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A wonderful family story

A NEW FEMININE PUISSEGUIN-SAINT-EMILION

Spurred on by their passion for wine and love of a challenge, Olivia and Didier Le Calvez forged their path in the wine world with the support of Stephane Derenoncourt, an iconic figure in the Bordeaux wine region. From 2010, they make their own wine in Saint Emilion, one of the most illustrious wine areas in Bordeaux, as well as being a UNESCO world heritage site.

Olivia Le Calvez is the creator of the boutique Hotel de Toiras and its gourmet restaurant, La Table d’Olivia on the Ile de Ré. This Relais & Chateau hotel is the first 5* hotel on the Ile de Ré and in fact, in the whole of the Poitou-Charentes region. In 2013, Olivia became a member of Relais & Châteaux Management Board.

After ten years in New York (from 1988 to 1999) where he was manager of the Plaza Hotel and then General Manager of The Pierre, Didier Le Calvez moved back to Paris where he directed the George V Hotel until 2007, in which time he propelled it to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. During his time at the George V, Didier was encouraged by Enrico Bernardo and Eric Beaumard, two of the world’s finest sommeliers, to grow and develop the George V wine cellar. Didier comments about this period: “Being in contact with exceptional sommeliers and the most skilled and knowledgeable wine growers only grew and affirmed my passion for wine. It made me so enthusiastic for our common project. So exciting was this challenge, I realised it was time for me to step down from the George V. I had to pretty much start from scratch again in order to realise the full potential of this project.”

Didier Le Calvez is currently CEO at La Reserve Paris.

La famille Le Calvez au Château Clarisse
La famille Le Calvez au Château Clarisse

Olivia & Didier’s dream took shape in 2009, with the purchase of an authentic Girond house (white stone, blue shutters) nestled deep in the green countryside and within the gentle curves of the river. This ancient wine-making property, graced with excellent storehouses (previously owned by the Estager family for over a century) is surrounded by a beautiful, tall (108m) vineyard on the Puisseguin plateau, one of the four ‘satellite’ villages looking over Saint-Emilion. La Barbanne, a humble stream and a sub-tributary of the Dordogne, is the only thing that separates it from the famed town.

Olivia says of the area : “I am particularly attached to the region as I spent much of my childhood here and my husband was born in neighbouring Perigord. It made perfect sense to set out on my mission to find our little gem here – a two hour drive from the Ile de Ré where we have Hotel de Toiras and also from Chapdeuil where we own a truffle grove. After more than 2 years of looking, we fell in love with a wine-making property that has ideal soil and climate as well as a perfect grape variety – 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. Each piece of the puzzle fit perfectly to create the wine I had dreamed of, rich in flavour and yet still subtle in taste.”

Stephane Derenoncourt, the great winemaker of the area, joined forces with the family for their project bringing his sought-after elegance, harmony and sensitivity to the table in order to create this new feminine Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion.

And thus Chateau Clarisse was born! Named after their daughter (who was 3 years old with the birth of the first bottle in 2010), it adds another chapter to this lovely family story…

HIGH VINES ON THE SAINT EMILION PLATEAU

Situated on the famous Saint Emilion Plateau, at 108m high, the Chateau Clarisse property benefits from the best land in the area with huge development potential. The vineyard originally covered an area of 5 hectares, but was progressively enlarged to cover 15 hectares, including 2.3 hectares in Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux. It benefits from a well-drained clay-limestone and clay-siliceous soil. «A chaise longue of soil» is how the famous oenologist, Michel Rolland, referred to it to describe this soil which produces wine, even with minimum input. The vineyard which is composed of merlots and cabernet francs, has an average age of 25 to 30 years old.

Olivia and Didier, who can now use the title, land-owner and farmer, are meticulous when it comes to taking care of the vineyard. They do it with the same attention to detail as a luxury hotel owners.
Olivia says, “Since 2010, we have been working with the genius, Stéphane Derenoncourt, helping with the vine-growing and the vinification. we follow his method which consists of listening to the ground, bringing the grape to maturity, by interfering as little as possible between the ground, the gathering and the wine. His golden rule is that a wine must express the subtlety of its land, with freshness and harmony. In this way, the wines which can be drunk immediately, while still staying good, are born.”

Upon the advice of Stéphane Derenoncourt, the work for Chateau Clarisse, concentrated first and foremost on the vine. A big work of racotage was undertaken in 2010 (before a series of replanting was done between 2011 and 2012) to enrich the soil with compost to stimulate the bacteria.

“We try to get the plant to extract the very quality of the land from the depths of the bedrock; the aromatic finesse and the high-quality tannin”.
“Faced with the soil, the more discreet man is, the better the wine,” – such is the philosophy of Stephane Derenoncourt. The work on the vineyard has been meticulous – the vine is trained in a specially adapted Guyot style and the removal of excess buds, thinning of shoots and removal of unwanted leaves are all undertaken by hand. When permitting, the vendanges are done when the grapes are still green after selection process, to harvest yields of 30 to 38 hl/ha (for a plantation density of 6666 to 5500 feet per hectare), which is well under the authorised maximum yield.[1]

“We carried out our first grape harvest on a sunny day in October 2010… the next day it rained! Clarisse, who was two, was with us, along with our son George, who was four and a half, and plucked his first grapes that day. Wine growing is an art de vivre, a school of rigor and excellence. It’s also a link to tradition and with the actions of our ancestors, and we are happy to be able to make this world known to our children.”

RESPECTED VINIFICACTIONS OF THE SOIL

Upon arrival, Olivia and Didier discovered a wine cellar equipped with beautiful concrete vats and two storehouses, with stunning wood beams, full of wine barrels, completely restored at the beginning of 2013 (just like the rest of the equipment, the farm buildings and the bottle storehouses). “We installed thermotaxis in the fermenting room, sandblasted the storehouse, installed new barrels (80 % – Taransaud, 10 % – Ana Sélection, 10 % from other barrel-makers)… Small vats allowed us to make fragmented selections. The adventure was about to begin!.”

The vinification takes place using the whole grape, before it’s strained. The fermentation is done in thermo-regulated vats; the extraction (of the tanins, the precursors of scent & pigments), by pumping-over, extraction of the colour and tanin and pressing the grapes, ending with maceration at the end of the fermentation process. The malo-lactic fermentation takes place in the new wood barrels (25%) and of a wine (75%), these same barrels, where the wine education is taught meticulously.

From the very first year, the attention to the grape selection drove the young vinegrower to start up a “Vieilles Vignes” batch from the south facing 1 hectare harvest where the vine stocks have been cultivated for over seventy years. Currently, 10 000 bottles are produced each year.

“2013 was our third year of harvest,” says Didier Le Calvez, “Today we are getting to know our twenty different plots better and better and refining the wine-making process to fully respect and bring out the best of each one.”

“Chateau Clarisse is a Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion,” confirms Olivia with pride, “and we are doing everything in our power to make it the best quality possible. This starts with the ruthless selection of the cuvees to make sure we are only keeping the most successful and most accomplished. Our aim is to make a wine equal to any of the best at an affordable price of about 20€. Our wine is now a real competitor in the world of les grands vins!”

With such a perfectionist attitude, how can this wine not rise up from the depths of this ancient soil, the oldest in Bordeaux, and shine as a new star?

Château Clarisse in brief

Property Adress : Château Clarisse – Lieu-dit Croix de Justice – 33570 Puisseguin

Contact : contact@chateau-clarisse.com – +33 (0)5 46 67 83 74

Owner : Olivia Le Calvez Mathé

Associate : Didier Le Calvez

Winemaker : Romain Bocchio from Vignerons Consultants (Stéphane Derenoncourt)

Estate Manager : Olivier Verdier

Sales Manager : Marion Troquier

Area : 15.5 hectares including 1 hectare of Wood

Soils : Clay-limestone

Grape varieties : 80% Merlot – 20% Cabernet Franc

Planting density : 6666 ou 5500 vines per hectare

Harvest : 100 % manual

Vinification : Steeping in whole berries, extraction by pumping-over and release, punching

Ageing: 25% in new barrel, 75% in barrels of one and two wines

Yearly production : About 50 000 bottles


[1] The maximum authorised yield for a Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion is up to 45 ho/ha.