Clau de Nell, Grolleau, Loire, France 2016


Clau de Nell, Grolleau, Loire, France 2016


When Grolleau yields are limited and the vines are very old and cultivated 100 percent biodynamically, as at Clau de Nell, the results are surprising, with a remarkable purity of fruit and velvety, tight tannins.

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“From 60- to 90-year-old vines yielding 30 to 35 hectoliters per hectare, the clear and fresh, medium-intense purple 2016 Vin de Loire Grolleau is enormously concentrated on the initially reductive and even feral, iodine and floral nose. Medium-bodied, tight and spicy on the palate, this is a lean, straight and tensioned, very characterful and tart Grolleau that is great yet was still without charm when tasted. After three days in the bottle, the wine opens like a very elegant and friendly Nebbiolo from the northern Alps, with floral aromas of roses, violets, tar and red cherries. On the palate, this is a pure, fresh and silky-textured, lush and fruity Grolleau with remarkable finesse, very fine tannins and a delicate, almost crystalline and filigreed finish. The fruit is perfectly ripe but also fresh and spicy and keeps its finesse and delicate character until the finish, which brings back the red fruit, tar and floral flavors as well as stimulating salinity. This is an excellent Grolleau! The finest Austrian Blaufränkisch red wines come to my mind…

Sylvain says, “This old-vines Grolleau demonstrates the hidden greatness of the grape variety that is part of our heritage….It is a deep and concentrated red wine to have with food.””-92WA, 2021-2036

Domaine Clau de Nell is located in the Loire Valley wine region of Anjou, southeast of Angers and northwest of Saumur, in the village of Ambillou-Château. The vineyards range in age up to 100 years old and are situated on a south-facing knoll. The property consists of 12 contiguous hectares (30 acres), of which 5 hectares (12.4 acres) are planted to Cabernet Franc, 4.5 hectares (11 acres) are planted to Chenin Blanc, 2 hectares (4.9 acres) to Grolleau and 1 hectare (2.5 acres) to Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil is sandstone grit and red flint over tuffeau (the soft limestone of the region). The vineyard is on a slope at an altitude of just 90 meters (295 feet), 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean. From the top of the knoll, surrounded by open countryside, the Loire River can be glimpsed in the distance.

These vineyards have been biodynamically cultivated since 2000. Significant financial difficulties and a call for aid from the previous proprietors brought the property to Anne-Claude Leflaive’s attention. In 2006, Anne-Claude and her husband, Christian Jacques, had created a company to help new biodynamic wine growers take advantage of their established commercial network. In order to assist the struggling venture, in 2008 they purchased the domaine, which had not produced any wine for three years due to lack of means. It was a moment of serendipity for the abandoned vineyards and the Leflaive-Jacques family, culminating with the arrival of Sylvain Potin, well-versed in biodynamic viticulture, to be their estate manager. Christian Jacques concludes that, “We have not chosen Clau de Nell, so much as Clau de Nell has chosen us!

Yields are less than 30 hectoliters per hectare (2.2 tons per acre). Harvest is by hand and entirely destemmed prior to cuvaison, which lasts for 20 to 30 days. The wine cellars are centuries-old, historic troglodyte (limestone) caves created from the tuffeau quarries, which maintain a constant temperature of 14°Celsius (57°Fahrenheit). The wines are aged for 18 months in oak barrels in the caves which were ready to welcome the new wines.

Grolleau, a varietal native to Touraine, has played a major part only in Rosé d’Anjou in the past, as it is prone to very high yields. When yields are limited, however, and the vines are very old and cultivated 100 percent biodynamically, as at Clau de Nell, the results are surprising, with a remarkable purity of fruit and velvety, tight tannins.

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