The story of this wine begins in the 11th century, when it is recorded that a local lord, Sarlon Le Riche, gearing up for a crusade and perhaps looking to atone for future sins, gave his best vines, the Clos de Davet, to the church, the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Sulpice-Lès-Bourges. As these are recorded as his best vines, we can assume the vineyard was already in production, so we are looking at over a millennia of continual viticulture. We visited the Clos last year, it is a serene place, silent but for bird song, it is wonderful to stand there and imagine the workers of the past following much the same rhythm as today, wondering about the thousands of hands which have shaped this land.
Today the Clos is a 3.92 monopole of Antoine’s Domaine de l’Ermitage and planted to 3/4 Sauvignon and the balance Pinot Noir. The walls that once surrounded it have mostly gone, but the Clos in its name is allowed to remain due to its history. Of course, we will never know what the wine produced one thousand year’s ago would taste like, but perhaps we can get a sense of why the site was so valued in the qualities of the 2021. It is of course produced from Sauvignon Blanc, 40-50 year old vines, growing in the vineyards shallow clay over kimmeridgien limestone. Antoine told us his favourite aspect of 2021 was its transparency- the quality of the vintage was the quality of the terroir. We can clearly see the additional intensity, concentration and complexity that this site gives even in a cooler year. For a wine with such long history, Antoine has thrown out tradition in the winery, where the wine is given 18 months in large ‘jars’, sandstone amphorae, which impart no flavour to the wine, but, Antoine says, allow the character of the Clos to shine and emphasise its salinity.
It has a beautiful nose, floral with a sense of waxy yellow fruits and a touch of the earth. On the palate it is juicy and crunchy, loaded with energy and potential, soaked with oyster shell minerality, and wonderfully textured, it finishes with a burst of apricot fruit and a long, saline finish. It is a match for almost any Sancerre I have tasted, yet has its own distinct character. It is testament to what a vineyard can give, transcending what most people would imagine Mentor-Salon is capable of producing. The only issue is that with just 1200 bottles produced, our allocation is small; just 120 bottles will come to the UK. It is a really special wine, I only wish we had a lot more.