A NEW AND FEMININE PUISSEGUIN-SAINT-EMILION
“He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind…” An agreeable adage that matches well to Olivia Le Calvez’s path. After creating a small jewel of a hotel in 2004, the Toiras Hotel and Spa, Relais et Châteaux and first five-star hotel in l’Ile de Ré and in the Poitou-Charentes Region, she has just accomplished another dream: creating her own wine in one of the most illustrious regions of the Bordeaux constellation, the UNESCO World Heritage Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion.
Animated by a passion for wine and an appetite for challenges, she took the plunge with the help of her husband, Didier Le Calvez, an emblematic figure of the premier/luxury hotel business. After spending more than ten years in New York (from 1988 until 1999) as manager of the Plaza Hotel, then at the Pierre as General Manager, from 1999 to 2007 he was in charge in Paris of the Four Seasons George V, which he put back into orbit among the best palaces in the world. During this time, he followed Enrico Bernardo in his quest for the title of the world’s best sommelier, obtained in 2004, and he is responsible for recruiting Eric Beaumard, “best vice-sommelier of the world 1998”, and encouraging him to develop/expand/build up the Georges V wine cellar. “Through contact with exceptional sommeliers and meritorious winegrowers possessing a broad know-how, my passion for wine only grew and deepened. I could be nothing but enthusiastic for Olivia’s project. All the more so that it reminded me of the type of exciting challenges I had to take on at the Georges V. It was also necessary to start practically from scratch to revive a potential…”
In 2009, Olivia’s dream took the form of an authentic stone girondine house curled up in the green landscape covered with the soft hills of the right bank. This old winemaking property, complete with magnificent cellars, which had belonged for more than a century to the Estager family, is surrounded by a very beautiful and high-perched vineyard (89 meters) on the Puisseguin plateau, one of the four “satellite” villages of Saint-Emilion. Only a humble stream, the Barbanne, subtributary of the Dordogne, separates them from the illustrious fortified town.
“I have a particular attachment to this region where I spent part of my childhood. My husband was born in neighbouring Perigord. It is therefore here, a two-hour drive from Toiras and as much from Chapdeuil, a small village in the Dordogne region where we have truffles, that I started my search for the rare gem. A place that would allow us to combine a region we love with the start of a business.
After many months spent searching, we fell in love with a wine-growing property combining an ideal terroir and climate, added to a perfect variety of vines: 80 % of Merlot and 20% of Cabernet Franc. Everything was present to elaborate a wine such as I had imagined, rich in fragrance and subtle.”
Stéphane Derenoncourt, the renowned winemaker of the right bank, joined the family project to bring on all the elegance, harmony and sensitivity sought for in this new and feminine Puisseguin Saint-Emilion.
Such was born Château CLARISSE, named after their daughter (who will be three when the first bottle comes out!), to write the pages of a lovely family story….
HIGH PERCHED VINES ON THE SAINT-EMILION PLATEAU
Located on the famous Saint-Emilion Plateau at almost 80 meters in altitude, the Château Clarisse property benefits from the best soils of the Saint-Emilion region with a high potential for development. The vineyard stretches over 5.11 hectares of a well-drained clay-limestone and clay-siliceous soil. “We would like to gradually expand it to about ten hectares.” Composed of Merlots (4.3 hectares) and Cabernet Francs (0.8 hectares), the average age it between 25 and 30 years.
Olivia, who can now boast about her owner-operator title, brings it a constant, careful and conscientious care. She does so with the same level of requirements called for in the high-end of the hotel industry. “From early 2010, she called on the magician Stéphane Derenoncourt for the wine-growing and the wine-making. I completely adhere to her approach, which consists in letting the soil speak and bringing the grapes to maturity while intervening as little as possible between the soil, the harvesting and the wine. Her golden rule: a wine must express with freshness and harmony the subtlety of its terroir. This is the way that are born wines that can be drunk immediately or kept stored.”
Following Stéphane Derenoncourt’s advice, work at Château Clarisse focused foremost on the vine, where everything is prepared. Removing dead vines was an important part of the work undertaken as early as 2010 (before replanting planned for spring of 2011), as well as cultivating the soil, which was enriched with compost to stimulate bacterial/microbial life. “Our goal is to bring the plant to draw from deep within the limestone basement the quality and expression typical of this terroir, an extra aromatic finesse and quality of tannins.”
“When facing the terroir, the more man is discreet, the better the wine.” Such is the philosophy of Stéphane Derenoncourt, who has established at Château Clarisse a reasoned cultivation based on the observation of nature. Meticulous work on the vine – adapted single or double Guyot pruning, rubbing out unwanted buds and branches manually, hand leaf thinning, green harvesting – has allowed, after a selection process (selection on the stock combined with a rigorous table sorting when the grape gathering is received), to obtain in 2010 a yield of 28 to 30 hl/ha, well below what is authorized.
“We harvested our first grapes in October beneath a ray of sun… and the following day, it rained! Two-year old Clarisse was with us and our son Georges, four and a half, cut his first grapes! Winemaking is an “art de vivre”/lifestyle, a culture, a school of rigor and excellence. It also provides a link to traditions, ancestral rhythms and doings, and we are happy to have our children discover this world at such a young age.”
WINE-MAKING PROCESSES RESPECTFUL OF THE TERROIR
Upon arriving, Olivia and Didier discovered a cellar equipped with beautiful cement vats and a superb barriques/barrels cellar with enormous oak beams. “We installed thermoregulation in the fermenting room, sanded the cellar, installed new barriques/barrels. Small vats allowed parcel selection. The adventure was ready to begin…”
The winemaking of the first vintage (2010) took place with whole fruits, which had not been treaded. The alcoholic fermentation took place in thermo-regulated cement vats; the extraction (of tannins, aroma precursors, colour pigments) by pumping-over, délestage (rack and return) and cap-punching ended with a thermo-vinification at the end of fermentation. The malolactic fermentations took place in new (10%) and year-old (90%) wooden barriques, the same barriques where, to this day, continues, under a watchful vigilance, the maturing of the wine.
Since the first year, a careful selection lead our young wine-grower to elaborate a Vieilles Vignes (old vines) vintage from the harvesting of 1 hectare facing full South and planted with Merlot stocks of over twenty years old. Only 3,000 bottles will be produced.
“Château Clarisse is a Puisseguin Saint-Emilion, reminds Olivia with pride, and we are doing our utmost for it to be at the highest possible level. Hence a relentless selection of vintages to keep only the most successful, the most accomplished.
Our goal is to make a wine that is on par with the best at an affordable price, between 12 and 15 Euros a bottle. That is the real challenge these days in the world of great wines!”
With such a spirit of excellence, how not to see, from the depths of this age-old terroir, the oldest in the Bordelais, the appearance of a new “star”?
Rendezvous in a few months to discover the first vintage…
CHÂTEAU CLARISSE IN BRIEF
Owner: Olivia Le Calvez Mathé
Associate/Partner: Didier Le Calvez
Consultant Oenologist: Romain Bocchio from Vignerons Consultants (Stéphane Derenoncourt)
Surface: 5.11 Hectares
Terroir: Clay-limestone / Clay-siliceous Geology
Grape Varieties: 85 % of Merlot – 15 % of Cabernet Franc
Density of Planting: 6666 vines per hectare
2010 Post-Selection Yield: 32 hl/ha
30 hl/ha for the Merlots
46 hl/ha for the Cabernets
Harvesting: mechanical and manual (in 2011, the entire harvest will be done by hand)
Wine-making process: Wine-making with whole fruits (no treading), fermentation in thermo-regulated cement vats, in small quantities for parcel selection
Maturing: In new barriques* – 10 % – and in year-old barriques* – 90 % (*The French name for a 225-liter Bordeaux style barrel.)
Annual Production: 25 to 30,000 bottles
Image et entreprise
Phone: +33 1 42 61 51 64 – Fax: + 33 1 47 03 43 94
Press release in PDF format