Clos Puy Arnaud, 2022 Update
The career path followed by Thierry Valette, doyen of Clos Puy Arnaud, is distinctly different to that taken by many of his Bordelais peers. When others were studying for their business degree, learning Mandarin or possibly even enrolling on an oenology course Thierry was walking a very different path. Indeed, he left Bordeaux behind entirely to study modern dance and jazz saxophone, and it was many years before he returned, in the late 1980s. At that time the Valette family (or at least this particular branch of the Valette family) still owned Château Pavie, but when that was sold in 1998 Thierry found himself at something of a loose end.
A couple of years later, in 2000, Thierry (pictured below) arrived at Clos Puy Arnaud, and more than two decades on he remains settled here. Under his tenure the vineyard was converted to biodynamic viticulture, certified by Biodyvin, and the quality of the wines has been consistently high. The grand vin follows a traditional Bordeaux right-bank recipe, mainly Merlot, from limestone, yet the results are deliciously dark and savoury.
The other wines raise the intrigue level, especially the Cuvée Pervenche, a fruit-dominated early-drinking cuvée with all the purity I would expect to find in the most glorious examples of Cabernet Franc (even though it is primarily Merlot). Stylistically it reminds me of Jérôme Billard’s excellent entry-level Temps de Cerises cuvée; pure, fresh and defined, and packed with fruit. This is a different side of Bordeaux.
Back in November I met up with Thierry Valette to taste some of his recent releases. Sadly he was alone, so I wasn’t treated to a performance by the Thierry Valette Quartet, the jazz group through which Thierry still expresses his love of jazz (their work is fairly easy to find online, using your favourite search engine). But he did bring a couple of recent vintages of Clos Puy Arnaud, so I was happy enough.