Annual Production (Grand Vin)
Premier Cru Classe
Cypres de Climens
Unusually for Bordeaux, Climens’ entire vineyard is dedicated solely to Semillon vines.
Despite a somewhat troubled history, Chateau Climens has worked hard to become one of the top Sauternes, Barsac Bordeaux properties. And regardless of its namesake, boasts fine terroir for its vineyard, which is 20 metres above sea-level and lends the soil particularly good drainage.
The estate received Biodyvin certification in 2011, which it accepted without fanfare or fuss. Similarly, manager Berenice was elevated to the position of president of Les Grands Cru Classes de Sauternes & Barsac for her advocacy efforts for the region, which she held for five years before graciously handing the baton to Olivier Casteja of Chateau Doisy-Vedrines in 2013.
Clearly, modesty is the order of the day, here, and yet the estate’s wines are continuously likened to those of Yquem’s. It is no doubt challenging carving out a reputation as a producer of sweet white wine in Bordeaux – where the industry has its focus largely set on reds – so to do so, and be likened to not just a fellow white wine producer but one of the best in France (if not the world) is high praise indeed. ‘Yquem without the price tag’ is music to any wine lover’s ears.
Under the Lurton’s management, the estate has been producing consistent critic-pleasers since the late 80s, releasing fewer sub-90 scorers than can be counted on one hand. Indeed, Robert Parker has awarded an average of 95 points to post 2000 vintages, with the 2001 (100 points) and 2007 (98 points) vintages standing out in particular, though the 2016 with a barrel score of 96 -98 points will give these a run for their money.
Critics Neal Martin and Chris Kissack have also spoken highly of Climens, with both assuredly making the Yquem comparison, and both urging outraged Yquem fans to give Climens a fair chance – after all, with a far more affordable price tag, Climens’ exceptional offerings make it much easier to enjoy a glass of quality Sauternes and Barsac with dinner.
Chateau Climens has a long and well-documented history stretching back to 1547, although it seems viticulture didn’t begin here until the 17th century. It’s also not known for sure how the estate came to be known as Climens, although it may – amusingly – be related to the poor quality of the soil at the time, with ‘climens’ meaning ‘unfertile, poor land’ in ancient local dialect.
The estate was properly established by the Roborel family, who oversaw the production of both red and white wine during the early years of their ownership. They managed the property until the latter years of the 18th century, when it was sold to Jean Binaud – the first of a succession of subsequent owners that included the Lacoste family (which replaced the vineyards and saw the estate classified as a premier cru) and Alfred Ribet, a wealthy banker.
By the time the property was acquired by well-to-do publisher Henri Gounouilhou, it had fallen into disrepair. Under Ribet’s management only a portion of the 27 hectare vineyard was in production and the quantity of wine produced had fallen by half. The arrival of phylloxera only made things worse.
Gounouilhou’s acquisition of Climens was instrumental in its recovery. He and his team worked tirelessly to battle phylloxera, replant vineyards and refurbish the chateau. His efforts brought about a golden age for the estate, which saw it producing wines to rival Yquem in terms of quality and price.
After Henri’s passing, the Gounouilhou family decided to sell, and in 1971 the estate was purchased by Lucien Lurton. Climens is now managed by Lucien’s daughter Berenice, who, amid a sea of red Bordeaux is successfully extolling the virtues of the estate’s sweet white wine to critics and investors around the globe.