Eglise Clinet in Hong Kong
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 by Stephen Browett
As many of our customers may know, L'Eglise Clinet consistently produces one of Bordeaux's greatest wines. It now regularly matches or beats the scores from independent critics of wines such as Pétrus and Cheval Blanc and its reputation is rapidly catching up Le Pin and Lafleur. With only 1000 to 1500 cases produced per annum the wines here are as rare as they are great. It was therefore an enormous pleasure for Farr Vintners to organise the first ever tasting of Eglise Clinet in Hong Kong with the owner and wine-maker, Denis Durantou.
Denis flew over especially for this great wine tasting and apart from a huge range of vintages of L'Eglise Clinet itself, he also brought some examples of his other wines, all of which offer incredible value for money.
The first wine tasted was La Chenade 2009. This is made from the younger vines (planted by Denis himself 10 years ago) of Château Les Cruzelles. This had a lovely sweet red cherry nose. On the palate it is plump and voluptuous. Quite decadent and rich. It needs a couple of years to soften but a gorgeous mouthful of ripe red fruit. It's not a crime to drink this tonight but it's going to get even better. 16
Next up was his Saint Emilion which is made from 100% Merlot grapes. Saintayme 2009 has good richness of fruit, with notes of strawberries and violets. A nice touch of cream. There are some soft tannins at the finish but overall this is a seductive and easy-drinking mouth-full of red summer fruits. 15.5
The following wine impressed everyone so much that Jo Purcell was moved to buy a case for herself on the spot! Montlandrie is a property in the Côtes de Castillon that Denis acquired a few years ago and 2009 was his first vintage here. This wine was really creamy with some vanilla notes. Lovely spice here and exotic complexity. Really sexy and voluptuous. There is 30% new oak here which is not quite fully integrated but, given a couple of years, this is going to be wonderful. This 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc blend is very classy, plump and rather similar to a good Pomerol. 16.5
It was, in fact, followed by a Pomerol - La Petite Eglise 2009. This is not actually the second wine of Eglise Clinet as most of it is sourced from vines below the “plateau”. Made from 100% Merlot, there is lots of puppy fat here. Not complex, but soft, open-knit and a real crowd-pleaser. 16. Interestingly, neither we (nor Denis I suspect) rated this as highly as the wines that preceded and follows it. It just goes to show that a great vineyard and inspired wine-making in a “lesser” appellation can often match or beat a wine from a more famous appellation.
The undoubted star of this first flight was the fabulous Chateau Les Cruzelles 2009. This Chateau is situated in the Lalande de Pomerol appellation which means that it is sold at a very modest price for the quality. If this were a Pomerol then the quality would justify triple the price. Chateau Cruzelles is, in fact, so close to Pomerol (and with the same terroir) that it is visible from the back door of Eglise Clinet. The cepages here are 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc. An impressive black colour. Glycerin, great density, black fruit, opulence, exotic and full of spice and pepper. Beautifully rich but balanced, this tastes like a top Pomerol . Sensationally good tonight. 17+
To re-confirm our new-found excitement for Les Cruzelles, Denis then proceeded to show several more mature vintages just before we started on Eglise Clinet itself. We were certainly not disappointed…
Les Cruzelles 2007 – Graphite, black cherry and cool spice. A touch of blueberry, sweet vanilla and nutmeg. Very classy and balanced with a smooth texture. Ripe but fresh and balanced. Lovely stuff, reaching its peak of maturity and will give great drinking over the next 5 years or so. 15.5+
Les Cruzelles 2005 - There is much more structure here. Quite firm and serious. Hidden power. Comes out well after a slightly stern start. 15.5
Les Cruzelles 2004 – This is mature but still has structure. Complex and a touch gamey. Medium weight with some rich berry fruit. Ideal to drink now. 15
Les Cruzelles 2003 – Typical of the vintage. This is ripe and sexy. Low acidity here and it lacks a bit of grip. Slightly falls away at the finish but it's an attractive easy drinker, albeit without much complexity. 14.5
Les Cruzelles 2001 - Smoky, complex, savoury. Lovely and beautiful drinking now. 16
We then moved on to L’Eglise Clinet itself and what a tasting this was! Every vintage showed really well. We kicked with a real coup – the first ever tasting of the 2011 outside Bordeaux. This had been our “Wine of the Vintage” a couple of months ago when we first tasted it en primeur and it was also our fastest-selling wine of 2011. We were not to be disappointed! If only all 2011 Bordeaux tasted like this!
Eglise Clinet 2011 – A sexy, oaky nose. A lovely cloak of spice and vanilla. Not the most incredible depth but this is very seductive and really atypically rich for the vintage. The fruit here is a match for the acidity and tannin and all seems perfectly balanced. 17
Eglise Clinet 2009 - This is an enormous wine with an incredibly long finish. Sweet and opulent but there is structure too. Very intense red fruit, bright yet opulent. Lingers for minutes.... 19
Eglise Clinet 2008 - 2008 was the latest harvest ever here. This is sumptuously creamy yet has bite and structure. Sensational for the vintage. This has cream and polish, lots of ripe red fruit and good structure. Fruit and tannins in perfect balance. 17
Eglise Clinet 2007 – A lovely, soft, silky and smooth Pomerol. Really charming and all pleasure. This is absolutely wonderful to drink now and will give pure enjoyment over the next few years. 16
Eglise Clinet 2006 – Smooth and very nicely polished with a touch of tannin. Good depth but not fat. Slightly dry at the finish but fine and serious. 16
Eglise Clinet 2005 - This is deep, brooding and powerful. Dense and opulent. Not quite as sweet as 2009 and not quite as profound and serious as the 2000 but this is an amazing wine. Still 5 years away from being truly ready to drink. 18.5
Eglise Clinet 2004 - Maybe the least good wine of the decade but it’s still a top Pomerol. Good weight but a bit dry on the finish and slightly lacking in flesh. I’m sure that this would be really good in isolation. 15.5
Eglise Clinet 2003 – This is pretty sweet with a touch of raisins. Atypical for the Chateau, it tastes more like Clinet than Eglise Clinet. Very ripe. Decadent, lacks structure. Bit over-ripe. A blend of the 2004 and 2003 would probably be a better balanced wine than either of them. 15.5
Eglise Clinet 2002 – There is good grip here. Bright and fresh, grippy red fruit. Not a blockbuster but impressive purity and refinement. 16
Eglise Clinet 2001 – This still has a deep colour. Black at the centre with little fade. Rich and dark with brambly fruit. Fresh berries, impressively youthful and serious. Very well balanced. Classy. Only just ready to drink. 17.5
Eglise Clinet 2000 - This has a remarkably dark colour for a 12 year old wine. Very little fade, as black as night at the centre. A massive wine with a huge richness of fruit. Powerful but elegant. Rich but structured, supremely classy. Intense black fruit. Needs a few more years yet. Quite outstanding. 18.5
Eglise Clinet 1999 - This has an impressive colour for the vintage. On the palate it is quite fresh with lots of cool red fruit. Very un-forced and very refined. Charming Pomerol with beautiful balance. 17
Eglise Clinet 1998 – A very deep colour, it’s hard to believe that this wine is now 14 years old. Fabulous density and intensity. Strapping and serious yet rich too. Brilliant balance, classic yet sexy. Perfectly poised. Sensational. 19
Eglise Clinet 1990 – This is super-smooth, very silky but not quite the density of the 1989. 18
Eglise Clinet 1989 – Wow, this is gorgeous and decadent. Vanilla ice cream, leather, layer upon layer. Sweet and succulent. 19
Eglise Clinet 1982 – This was tasted at lunch and brought by a very generous customer of Farr Vintners from his Hong Kong Cellar. This was the last vintage produced before the arrival of Denis Durantou. A fully developed colour, light brown at the rim and faded brick red at the centre. A touch of oxidation on the nose. Still sweet on the palate with, mature blackberry fruit with leather and earth notes. Starting to dry out at the finish. Still ok but past it's best. Drink up. 15
This was a truly fabulous tasting, one of the best of my career. I know that the 30 or so customers of Farr Vintners (who had flown in from Thailand, Taiwan, Beijing and Shanghai, as well as those from Hong Kong) will remember it for many years to come. Our biggest thanks go to Denis Durantou himself but the tasting was brilliantly organised by Jo Purcell and her team and the food in a private room of the Grand Hyatt (overlooking Hong Kong harbour) was a great accompaniment to these awesome wines. Farr Vintners loves Denis and now Hong Kong does too!