In the enticing world of sweet Bordeaux, if Barsac exemplifies elegance as opposed to Sauternes’s power, Château Climens (Premier Cru) would be the epitome of unrivalled elegance, hence its epithet the Lord of Barsac. This legendary estate, located in the south of its appellation, is an anomaly by Bordelais standards in many regards.
The name Climens first appeared in 1547 on a contract, which stated that Girault Roborel, a royal advocate, had inherited land from his father. Climens and Roborel later merged and became one family name, and the Roborel de Climens family remained the owner of the estate until the 19th century. From the 16th century to our day, the estate has been owned by only five families.
Forming a continuous single vineyard covering 30ha, the estate’s surface area has remained practically unchanged, which is extremely rare in Bordeaux. Climens’s soil composition is of ferrous clay sand on fissured starfish limestone, on which only Sémillon is planted – another exceptional feature. Curiously, “Climens” means “unfertile land” in the local dialect, but it is from this seemingly undesirable land that the purest nectar of Bordeaux is made.
Now at the helm is Bérénice Lurton, the 4th generation of a winemaking dynasty and the youngest of Lucien Lurton’s 10 children. In 1971, when sweet Bordeaux was in crisis, Lucien decided to acquire Climens, having been enchanted by the finesse of the estate. Already owning several grand crus estates in Médoc back then, he instilled modernity into the unique heritage of the estate. Taking over in 1992, Bérénice continued her father’s work, and in 2010 converted the entire vineyard to biodynamic viticulture.
Subsequent to rigorous selection, botrytised berries are vinified without cultured yeasts and then matured in French oak barrels – 35%-45% new – for 20-24 months. With yield as low as 7hl/ha for the grand vin, only 25,000-30,000 bottles are produced each year; standards are so high that, if the quality is deemed to be insufficient, certain vintages are simply omitted, as in 1984, 1987, 1992 and 1993. As for second vin, the estate produces Cyprès de Climens.
A single-varietal Sémillon. Lucent jonquil with coruscating golden reflex, the nose is gracefully seductive, exuding a beguiling combination of mandarin, peach and crystallised kumquat for fruits, enriched with crème Chantilly, butterscotch, Longjing green tea and osmanthus. Buttressed by animated acidity and pristine minerality, the palate is exquisitely evocative, oozing nectarine, mirabelle, guava, dried longan and dried mango for fruits, seamlessly interwoven with marzipan and vanilla spice. Unctuously textured and full-bodied at 13.5%, the refined entry continues through a suave mid-palate, leading to a memorable finish. With developing wine diamonds, this adorable wine adds another visual dimension – “meteor in a bottle”.
A single-varietal Sémillon. Rutilant jonquil with scintillating golden reflex, the nose is ethereally floral, radiating an enthralling concoction lime peel, tangerine, Japanese pear and peach for fruits, augmented by toffee, Shoumei white tea and water lily. Braced by spirited acidity and fragrant minerality, the palate is delicately multifarious, effusing clementine, apricot, longan and rambutan for fruits, masterly interlaced with cinnamon, jasmine green tea and honeysuckle. Viscously textured and full-bodied at 13.5%, the sophisticated entry carries onto a stylish mid-palate, leading to an indelible finish. With developing wine diamonds, this endearing wine adds another visual dimension – “meteor in a bottle”.
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by Jacky I.F. Cheong
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.