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Clos des Lunes Lune d’Argent 2018

Clos des Lunes Lune d’Argent 2018

My sporadic exploration of all things dry, white and Bordeaux continues this week with another example from off the beaten track.

Well, I suppose Sauternes is not really off the beaten track but it is still a region primarily renowned for its sweet rather than its dry wines. That is surely set to change, as forces within the region seek to shift its focus away from the slow-to-sell sweeter style and towards its drier wines.

One such force is Christian Seely of AXA Millésimes (and therefore Château Suduiraut) who has refashioned his portfolio of wines, putting dry and sweet on equal grand vin footing. Before long I expect we will see another try for the Sauternes Sec (or some similar name) appellation, to distinguish the dry wines of this region from the broader and more generic Bordeaux appellation. Given that the creation of a Médoc Blanc appellation (to cover dry whites from the Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc and Moulis-en-Médoc appellations) is expected to be ratified sometime before 2025, I am not sure how they could be refused.

One estate that would surely benefit from the creation of such an appellation is Clos des Lunes, which is the brainchild of Oliver Bernard, of Domaine de Chevalier.

Clos des Lunes Lune d'Argent 2018

Clos des Lunes first saw the light of day in 2011 when the owner, MAAF Assurance, divested itself of several properties including a little-known Sauternes estate named Château Haut Caplane (of note, another property it sold off at the same time was the recently profiled Château Tour Saint Christophe in St Emilion, since elevated to grand cru classé in the 2022 St Emilion classification). Olivier Bernard snapped it up, rechristened it Clos des Lunes, and established it as the base for a new dry-white project.

The acquisition brought Olivier and team 12.5 hectares, and while he started off in 2011 with a Sauternes this was because he acquired the estate in November, and that die had already been cast. The true raison d’être for this new project is its dry wines, which first appeared in the 2012 vintage. To feed the project he augmented the Clos des Lunes vineyard with an array of parcels rented from local proprietors, who I imagine are only too glad to finally see some regular income from their land. Most notably he also operates the rarely-seen classed growth Château Suau on behalf of the proprietor, and once that estate’s small-volume Sauternes has been vinified the remainder of the fruit he picks there also feeds into the wines of Clos des Lunes.

This being Sauternes country Semillon dominates, which naturally sets any dry wines made here apart from the majority of Bordeaux whites, in which Sauvignon Blanc usually has the leading part. The major distinction between the three principal dry cuvéesLune Blanche, Lune d’Argent and Lune d’Or – is in the élevage, as all three focus on Semillon, which in each case typically accounts for 70% of the blend. The use of oak goes up as you move up through the range, so the mid-range Lune d’Argent is vinified 25% in barrel and 75% in small stainless steel vats.

On pulling the cork of the 2018 Lune d’Argent from Clos des Lunes I find it has a very pale hue in the glass. It feels very withdrawn and understated at first, but it needs time to open up, and as it does so it eventually reveals a quiet symphony of perfumed orange zest, waxy citrus and a touch of lemon curd. The palate, at first similarly reticent, slowly reveals a ripe and broad character, sinewy and pervasive, with a supple and quietly spoken presence of fruit, supported by piles of grip and a slowly emerging sandy, gravelly, pebbly minerality. This is charming, gripped, savoury with a soft wrapping of fruit and rather low-key acidity, a marker of the vintage of course; happily the other structural elements make up for this. It brings pleasure but at this stage still feels rather closed down, the Semillon rather mute at the moment (unlike Sauvignon Blanc, I think Semillon needs more time in bottle to show its true worth) and I would give this another three or four years (maybe more) in the cellar to reveal its best. The alcohol on the label, by the way, is 13%. 88/100 (3/4/23)

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