“If you can’t travel with your body, at least travel with your senses,” goes the saying, and it’s a very apt expression for the times we currently live in. With all travel out of the UK currently impossible, and pandemic-induced cabin fever slowly but surely hemming me ever further in, I was in desperate need of an escape to other lands, even if only in spirit.
Hence my enthusiasm in accepting an online wine tasting invite from the wonderful folk at Domaine Clarence Dillon. Yes, it meant another zoom session. Yes, there were a million other boring admin things I should have been doing. And yes, spending more time looking at images of faraway places wouldn’t help my travel yearning. However, being able to see those beautiful French vineyards – and (more importantly!) smell and taste the beautiful wines coming from them – is as close to travelling as it gets at the moment. So, with childlike enthusiasm I got myself organised, and was soon ready with chilled wines in the fridge, a charged glass in front of me and my wine hosts on the screen.
We were led through the tasting by the wonderful Nathalie Dworkin (Clarendelle Winemaker) and Clement Marcotte de Quivieres (UK Manager), who’s passion and knowledge of the wines made the experience that much more enjoyable. As explained by Clement, Clarendelle (inspired by Haut-Brion) is an elegant family of wines that are a wonderful complement to the Domaine Clarence Dillon collection. Although the inspiration and style of Domaine Clarence Dillon wines have strong traditional roots, Clarendelle aims to meet an emerging desire among wine lovers looking for elegant, modern wines.
The first wine was the 2019 Clarendelle White, a subtle and delicate wine that immediately made me imagine an outside lunch on a hot summer day, close to a swimming pool and surrounded by friends, family and laughter. The sommeliers (aka wine snobs) amongst us will be interested to learn it’s a blend of two traditional Bordeaux varieties, Semillon and Sauvignon (with a hint of Muscadelle occasionally added, depending on the year). Everyone else will be glad to hear its widely available in the UK, and at a very reasonable price (buying details at bottom of article).
Next up was the 2020 Clarendelle Rosé. Rosé is normally a wine I leave to my wife, but on giving it a taste I was impressed to learn this was the first official rosé in the history of Domaine Clarence Dillon wines. It’s a fruity, fragrant blend of three traditional Bordeaux red varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) and (judging by my wife’s expression when tasting) I can predict a lot more of it being consumed in our household over the coming Summer. Moving steadily on (while hanging onto my last vestige of sobriety) we finished our virtual tour with the 2015 Clarendelle Red. It’s a combination of the same three red varieties as the rosé, expertly balanced to draw out the characteristics and qualities of each. It’s a very enjoyable wine, and impatient drinkers will be happy to learn it’s aged in the cellars and sold ready to be enjoyed immediately.
The brand is represented by Prince Robert of Luxembourg as chairman. The prince is obviously a big fan of the wines, saying “When I was a young man living in London, I didn’t have a cellar and I wanted good wine, ready for drinking straightaway, at an affordable price, but with a quality that was always similar to the previous vintage. That’s how I imagine Clarendelle”.
The legend of the wine is as exceptional as the taste. Clarendelle wines are inspired by Haut-Brion, which has a fascinating history. Vines first appeared on the gravel hillside of Haut-Brion all the way back in the first century AD. In 1521 Château Haut-Brion became the first Bordeaux vintage to be named after its terrior (area) rather than after its owner or parish. It’s been enjoyed by kings (King Charles II of England in the 17th century) and presidents (most notably Thomas Jefferson, who described it as “the very best Bordeaux wine”), and was recognised as one of the four ‘Premiers Grands Crus Classés’ in the classification of 1855. Almost a century later, in 1935 Clarence Dillon purchased Château Haut-Brion, which is today continued by the fourth generation of the family.
It’s a strange combination, learning new facts while slowly becoming more and more light-headed from the wine. Wondering if I would remember it all clearly, I concluded the only logical next step would be to start planning a trip to Bordeaux.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Where the wines can be bought in the UK, and expected retail price:
- Clarendelle Rosé 2020 £16.99 at Laithwaites
- Clarendelle Blanc 2019 (delivered not in bound) £20.18 at Bordeaux Index Fine Wine & Spirits
- Clarendelle Bordeaux Rouge 2015 £19.49 Laithwaites
Address for when travel (and a wine tour!) to France is allowed again:
Clarence Dillon Wines, Pavillon Dillon 3, Rue Avison / 33400, Talence, France
Wine tasting organised by Clementime Com