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Appellation: Barsac (Sauternes)
Classification: First Growth of Sauternes – Barsac from 1855
Area under Wine: 31 hectares
Grape variety: 100% Semillon
Soil: ferrous clay sand on fissured starfish limestone sub-soil
Yield: Global Yield (on average over 20 years): 13hl/ha
First Growth yield (average over 20 years): 7hl/ha (i.e. 25 à 30 000 bottles per year)
Average age of vines: 38 years
Density of vine planting: 6 600 vines/ha
Vineyard management: Biodynamic since 2010
Vinification: in small lots in French oak barrels with 30 to 40% new oak each year
Barrel maturation: 20 to 22 months
Second Wine: Cyprès de Climens
This noble sweet white wine, graceful and weightless, is a subtle wine that is like no other. If it is the very expression of the quintessence of this appellation with balance and freshness, it also has the strength and magnificence among the greatest Sauternes. Climens is characterized by brilliance or depth, borne only of its unique terroir.
This special grace, the result of tightness and minerality is also blessed with an extraordinary aromatic palette, mingling perfumes of flowers, fruits, spices, and often even a hint of eucalyptus or fresh mint. In their youth the wines, which have a pale colour that is reminiscent of the aromas, are dominated by citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemon, citron), fresh fruit and white flowers. Sweet spices and other deeper, confected fruit flavours will develop with the passing of time. Whatever the vintage, the wines continue to age slowly, retaining their harmonious blend of sweetness and freshness for decades, which signs their inimitable charm.
Climens is most famous for the elegance of its wine, but also for its sustained excellence: even in less than great vintages, the wines produced are always magical.
Where the 1945 represents sophistication, nuance and classic character, the 1947 is all about richness, robustness and succulence. Spring was delayed that year, which meant a late start to the growing season. Summer warmed up toward the autumn and the abundant sunshine ripened the grapes very quickly. Daytime temperatures ranged between 35-38° C. The crop was finally harvested in nearly tropical conditions, when a thunderstorm ravaged Bordeaux on 19-20 September.
Fortunately a large percentage of the grapes had already been harvested. The grapes were unusually hot during picking and volatile acids caused problems for many vineyards during fermentation. The end result was an absolutely extraordinary vintage, which turned out to be magnificent, particularly on the right bank and in Sauternes. Even young, these reds were exceptionally drinkable. Their life-cycle, on the other hand, has been surprisingly varied. The Pomerol and Saint-Émilion wines have proven superior to Médocs and Graves. The supreme wine of this vintage is most certainly the Château Cheval Blanc, which, in terms of mouthfeel, is perhaps the greatest wine of the entire 20th century. Why the Cheval Blanc was such an unparalleled success that year is something of a mystery. Unlike what happened to so many others, the Cheval Blanc didn’t suffer from excess volatile acids.
Everything from vineyard microclimate to production have been offered as explanations. Because the weather was unusually warm, there were no damp morning mists at the vineyards, which restricted the conditions conducive to the formation of natural yeasts that increase volatility. The heat also killed natural yeasts and the quantity was generally less than normal. Fermentation was done in small concrete tanks, which provided effective insulation against the outside heat and kept temperatures sufficiently low, thus preventing the formation of volatile acids. Another very interesting aspect of the Cheval Blanc’s production was its 5-10-year maturation in old barrels; this was due to the fact that new oak barrels were not available following the depression and war years. In all its glory, the 1947 Cheval Blanc caricatures modern winemaking as an incredible example of the pinnacles that can be reached with no help from technology. In addition to the Cheval, the Pétrus and Lafleur are vintage gems.