with healthy sulphur levels, less oxygen ingress, no pumps). The wines remain in oak for less time than before, but the proportion of new oak has been raised. Less time ageing but higher the new oak (until the mid 1990s, L’Eglise Clinet used just 30% new oak, mainly because money was too tight to do otherwise, today routinely around 80%). ‘I control the parameters much better than before,' Durantou says, 'and if I don’t know how to do something, I don’t do it. So no punching down, no malolactic in barrel. I can’t be everywhere at the same time, and I believe in controlling things as much as I can – so don't want to put complicated procedures in place that my teams will have a difficult time carrying out in my absence’. Other changes have come in the details; a sorting table since 2004 (in the vineyard), selective years since 2000 to ensure no sugar remains in the wines.
This is a tiny estate, just 4.4 hectares, but easily makes one of the biggest impacts in Pomerol.
The Vertical (tasted June 2014)
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 1995
85% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, 50% new oak, 12.5%abv. Colour a beautifully soft toffee-red, the fruit is clean, warming, with butterscotch aromas. Gentle spice on the palate, some black pepper corns and floral aromas, opens up beautifully in the glass. Love the ph in these wines, around 3.6 in almost every year we are tasting here, suggests healthy evolution, long life ahead of it. A very gentle wine, soothing, easy to slip into. Builds in intensity but not at all a powerhouse, it's subtle. Soft red fruits, but juicy ripe raspberries, can feel the texture. For me this is perfect to drink now, but would continue to deepen over the next ten years or so. 92. Highly recommended. Drink 2014-2024.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 1996
85% merlot, 15% cabernet franc. The nose feels tighter and younger, less generous than the 1995. Spectrum of fruit a little more reserved here but on the palate there is an explosion of black cherries, this has guarded its tannins more than the 1995, has more power (although still 12.5%abv), not quite as warm and welcoming, and the ending is a touch more abrupt. He chaptilised a few cuves, something which pretty much never happens from the 1998 vintage onwards (maybe six times in 30 years overall at Eglise Clinet). For me, this has a little less charm than the 95, but still plenty of time ahead of it to work out a few knots. Ph3.72. 91. Highly recommended. Drink 2014-2027.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 1997
All of these ‘older wines’, now approaching 15 to 20 years old, have kept their colour beautifully, including the 1997. There are real red anthocyanes still, a few deposits as they drop (in this more than the preceding two). Tannin indice is 70 here, still 12.5%abv, 3.6ph, 50% new oak. This has gentle toasting, spice quite evident, more so than the fruit here, less raspberry, more redcurrant, a little less textured. But this has held up so well compared to many Pomerol 1997s that I have tasted recently. It retains a good length, some real finessing on the tannins. Harvest finished September 16, way before the estate had even begun to pick in 1996 or 1995, so fruit clearly not at full ripeness, but he has extracted beautifully what was there. 90. Highly recommended. Drink 2014-2023.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 1998
We see a colour change here, slightly deeper, has taken on a younger hue, more deep blood red. Second bottle was needed, as first was corked. I get a touch of cork in this one also, shame as this is the vintage of the decade in Pomerol (we are tasting with Michel Rolland and he is in full agreement). Clearly there is a beautiful ripeness to the fruit, and real generosity. It was the smallest vintage of the decade in terms of production, but bigger tannins with an index of 78, 13%abv. Feel that in your mouth, it is a bigger wine in total – but also generous, rich, utterly gorgeous. After 20 minutes in the glass, the butterscotch taste and aroma has become even more marked, so seductive. 65% new oak. I am certain that a better bottle of this would get a higher score – and half of the table I was tasting with disagreed with me that the second bottle was also affected by cork, so I wish you better luck. 94. Highly recommended. Drink 2014-2025.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 1999
‘When I'm thirsty, I drink a 99!’ says Denis Durantou. So elegant, beautifully floral, a sense of verticality in the mouth, feel this lift on the finish. This has unbelievable length, and you get these tannins that just play with you, building and receding and building again. 50% new oak here. Just love this wine, so perfect for drinking now if you like your wines to still have a slightly 'young' feel. Tannins are not tight, and yes the vintage itself might be a dip below the 1998, but in Durantou’s hands this is ripe for just diving into, gorgeous. 94. Highly recommended. Drink 2014-2024.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 2000
Straight from nose get the ripeness of this vintage, get higher alcohol than before, but this is countered by a sumptuous richness of the dark raspberry and ripe cherry fruit, it's utterly gorgeous, such a pleasure in your mouth, 13.5%abv, 84 tannin count. This is still so young, keep it back for another few years at least, this is a great great wine. Again these dancing tannins that come in after the wine has left your mouth, unbelievably impressive what is going on here. A wine that fully shows off what this exceptional year could provide in Bordeaux, 80%new oak. For Michel Rolland, he calls this one of the best 2000s he has recently tasted in Bordeaux. 98. Outstanding. Drink 2016-2034.
--- five year gap, to highlight changes in vineyard and cellar ---
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 2005
God this nose!! Just comes out and hits you, 90% merlot, 10% cabernet franc. This is a wine that you could spend hours just anticipating, don’t even want to start drinking this. And as with the 99, I'm reluctant to move on to the next vintage, as enjoying this so much. Impressive purity of fruit. This is the real marker of Durantou wines, this astonishing ability to isolate the fruit, to draw it out. Clear even in a wine this young, there is huge power in the finish, but a real elegance at its heart, tannins quite soft, less powerful in some ways than the 2000. 14%abv, 3.6ph. (worth noting that this ph level is the same as it was with the lower alcohol wines of the first 'set'; the result of old vines with a deep roots structure, cooler clay soils and good terroir). 98. Outstanding. Drink 2018-2040.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 2006
This is younger, denser, less light in here, at the very very beginning of its life, this has darker fruit, not such an appealing structure at this stage, and clearly it is feeling a little mute at the moment. Not a simple vintage in Pomerol. There is a menthol edge to this, huge potential, great mid palate lift, but closes down again on the finish. This is the only one that feels a little different in style, less of the Durantou signature soar on the finish, it is really very closed off right now, would not recommend opening yet, more than any of the other vintages, give it really another good five years. 93. Highly recommended. Drink 2018-2035.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 2007
This has a nose where the oak is a little more evident than the other vintages, even though in terms of percentage the new oak has gone back down here to 70%. The main immpression however is to emphasise the spiciness again. This it what Durantou does so well in these lighter vintages; if there is less fruit, he doesn't abandon the wine to it, but works instead the spice, the toast, fills those holes with something else. This is less complex of course, but really a pleasurable wine. 14%abv naturally. Has some beautiful floral touches, and as with the 97, he is gunning down the competition. Harvest 20-24 September. 92. Highly recommended. Drink 2018-2035.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 2008
The harvest lasted from October 1 to 8 October, the latest at this estate until 2012. New oak stands at 80%, but is more than able to stand up to its influence. Stunning from the off. It is still almost as young and pure as it was during the primeur tasting, but has gained in stature, a full meal with chewy tannins that are powerful and mouth-filling and yet light and playful. Butterscotch, grilled sarments, cinammon rolls, smoked cumin, charcoal, juicy blueberries and blackberries, coffee, liquorice, love this wine. The texture is silky and it’s honestly hard to see what is missing – perhaps not as powerful as the 2010, but so elegant and fine. Great combination of power and lightness that every winemaker talks about but few deliver. Surpasses the vintage by so far, and price-wise this is available for far less than the 2009 or 2010, and for me gives almost more pleasure for being such a surprise (around £750 in bond for a case of six compared to around £2500 for the 2010). It’s going to run and run also. 19.75/99. Outstanding. Drink 2018-2050.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 2009
Look at the depth and colour of this. Rich red carmine ruby, perfect reflections, real diamond brightness, 14.5%, you do get a trace of heat on the finish, the flavours here are more liquorice, chocolate, espresso rather than cappuccino, a definite powerhouse, but still this sense of lift and verticality on the finish that really brings back the Eglise Clinet signature, ensures you know where you are, have the light touch of Durantou. Get this gorgeous touch. As with many 09s, it is closing back up, after an unusually long period of being open. 80% new oak. This is so good. 98. Outstanding. Drink 2017-2050.
Chateau L’Eglise Clinet AOC Pomerol 2010
Again, a gorgeous , monumental colour, deep confident purple-reds. Barely budged, what you need to look for at this stage is tannins that are smooth, astringency without a hint of bitterness, and a soaring structure that emphasises the rich ripe fruit. Check to all three. Plus beautiful grip and acidity. Less obvious than the 2009, of course, but for me this is the one that stands out above all others in terms of its potential. 14.5%abv, 82 tannins, 3.65ph, 90% merlot/10% cabernet franc, 80% new oak. This has a precision and an ageing capacity that it astonishing, best of the tasting. Again, this purity, the day-old embers that give it an austerity that is essential in this vintage, and beautiful touches of menthol. 99-100. Outstanding. Drink 2018-2055.