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Château La Clotte 2008

Château La Clotte 2008

In my recent review of the 2015 Bordeaux vintage, retasted at two (and a bit) years of age, I pointed subscribers towards Château La Clotte. Well, in truth it was one of many wines in St Emilion I pointed subscribers towards, but this one was also notable for other reasons. First, I noted that within just a few years after the estate’s acquisition by the Vauthier family, the estate has already leap-frogged into second position in their portfolio estates, directly behind Château Ausone and ahead of the every Bordeaux fan’s favourite ‘insider’s wine’, Château Moulin Saint-Georges. Second, I confessed that although I only profiled the estate quite recently, it is one I have been following for some years, a source of both quality and value. With that in mind, I decided to pull an older vintage from the cellar.

I think key to the character of these wines is terroir. Château La Clotte sits just to the east of the town of St Emilion, as close to the city walls as you can get without falling over them. This is the heart of the St Emilion appellation, well up on the plateau, its durable limestone bedrock scraped with a thin topsoil of clay. What is more, the vines of Château La Clotte enjoy a wonderful south-facing aspect, as the land slopes down into the Vallon de Fongaban, where the original Château Valandraud vineyard is to be found (not the more recent incarnation of Château Valandraud, which sits out on the road to the east as it heads towards the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux appellation.

Château La Clotte 2008

Under the Vauthier family every step in the process of winemaking at Château La Clotte will have come in for scrutiny, from viticulture to selection, sorting to élevage, and the wines are already showing improvements. This is no surprise; having restored a once lacklustre Château Ausone (how easy it is to forget that era) to the head of the St Emilion hierarchy, turning around Château La Clotte should be child’s play. But this doesn’t mean the wines weren’t good before they took control. The terroir shines through, even in these older vintages. The younger members of the family that owned the estate in the late-20th century must have seen this potential, as having taken control of the property during the 1980s they soon terminated the fermage agreement with the Moueix family, who were looking after the vines at that time, and began upgrading the estate. They revitalised and re-equipped the cellars, and looked set to stay, so it was a surprise when it was announced, in 2014, that the domaine had been sold to the Vauthier family. I suspect the young proprietors were made an offer they simply could not refuse.

The 2008 vintage is not a special one for Bordeaux as a whole, although rather like the 2012 vintage, I feel the right bank was favoured slightly more than the left. The 2008 Château La Clotte does nothing to refute this belief. It displays a very convincing colour in the glass, still with a very dark core, certainly suggesting a good concentration, with a little dusty-red hue around the edges. The aromatic profile feels very classic, with notes of toasted blackcurrant and blackberry, swirled with fresher nuances of bay leaf and green peppercorn, at just the right level (for me) to provide aromatic interest without dominating the nose. In keeping with this fresh style the palate shows a reserved and rather taut texture, one framed by a firm and tannic structure, which comes with plenty of biting acid character. Overall the style here is tense, almost austere, that firm limestone-derived confidence shining through, giving the wine an abundance of grip, and yet the finish soothes, showing length and warmth. This is good for drinking now, but will certainly do another five years in the cellar, by which point I suspect it will be singing. 93/100 (27/8/18)

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