Christian Jacques (above) and Sylvain Potin (below)
It was good to meet up with Christian Jacques and Sylvain Potin in London last week to chat about Clau de Nell and taste their wine. I had met them earlier on this year in Angers at the Renaissance tasting in late January. However, it is difficult to have a relaxed conversation during this busy tasting.
Christian with the late Anne-Claude Leflaive is the owner of the 10-hectare Clau de Nell at Sauné in the commune of Ambillou Château, between Doué-la-Fontaine and Brissac-Quincé. Sylvain Potin is the régisseur. Unusually the vineyard is one sole block and well away from any other vines
Christian explained that becoming the owner and running the Clau de Nell – many kilometres from Burgundy – was an entirely unexpected and unplanned.
It all started back in the last decade when Anne-Claude and he set up an association to help young vignerons sell their wines. The association came to involve 13 vignerons amongst them Claude Pichard of Clau de Nell. In 2006 Pichard ran into financial problems so it was decided in 2008 that Anne-Claude and Christian would buy Clau de Nell and that Pichard would continue to run the domaine.
It turned out that if Anne-Claude and Christian hadn’t bought Clau de Nell, it would have gone to a producer who uses weedkiller etc.
However, it soon became clear that Pichard didn’t want to continue – some parts of the vineyard hadn’t been pruned for several years, so Anne-Claude and Christian had to find someone to run domaine for them. Serendipitously they found Sylvain, who was working for a caviste in Angers and has fitted in perfectly since he joined them in September 2009.
Since then the domaine has been modernised. This has included finding a hectare of biodynamic Chenin Blanc in the Saumur appellation plus one and a half hectares of Chenin on the domaine.
Sylvain told me that he was very pleased with the 2015 vintage as their vines, which are on argile-calcaire, weren’t stressed nor did they shut down during the very dry summer unlike those on schist. Furthermore the rain in September arrived at the right moment for them. Sylvain stressed that his winemaking techniques are gentle preferring to use infusion rather than extraction.
We tasted three wines – all from the 2012 vintage: 100% Grolleau, 100% Cabernet Franc and Cuvée Violette, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The percentage varies from year to year – for 2012 it was 40% Sauvignon and 60% Franc.
The very attractively textured and fragrant Grolleau comes from 60 to 90 year old vines yielding just 15-17 hl/ha. It has soft spicy black fruits, soft tannins and freshness in the finish. 50% is matured in vat and 50% in futs for 18 months.
For the Cabernet Franc the fruit was picked between the 8th and 10th October at the start of the very difficult conditions of October with rot starting to spread. Both the Franc and Violette are matured in Burgundian pieces (228 litre). The tannins in the Franc are slightly more present but still well rounded and it finishes with good freshness and tension.
Cuvée Violette is aromatic with lovely seductive texture and more structured than the Grolleau and Cabernet Franc.The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from low yielding 60-year-old vines – 15-20 hl/ha.
I’m looking forward to tasting the Chenin in the future.
2012 Cabernet Franc
2012 Cuvée Violette