Thursday, September 1, 2011

Clos Henri – Published 05.08.11

A couple of weeks ago Sari and I were guests at the 10th Birthday celebration for Marlborough winery Clos Henri. The Bourgeois family are well know Sancerre winemakers and despite ten generations of winemaking history in the Loire Valley producing sauvignon blanc and pinot noir they were eager to create something new in a country without the restrictions they have to work with in France. 
Because Marlborough is world renowned for its production of sauvignon blanc it was an obvious location for the family to choose but rather than simply coming here and growing grapes the same way they do in Sancerre the Bourgeois’ spent time studying the local climate, soil types and viticultural practices, learning as much as they could about their new location before they applied their French winemaking history to the Marlborough business.

The result is a range of wines that could be described as the perfect marriage of New Zealand conditions and French experience. One of the key differences in production is that in France sauvignon blanc isn’t designed for consumption in the year it is made, rather the wines are designed to age and offer complexities we don’t generally see in young, brash Marlbourough sauvignon blanc. 

Jean-Marie and Arnaud Bourgeois travelled from Sancerre to host the birthday celebrations at Clos Henri and treated their suppliers, distributors, Marlborough friends and the French Ambassador to a delicious French style luncheon, they also let us taste a range of wines from both Marlborough and the home estate in Sancerre, including the exceptional 1990 Domaine Henri Bourgeois Etienne Henri, a 21 year old sauvignon blanc.

This wine from an exceptional vintage proves that sauvignon blanc is more than a one trick pony and Clos Henri in Marlborough have set about proving that such exceptional wines can be produced in this country. As well as being aged on yeast lees for eight months the 2009 Clos Henri Marlborough sauvignon blanc also had a small amount (8%) of barrel fermented wine included in the final blend and this has resulted in a wine that has developed a lovely rounded, rich mouthfeel while still retaining the freshness of classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

Another wine from Sancerre that we were treated to highlighted the minerality and elegance of wines produced there. The 2008 Domaine Henri Bourgeois Jadis is made from vines that are a minimum of 50 year old. It was 50% fermented in barrels and 50% in tanks as well as spending some time resting on lees and treating sauvignon blanc in this way has resulted in a wine that has a seductive, fleshy mouthfeel with ripe floral aromas. Typical powdery minerality in the very long finish is the perfect foil to the soft acidity.

Being invited to join this French family at its 10th birthday celebration was a delightful experience and showed how the blending of two winemaking regions and cultures can lead to something very special. Check their website for more information about where to buy their wines and next time you are in Marlborough take the time to visit the old church converted into a wine tasting facility five minutes south of Renwick

I have been drinking.

Seifried Estate 2011 Gruner Veltliner (grew-na velt-leena) - RRP$21
This is the second vintage of this European variety from Seifried’s. Delicate aromas with a complex array of flavours from zesty lemon, ripe apple and powdery minerality this dry wine is a lovely alternative to aromatic style wines like pinot gris.

Julicher 2009 Chardonnay – RRP$19-$22
From a boutique Martinborough producer recognised for its outstanding pinot noir this is a rich, mouth-filling wine. Even though this was fermented in a mix of new and old French oak and matured on yeast lees it still retains citrus freshness and river stone like minerality. A fantastic wine and worth hunting down.

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