A Visit to Clos Rougeard, 2019

It has been just a few years since I last reported on a visit to Clos Rougeard. And what long years they have been! During their passing this domaine, arguably the most renowned in the Loire Valley, and in recent years the source of one of it’s most prized, most sought-after and certainly most expensive wines, has been through a period of tragedy, turmoil, upset and upheaval. Now, four years on, with one of the Foucault brothers having died, the other having departed, the domaine in new hands, and with a new winemaker installed, I sense that the dust is perhaps finally beginning to settle. With that in mind I decided it was about time I returned, to meet Jacques Antoine Toublanc, now in charge here, and to see what has changed. And, perhaps more importantly, to see what has not changed.

A Brief History of the Domaine

You will not be surprised to read that I have already published, in my full profile of Clos Rougeard, the most detailed history possible of this domaine, so I shall not explore it in great detail here. Suffice to say that the domaine originated in the latter half of the 17th century, the vineyards passing through the hands of the Venon, Esnault and Dubois families, before coming undivided to Milon Moreau in the early 20th century. His daughter married Raymond Foucault, who thus took on the running of the vineyards, which then came to their sons Charly and Nady Foucault (the latter pictured below, back in 2015). It was not just the land that was passed from one generation to the next though; there was also a philosophy of working without chemical inputs, and so what the brothers inherited were pristine vineyards of old vines untroubled by synthetic fertilisers, herbicides or fungicides. Their loyal adherence to these old-school methods, a source of amusement to some locals too ready to embrace new, easier, chemically-assisted methods, nevertheless resulted in admirable wines which were always wise additions to the cellar.

Clos Rougeard

Despite this, for many years the domaine remained under the radar of the big spenders of the wider world of wine who, in many cases, are happy to ignore the Loire Valley in favour of more ‘collectible’ regions. It was not that long ago, for example, that a Master of Wine who knows of my interest in the Loire Valley sent me a picture of a bottle of Clos Rougeard his press-trip hosts had poured for him in a wine bar in Champagne, along with the question “this is great – have you ever heard of this domaine?”. It was clear it was a new discovery for him, despite him living his entire life in wine. A domaine making wines as distinctive and defined as those of, say, Château Tertre-Roteboeuf in St Emilion, and yet it was still – beyond the world of the Loire geek – relatively unknown.

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