Whether you are a Loire aficionado or a newcomer to the fine wines of this region and its diverse styles, Clos Rougeard should definitely be in your treasure hunt list. This humble estate located in the heart of the Saumur-Champigny appellation has garnered a cult like following for its texturally enticing, elegant, and understated Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc wines. News publication The Wall Street Journal quotes a wine professional as saying “sommeliers approach Clos Rougeard’s Cabernet Franc on bended knees”, encapsulating their status in this underrated region.
The Foucault brothers, Nadi and his late brother Charlie, took over the family vineyards in 1969, and are the eighth generation in their family to run this 17th Century estate. They are considered the pioneers of organic and biodynamic viticulture in their region, producing Cabernet Francs of incredible concentration and length that are on par with many left bank Bordeaux château. Le Bourg, which is their top cuvée, is a small one hectare plot with vines almost 80 years in age, producing shockingly low yields of 15 hl/ha that lower than most of the top Burgundian producers. The equally rare Chenin Blanc named Brèze, is quite simply put, the pinnacle of Chenin in Loire coming from a tiny one hectare plot of 40-50 year old vines. These are incredibly pure, lean whites with great power and intensity, as well as excellent freshness.
Their wines are revered even among their peers in the region. Charles Joguet, a great winemaker of Chinon once pronounced that “there are two suns. One shines outside for everybody. The second shines in the Foucaults’ cellars”. But what is behind the sheer quality of their wines? Exceptional vineyards will always be the first answer, and low/minimum intervention is also a given, however, this combined with harvesting at extremely small yields, natural yeast ferments in barrel, followed by a long fermentation, between 18-24 months depending on vintage, in a shivering cold cellar appear to mold together to create this superstar. There is minimal sulphur used, and no fining or filtration in any of his wines either, so as natural as he can take it.
Sadly, Charlie died in late 2015, leaving only Nady in charge. Many have called this domaine a “cult estate” and this seems only befitting. Production is naturally small, roughly 2500 cases annually, which, combined with the heavy demand have made their wines quite rare on the market. This applies even for the prestigious NoMad restaurant in New York who keeps the few bottles they have in their cellar off the wine list, selling to only those in the know. Fortunately, we have managed to get hold of a small allocation including a number of back vintages too. Rarely rated by the big critics outside of Europe, influential wine French writers Bettane & Desseauve describe the wines as having "breathtaking class" and we cannot agree more.