Clos des Lunes
It is not news to state that the appellation of Sauternes has been struggling in recent years. You might not think so to look at the success enjoyed by the likes of Château d’Yquem or Château Climens, or indeed many of the other grand cru classé estates, although even at this level the very low yields and intensity of work involved suggest that prices for these wines should be higher. That they lag so far behind the stratospheric prices currently fetched by the top red wines of Bordeaux is an indicator of the region’s difficulties, even at the highest quality level. Further down the food chain, beyond the confines of the 1855 Sauternes classification, Sauternes is more evidently a region in crisis; it is dotted with many tiny estates, many with unfamiliar names, and their proprietors struggle to eke out a living despite working in one of the oldest vineyards of the world’s most profitable wine region.
In 2011, one such struggling estate was purchased by Olivier Bernard, best known of course for his skilful direction of Domaine de Chevalier which, during his tenure, has ascended to a position very close to the top of the Pessac-Léognan league table. The property in question is Château Haut Caplane and its recent history, passed from one proprietor to another and then sold on again within months, kicked along like some viticultural football, is indicative of the hard times upon which some in this region have fallen. Now renamed by Olivier, we now know the estate as Clos des Lunes instead. This profile looks at this new Bordeaux project, the novel approach taken in the vines by Olivier, and of course its wines.
Château Haut Caplane
Trying to tease out some history for Château Haut Caplane has been a fairly fruitless task. The estate is not mentioned in any of my editions of Cocks et Féret, which largely date to the 19th century. More recent texts that touch on Sauternes, such as David Peppercorn’s Bordeaux (Faber & Faber, 1991) and Stephen Brook’s Sauternes (Faber & Faber, 1995) make no mention of the property either. Perhaps this should not surprise us; the Sauternes crisis has kept prices in check for so long that even today, while the wines of the classed growths of the Médoc become ever more expensive, here in Sauternes and Barsac the wines of many of the premier and deuxième grand cru classé estates remain affordable. For this reason there is simply no need to go hunting out smaller châteaux in the hope of finding better value as we might in Pauillac or Pomerol. Such tiny properties thus remain in obscurity, which of course only compounds their financial difficulties.