I have been in want of a full blown Clos Rougeard dinner ever since I had to try a glass last year in March – a wine that I have never forgotten since. This domaine was sold in 2017 to telecom billionaire brothers Martin and Oliver Bouygeus, who also own Chateau Montrose, but I am very happy to learn that the new owners are hands off and aware of the good work that is already carried out. The future is also secure as Nady Foucault (current winemaker) has found a local Loire apprentice to succeed him should he pass as well.
The estate originally started in 1969 by the father of Charlie and Nady Foucault (Charlie passed in 2015). They are the 8th generation to farm the 10ha in Chacé, an area within the Saumur-Champigny appellation. In the 1960s and 70s, they were the few ones still continuing with organic practices with biodynamic remedies and low yields. Therefore their parcels have held up exceptionally well over the years, particularly those of the 70 year old Le Bourg vineyard. Though they plant 90% Cabernet Franc and only 10% Chenin Blanc, their whites are also superb. Le Clos wines are aged in Château Angelus barrels, Les Poyeux and Le Bourg in new oak barrels, then released after around 4 years in the cellar, which is why we have only 2011s and 2012s in stock now with the 2013s to be released very soon.
Our dinner in Michelin-starred Beefbar included a flight of Le Clos from 2005-2012, a Les Poyeux 2011 and the Le Bourg 2011. As we went through the different vintages of Le Clos, 2005 was the only wine that showed any signs of age. Clearly this is an "entry level" wine that can age at least 10 years or more. The wines all showcased beautiful dense red fruit with a hint of signature grassiness, which is typical of cabernet franc, but still exceptionally pure on the nose and finish. The wine of the night was a toss up between Les Poyeux 2011 and Le Bourg 2011 were each compelling in their own way. The nose of the Le Bourg was striking: intense charred toasty flavours mixed with tones of earthy barnyard and a touch of minerality yet the oak influence on the palate remained subtle and fresh. Les Poyeux 2011 was another favourite of many simply due to its approachability and expressiveness; there was clearly greater complexity and depth than the Le Clos here. Where Le Clos had more herbaceous notes, there was more straw in the Les Poyeux, making it an immense joy to drink and ponder. Both still needed much more time to age but we were left without a doubt of their potential.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2012: Super sharp acidity due to its youth. Very intense fruit and grassy notes however I get why the estate doesn't release its wines until at least 4 years in their cellar as I would not recommend drinking it this young (even though there is 6 years on this wine already). Huge ageing potential.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2010: Gorgeous note and palate now - acidity has started to mellow out but remains strong and taut. Fruit intensity, varietal characteristics are fully on show. Still has many years to go in terms of ageing.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2009: Feels much more approachable now, comparatively speaking to the 2012 and 2010. With at least 9 years of bottle ageing, the grassy varietal characters seems to mellow and blend well with the fruit. The ripeness is quite clearly higher here but it is perhaps due to the vintage more than wine making.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2008: Possibly my favourite Le Clos vintage of the night along with of course, the 2005. The wine is drinking exceptional well and everything feels balanced. There is not enough complexity showing compared to Burgundies of the same age but as oppose to a fault of the winemaking, it is telling me that Cabernet Franc needs just more time to develop the similar aged characters. I love this.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2006: Quite similar to 2008 in my opinion but lacks a bit of a punch. The 2008 was clearly a heavier hitter but a lot of guests enjoyed this.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2005: Crazy thing is that only the 2005 is showing some aged characteristics after 13 freakin' years. Usually your average Burgundy pinot starts showing their age at around 4-5 year mark, depending highly of course on producer, vintage and appellation. For Clos Rougeard you need to be patient although they will reward you immensely for your time.
Clos Rougeard Les Poyeux 2011: Gorgeous wine that is displaying immense complexity and depth that is not found in Le Clos. The grassiness that is quite prominent in the younger Le Clos is tasting more hay here, showing extra touch of toast from increased oak influence in an extremely pleasant way.
Clos Rougeard Le Bourg 2011: It is clear that this the top wine offered by Clos Rougeard and will easily spar with any Burgundy grand cru (and not just Clos de Vougeot or Echezeaux!). It shares a few similar notes with Les Poyeux – layered red fruit and hay – yet this has more hints of smokiness and minerality, maybe due to use of newer oak barrels and old vines. To state the obvious, this was WOTN but evidently Le Clos and Les Poyeux both have things to offer and should not be overlooked.