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In autumn, the summer sun has warmed the Garonne during its journey down from the Pyrenees; the Ciron however remains cool traversing the Landes forest. When they meet, they create the magical misty mornings of the region. Magical as they encourage the growth of the Botrytis Cinerea; the noble rot that transforms the ripe berries of Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle into highly concentrated store houses of sweet juice. It is this juice that the wine makers transform into the liquid gold wine.
Visiting this unique corner of Bordeaux in the autumn allows you not just to experience these romantic morning mists but also to see the berry-by-berry hand picking necessary to preserve the quality of the wines. When the sun burns off the mist the beautiful countryside and ancient properties of the region reveal themselves.
Elsewhere in Bordeaux producers fear botrytis, treating against it, but not here. Here they encourage it. Could it be the perfect terroir for biodynamic agriculture?
At Château Climens, Bérénice Lurton thinks so. Going biodynamic was not a decision to be taken lightly, after all Chateau Climens is a family affair. Lucien Lurton bought the property in the 70s, lacklustre days for both the property and the region. Two decades of rigour brought it back to its place of excellence: it is a first growth in the 1855 Classification. He handed the reins over to his daughter Bérénice in 1992 at the grand age of 22!
Bérénice was no stranger to wine, growing up at the family vineyard of Brane Cantenac in Margaux; she is a member of the fourth generation of this iconic family of wine makers. With her brothers, sisters and cousins they are a group of 12 wine makers bringing together about 20 domains both in Bordeaux and across the world. In 2010, helped by Corinne Comme as a viticulture consultant and Frédéric Nivelle, the director of wine making and viticulture they decided to convert the entire vineyard to biodynamics. The aim is not only to respect the environment but also to allow the vines to find their own healthy equilibrium (that notion of balance again), transmitting the qualities of this unique terroir to the wine. This was a revolution in terms of observing and running the vineyard: all chemical sprays have been replaced by plant infusions and other natural preparations and the weaving of branches has systematically replaced trimming of the vines. Changes were not quite as radical in the cellars but winemaking remains a natural process with natural yeasts and very careful use of sulphur.
You can experience all this first hand when you visit the chateau. Bérénice is at once passionate and very open; discover the wonderful simplicity of her philosophy of biodynamics. As well as walking through the vineyard you will discover the 'tisannerie', the attic above the cellars where Bérénice dries the herbs picked in the vineyards. Breathe in the aromas of fennel and camomile before they are transformed into the natural vine treatments.
The proof, of course, is in the tasting. After your visit you can taste both wines of the property, Château Climens and Cyprès de Climens. Or slow down, very much the house approach, choose the 'Slow Tasting' to taste three vintages of the 'Grand Vin' and discover how these exquisite sweet wines evolve and gain in complexity with age. Another insider secret you can discover here is just how beautifully these wines match with food. With The Slow Gourmand tasting, you will taste these wines with original and classic food pairings as gourmet tapas.
Or stay for lunch in the elegant chateau dinning room with a menu specially created by the chef of the local restaurant Claude Daroze. The full and unique Chateau Climens experience.
By Wendy Narby