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Posted: Wednesday, 24 October 2018 16:44

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Passing By: Gérard Blanloeil of Clarendelle Wines of Haut- Brion Bordeaux

Oct 24: Gérard Blanloeil, Managing Director of Clarendelle Wines, a fine wine Négociant in Bordeaux making also the Clarendelle wines since 2002, was in Delhi this week where he conducted a Masterclass and guided tasting of wines from the 3 chateaux owned by Prince Robert de Luxembourg and Clarendelle, writes Subhash Arora who loved the wines but found the second wine of La Mission most likeable

When Prince Robert had visited India over five-and-a-half years ago, he had talked about his 3 estates and Clarendelle wines in detail-he was rather emotional about the latter because this was a project dear to his heart and he wanted a true expression out of these wines. Gérard Blanloeil, Managing Director of Clarendelle Wines conducted a Masterclass for F& B Professionals at Le Cirque on Monday October 22 where six wines were tasted under his guidance.

Being at the helm at Clarendelle gives the agriculture engineer from Northwest France , who also did a course in oenology ample opportunity to swim through the wonderful world of Bordeaux wines. The company is also a fine wine Négociant, dealing with 140 producers including the Lafites and Latours and of course Haut Brions. ‘We deal mostly in En Primeur wines including from our own group. But to be fair to the other Négociants, we do not get any preference either in terms of prices or information which is given to us after others have received it. But we do not mind it and have our own network of customers to deal with.’

Gerard has been involved with the operations almost from the very beginning.  ‘Though the company was formally founded in 2005, the process of Clarendelle wine making had started in 2002. I joined the company as MD about 10 years ago. Since it was Prince Robert’s brainchild, the project has his full attention’, he says. Explaining the working a bit further when I told him the branding reminded me of Mouton Cadet, he said, ‘we don’t consider them our competitors. Firstly , we don’t sell in supermarkets but only restaurants some of which are Michelin starred restaurants. La Clarence, the 2-Michelin starred Restaurant in Hotel Dillon Paris and owned by Domain Clarence Dillon, also pours Clarendelle wines.

He echoes the sentiments of Prince Robert when he says they plan to take the label to much higher heights with the objective of giving top class Bordeaux wines. As a philosophy, they do not want to restrict wines to Left bank, Right bank or even the grape varieties. ‘We buy the best possible wines from our reliable vendors with whom we have been dealing for years. We pay higher than the market price and even in bad vintages we support them. If a vintage is poor in the Left Bank and better in the Right Bank we focus more on the Right bank wines. We even change the grape mix somewhat every vintage to give the most delicious end result. We like to keep consistency as much as possible.’

 Art of Blending

As might be expected,  blending is extremely important for Clarendelle wines, says Gerard. ‘Our team of winemakers from the two Haut Brions and our winemaker start with say a 100 samples from different vendors. After tasting and blending we reduce the number to 30 wines. Giving a gap of a couple of days, we re-taste these wines after giving the palate some rest and finally select the final product, making blending an important task. It’s not a simple mathematics of mixing a fruity wine with equal amount of a tannic wine to give us the balanced product. The experience of the winemakers is very important to get the best out of the grape and the land.

Wine Tasting

Gerard conceded that he was in India to primarily promote Clarendelle, precisely as Prince Robert did over 5 years before him. But to attract the right mix of people, he thought it was only prudent to bring along some more popular wines as well. Thus there were 3 Second wines- La Clarte (white), La Chapelle and La Clarence. The St. Emilion wine was the Third wine, besides Clarendelle white and red:

 

1.

Clarendelle Blanc 2016  

Rs. 4,225

 

2.

La Clarte de Haut Brion 2013

Rs. 31,428

 

3.

Clarendelle Rouge 2014

Rs. 4,225

 

4.

St Emilion de Quintus 2015

Rs. 8,904

 

5.

La Chapelle de la Mission 2011 

Rs. 27,887

 

6.

La Clarence de Haut-Brion 2012

Rs. 50,525

       

The prices above are retail prices, more or less the same in Delhi and Mumbai. Clarendelle has already been registered in Delhi. As Sanjay Menon of Sonarys, the  importer said, he wanted to keep the price of both the wines same to keep it simple (making the red more attractive in PQR-Price Quality ratio) but in the case of Haut Brion there are vintages when white wine can be even more expensive than the red.

Pleasurable wines

Both the basic Clarendelle wines were excellent in taste, showing their pedigree rather well.  The Third wine of Quintus was elegant, balanced and loveable too. La Clarte was fuller, more complex white with equilibrium and harmony that few Bordeaux whites have-no wonder the Estate wine is the most expensive white wine of Bordeaux. The same could be said of this Second white wine-very elegant reminding one of a beautiful woman with a little bit of plumpness making her even more attractive.  The 10% Moscato has done wonders to the blend of otherwise equal quantity of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, the typical grapes of white Bordeaux.

Gerard agreed profusely with my philosophy that one should prefer cheaper wines from a reputed producer because of his knowledge, passion and his propensity to make sure that every bottle makes him proud. Moreover, he was happy to share his concurrence whole heartedly that in India we could drink the second wine of a first or second growth, to enjoy the top Bordeaux experience. He added,’ in the second wine the process and terroir are exactly the same. Because of the status of the Estate wine, the selection process of the grape is exactly the same-except the vines could be younger making them drink easier and younger. When my friends are ready to drink top wine, I offer the Second wine since the First wine takes 10 years or more to mature!’

He also appreciated my view point that due to heavy taxes in India, the second wine might be affordable and drinking younger. To me, La Chapelle made a lot more sense-it was even slightly feminine, lighter and more elegant than Le Clarence de Haut Brion which cried out for food, at practically half the price. Never mind if Haut Brion mostly attracts higher price than La Mission Haut Brion.

Inspired by Clarence Dillon’s name, 'Mission Clarendelle' is to pursue the heritage of perfection left by this great man who came from the US and bought Haut Brion in 1935 and changed the shape, never mind that the estate suffered losses till the mid 1980’s. It is truly a tribute to the first member of the family who settled in Bordeaux. No wonder Prince Robert de Luxembourg is passionate about making Clarendelle a brand to compete with top growths in future, and offering wine drinkers in India an opportunity to taste  a couple of delicious, elegant Bordeaux wines at affordable prices.

Meanwhile, for the last 12 years the winery has resisted any increase in prices. But they will be obliged to increase the price by 5-7% next year. If it makes any sense, you are welcome to pick up a few bottles and cellar them for 4-6 years to drink a fine Bordeaux wine.

For details on the wineries of Domaine Clarence Dillon, visit:

www.domaineclarencedillon.com
www.hautbrion.com
www.missionhautbrion.com
www.clarendelle.com

For earlier detailed Articles on the various chateaux and wines, you must visit:

Prince Robert of Two Haut-Brions

Le Cirque: A Meal for a Prince-with the Prince

Subhash Arora

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