Château Climens, 2023 Update

I am sometimes guilty of naively expecting things as they are now to continue forever, when in fact this is almost certainly never true; the world – including the little world of wine – is continually evolving. Salons wax and wane in their importance, the Salon des Vins de Loire a shadow of the great fair I first attended fifteen years ago, now dominated by Wine Paris. Appellations are born and reborn, while some splinter and wither; when was the last time, for example, you clapped eyes on a bottle of Anjou Coteaux de la Loire? If indeed you ever have? Small domaines and great châteaux change hands, as a new generation or an entirely new owner takes over, a new chapter in a story that might tell a tale of decline, or of revitalisation.

At the Bordeaux primeurs my annual trek down to Barsac to taste Château Climens was a constant feature of my annual trip. I always enjoyed it immensely. Bérénice Lurton was a consummate host, and nothing hammered home the story of the vintage for Sauternes and Barsac like the Climens barrel tasting. It is all very well looking at a chart of the weather and the days of on-and-off picking, but there I could taste the results, the first, second and third (and sometimes fourth and fifth) tries all in barrel, just itching to be drawn up by pipette, and then into my glass. I could see in the vintage where the botrytised richness came from, and where bright acidity resided, and how it would all be put together.

Château Climens

But of course much has changed at Château Climens. Sales of sweet wines are in interminable decline, and the region as a whole continues to shift towards dry wines in order to balance the books; Bérénice introduced the dry Asphodèle in the 2018 vintage. And a series of difficult vintages pushed the domaine to the financial brink; frost in 2017, mildew in 2018, hail in 2020 and frost again in 2021 meant that Bérénice only produced her grand vin once in five vintages. The result was perhaps inevitable; the estate was forced to accept outside investment, the business essentially sold to real-estate mogul Jean-Philippe Moitry (pictured above) in 2022.

The barrel tasting is no more. During the primeurs in April 2023 I tasted the new 2022 Château Climens – a prepared blend from bottle – with Jean-Philippe. I also tasted the nascent 2022 Asphodèle, not to mention two more new dry cuvées.

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