Tasting wine in the dark, cool cellar at the fabled Domaine du Clos Naudin is one of the greatest pleasures of our grower visits. Philippe Foreau’s ambient cellar was dug beneath his vineyards and formed from the same tuffeau stone that donates its mineral complexity to these remarkable wines. Philippe always comes prepared and sets aside a symphony of wines, old and new, that always tell a story of the current vintage and provide a look into their glorious futures. It is not uncommon to run though a few dozen wines with Philippe. It is also typical for this journey to cover wines spanning seven decades, traveling back to vintages made by Armand Foreau, Philippe’s grandfather. Philippe’s commentary during these tastings is always serious and succinct, adding vivid flavor descriptions of each wine as well as a precisely detailed food pairing for each wine. One visit to this cellar makes two things clear: these are among the best wines in our entire portfolio, and Phillipe’s character is singular among the many vigneron with whom we work.
Philippe has been in charge of Domaine du Clos Naudin since his father retired in 1983. His 34 years of experience of working exclusively with the Chenin Blanc grape from the exact same terroir has evolved into unparalleled mastery of his domaine. All of his 11.5 hectares are farmed organically. Harvest is done manually and involves several passes through the vineyards to make selections for the sparkling, dry and sweet wines, respectively. All fermentations occur naturally in 300-liter barrels and typically progress slowly in his cold cellar. The production at the domaine tends to be roughly 50/50 sparkling and still, and there is no set formula for each vintage. Each year Philippe is open to making whatever nature gives him.
Philippe is a trusted soul who does not talk lightly, so when he claims a vintage to be great, we take notice. When he declares a vintage to be perhaps the finest of his lifetime, we know we are witnessing some of the greatest wines of ours. This is the case with 2015. Work was fairly easy in the vineyards, aided by a warm and dry summer. Only four treatments were needed during the entire growing season. Conditions were good at harvest, allowing Philippe to pick grapes with excellent maturity and balance. The most remarkable thing about his 2015 vintage is the whole range of whites which were produced, all showing amazing potential. Of the 45,000 bottles produced, about 35% are Moelleux, 30% Sec, 20% Demi Sec, and 15% sparkling. There are three levels of sweet wines: Moelleux, Moelleux Reserve, and the incredibly rare Goutte d’Or.
The outstanding quality of the 2015 vintage has propelled us to bring in our entire allocation at the same time. We are expecting the full range of wines to arrive in our NYC warehouse around April 22nd.
Philippe feels that the 2015 Sec is better than the 2002, and perhaps approaching the great ‘96 Sec. It is a rich and powerful wine, holding 5 grams of residual sugar. Carried mostly by its intense mineral backbone, it presents quite expansive in the mouth. The fruit is quite tart, which is typical of this wine, with apple skin notes, a salty and tonic mineral texture that gives the wine considerable length. Currently the nose is rather closed and shows a flinty white-pepper note. Foreau recommends waiting ideally about seven years for this wine to reach its full potential.
The balance of acidity and sweetness in the Demi-Sec often makes it a great wine to access the strength and balance of any Vouvray vintage. The 2015 is an outstanding specimen. It drinks surprisingly dry, carrying 27 grams of sugar. Aromatically, it is quite mineral and clean, with hints of flint and fresh pear. True to its form, this wine is easiest to drink right out of the gate, but definitely shows the power and considerable concentration to age for decades to come.
The 2015 Moelleux is really a step up in concentration and complexity from the Sec and Demi-Sec. It is at this level where the ultimate potential of Vouvray begins to reveal itself. The dense aromas lean bitter, with notes of pear, pit fruits, and fresh honey. On the palate, the fruit is warm and leans toward plum and quince, with an undercurrent of sea foam and Indian spices. Wearing 70 grams of sugar, this wine’s intense minerality keeps it fresh and structured, which adds to its incredible persistence and surprisingly dry finish.
Vouvray Moelleux Reserve:
This wine is not made every year, but only in vintages that have the ultimate conditions for making sweet wines. In fact, this is the first Moelleux Reserve made by Foreau this decade. Weighing in at 120 grams of sugar, this wine shows unbelievable concentration. It is impossible to describe all the layers of dense flavor packed into the glass. The aromas are dense with a warm potpourri of plum, dried citrus, rose petals, and hints of sea water. The Moelleux Reserve is massive on the palate. Its glycerol texture plays perfectly with the wine’s intense mineral structure to create a fine silkiness. The potential and power of the wine seems to warm the juice from within, giving the wine a flavor of black cherry and fig. This wine is impressive in its youth, but will also ultimately reward those willing to squirrel it away for years, if not decades.
Vouvray Moelleux “Goutte d’Or”:
While the Moelleux Reserve is produced only a few times a decade, the Goutte d’Or is produced only a few times a century. Made only under the choicest conditions, the Goutte d’Or is a beacon of perfection. In the 94 years that the Foreau family have been producing wine, there have been only four vintages with conditions favorable enough to produce this high-water mark: 1947, 1990, 2011, and 2015. Carrying 170 grams of sugar, the Goutte d’Or is incredibly elegant at this early point. The fruit is sweet, the color a vibrant gold. It is almost a crime to try to describe what is inside this dense wine. At the moment it shows a range of fruit from fresh pear to dried dates and honey comb. The texture is silky and rich, with a mineral core of acidity hiding a lot of the wine’s potential. We have had the pleasure of consuming a few bottles of ‘47 Goutte d’Or with Philippe over the years and can attest that this is a wine that will require time to develop and reward collectors well into the future.