There are few more distinctive properties in the Sauternes and Barsac appellations than Château Climens. The château sits atop a very low rise just to the south-west of Château Coutet and Château Doisy-Daëne, the single-story chartreuse-style villa flanked at either end by rectangular towers, each one topped by a slate pyramid for a roof. Bérénice Lurton, for many years the proprietor here, presents her wines in a system as individual as the château; there are, for example, no primeur samples here. Not only does she not participate in Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings, but a visit to the property during the primeurs will not yield a taste of a final or even a proposed blend, but rather a barrel-by-barrel tasting of potential components, more akin to what you might find when visiting Richard Leroy in the Loire Valley rather than a big-name Bordeaux château.
And as for the wine itself, no-one can deny that this too has a distinctive character, with its fresh Barsac acidity and great depth of botrytised fruit. In my opinion this is one of the two big names in Barsac (although there are a good number of delicious wines made in the commune), the most believable challenger to the supremacy of Château d’Yquem, and – provided the weather gods have been kind, and given Bérénice a crop to harvest – frequently one of the best wines of the vintage.
Château Climens has a lengthy and fairly well documented history stretching back perhaps 500 years, although it does not seem that viticulture was undertaken here until the 17th century. Throughout much of the early history of the estate it was owned by the Roborel family, who seem to be credited with establishing the property in the middle of the 16th century. It was Jacques Roborel (1460 – 1530), a notaire, who first purchased land within the commune of Barsac, although it was not until the acquisition of the lieu-dit known as Climens Oli by his son Guirault Roborel in 1547 that the story of Château Climens really begins to take shape.