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Since 1983, Denis Durantou has been at the helm of this historic estate. He has quietly performed something of a revolution, introducing a host of innovations and bringing his wine-making philosophy to one of the greatest terroirs in Bordeaux. The 4.5 hectares used for the grand vin are situated next to the church in Pomerol on gravel and clay soils. A further 1.5 hectares of on sandy soils account for the excellent Petite Eglise.
Denis’ wines receive many accolades, all richly deserved. The grand vin is consistently amongst the best wines of the vintage; they are typically perfumed, nuanced and posses the structure to age gracefully for many decades.
Château L'Église Clinet 1947
Spared by the recent frosts of 1956, 1985 and 1987, the Merlot plants (85%) and the Cabernet Franc plants (15%) have reached an average age of 40 years.
Château bottling rarely exceeding over 1,500 cases The famous vintage 1921 suppose to be even better, but we haven’t found any genuine bottles for years – there are around lots of fake magnums with real labels but inside 70 years younger wine.
In 1882, Mr Mauléon-Rouchut, great great grandfather of Denis Durantou, brought together different plots of Clos L'Église and Domaine de Clinet. which his family had acquied in the 18th century, to make up a vineyard around the church of Saint John of Pomerol. In 1989 Durantou took over L'Église Clinet.
L’Eglise Clinet’s continuing success may well be the result of great Pomerol terroir, painstaking vine-growing and perfectionist wine-making, but grower Denis Durantou insists that the bottling can be the making or the breaking of a great wine.
"Choosing the right time to harvest and the right time to bottle are the two trickiest decisions in the winemaker’s calendar. If you get these two wrong, there is no going back; you can’t stick the grapes back on the vines and you can’t uncork all the bottles." says Durantou.
"At L’Eglise Clinet, the wine is aged in barrel with very little contact with oxygen. There are of course rackings, but we keep a high level of free sulphur throughout the whole of the ageing process to be sure there is no aromatic deviation. We don’t want to take any risks with yeasts and bacteria, and we believe that it is very important to preserve the reduction potential in great wines. But we also have to take care to explain to consumers that on opening a bottle, the wine may not be showing at its best during the first minutes; it needs a little time to breathe and come out."
Soil: clay and gravel
Production area: 5.4 ha
Grape varieties: Merlot 85%, Cabernet Franc 15%
Average age of vines: 40 years
Ageing: 18 months in oak barrels, new depending on the vintage
Château L'Église Clinet
Tel. + 33 (0)5 5725 9659
Fax + 33 (0)5 5725 2196
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.