Clos Cristal, Saumur-Champigny
The deal has been closed. It has been agreed, and will be signed and sealed that Robert et Marcel, aka La Cave des Vignerons de Saint-Cyr, would take a 25-year lease on the famous Clos Cristal, one of two highly unusual vineyards established by Antoine Cristal (1837-1931).
Cristal established two vineyards – Clos Cristal for red and the Clos des Murs for white. As well as enclosing these vineyards with a wall he built walls within the vineyard running west to east. These walls had regular holes which allowed vines to be planted on the north side and trained through through the hole. This means that the roots and base of the vine is in the shade, so helping to keep the roots etc. moist, while the rest of the vine faces south and the sun plus benefitting from heat radiated from the wall.
This agreement ends a crisis that started in early 2016 when L’Institut du Clos Cristal, the company running the Clos Cristal on behalf of the hospital of Saumur got into financial problems. L’Institut du Clos Cristal is now in liquidation with debts of some 300,000 Euros. Clos Cristal had been run since 1996 by Eric Dubois.
In April 2016 the Saumur Hospital appealed for people to make offers for the Clos Cristal on a 25 year long-term rental agreement. This appeal produced a large response – 18 offers. From this five were selected and there was a proposal that le Clos might be managed between a number of partners. In the interim Robert et Marcel were invited to run the Clos, which had been untended for several months, for two years. Unfortunately this was too late to save the 2016 vintage, which will not be released.
Instead of an arrangement with a number of actors, Robert et Marcel will be the leaseholders of Le Clos Cristal for 25 years. The Clos will continue to be run organically, as a separate entity and managed by François Robinson, who has experience of working in Australia and New Zealand. Robert and Marcel will be investing 1.3 million euros and replanting six of the ten hectares. 10% of this will be Chenin Blanc and 90% Cabernet Franc.
in 1957 the late Robert and Marcel Neau were the founders of the well run Cave des Vignerons de Saint-Cyr in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg. They were president and director respectively. It was in November 2013 that the Cave de Saint-Cyr changed its name. Robert et Marcel are part of Alliance Loire – now an association of seven cave cooperatives from the Pays Nantais through to Touraine, whose headquarters are at St Cyr. Alliance Loire is also a shareholder in Ackerman, the region’s leading Loire based négociant. Ackerman is in expansionist mode. In particular it has been acquiring individual domaines such as Château La Varière in Anjou and and Château de Sancerre.