Michèle Bazin de Jessey, Château des Vaults – Domaine du Closel

Although the name of the property is Château des Vaults (or even des Vaux or Vaulx), the wines are better known as Domaine du Closel. Mentioned in historic documents, the house is situated within the village of Savennières itself and has been in existence since at least 1495 although it has seen various owners during its time. In 1756 it was sold to Canon Noël Martin along with 17 ‘quarters’ of vineyard, and in the mid 18th Century it passed to the Walsh’s of Château de Serrant, before passing to François-Claude Fourmont Desmazière, the Mayor of Savennières, who was responsible for extending the house and commissioning the English style garden in around 1850. Within its grounds there is a lake, created when a former arm of the Loire was dissected by the building of the main road and railway. From the garden a cast-iron bridge spans the road allowing easy access to the adjacent hillside vineyards.

The property was eventually inherited by the Marquis de Las Cases, grandson of Napoleon I's chamberlain and biographer, who in turn transferred it to his eldest daughter, the Marquise de Las Cases. She went on to marry Bernard de Closel in 1898. Closel himself was the Mayor of the village for forty years and was instrumental in Savennières’ gaining its appellation in 1952.  His work complete, he retired from his post in 1956. Childless, Madame Closel passed the domaine to her niece, Michèle Bazin de Jessey in 1961, and it is in honour of her late aunt and uncle that the domaine carries its more recognised name.

Mme de Jessey, an Angevine herself, worked the land prior to receiving her inheritance, so the adaptation to managing vineyards was an easy and enjoyable one. In 1990, she was elected as the first lady president of any growers’ syndicat in France, and her second term culminated in her signing off the appellation’s revised December 1996 decree. Whilst Mme de Jessey still takes an active interest, it is her daughter, the very personable Evelyne de Jessey-Pontbriand, who is now responsible for the day to day running of the domaine. Evelyne returned to Savennières in 2001 following a career as a teacher in the United States and Germany, thus perpetuating the tradition of passing the property down through the maternal line. Tradition continues, in that Evelyne has taken over the Presidency of the growers' syndicat for a three year tenure, starting from November 2008. 

Wine Overview:  
Under Evelyne’s influence, there have been some significant developments in both vineyard and cellar practices. Working closely with Rémi Poitevineau in the vines, the most notable change is the conversion to organic farming that will see them fully certified from the 2008 vintage. Before Evelyne arrived, all wines were raised in tank and without recourse to malolactic fermentation. More recently, there has been a change in the élevage, with their Clos du Papillon now being fermented and aged in demi-muids and second hand Corton-Charlemagne barrels bought from Bonneau du Martray. There has also been a change in attitude towards the malolactic fermentation, which in 2001 (Evelyne’s first year in the cellar) happened spontaneously.

There are a total of 16.9 hectares planted here, producing three separate expressions of Savennières on a regular basis. ‘Le Clos du Papillon’, from a 6 hectare holding, spends between 12 and 18 months in barrel, producing around 15-20,000 bottles. The other two cuvées are based on the names of specific parcels on the plateau of Savennières, although they are used to express stylistic differences in the wines. ‘La Jalousie’ comes from more schistous parcels and is harvested just before the grapes turn from yellow to brown with yields of around 20 hl/ha. This is raised in tank with a partial malolactic fermentation happening spontaneously. This is vinified dry and is bottled in July after the vintage. This is the largest single cuvée produced at around 25,000 bottles. ‘Les Caillardières’ is harvested later and comes primarily off the later ripening sandier soils. Again, the wine is raised in tank and left with 4-6 g/l of residual sugar. This wine will not be bottled in either 2006 or 2007. There are also occasional releases of moëlleux when the conditions dictate: notably in 2003 in Le Clos du Papillon, and in 2002, a cuvee released as ‘Les Coteaux’.

In addition to the Savennières, there is some Cabernet Franc planted within the appellation which, until 2005, went towards producing an Anjou-Villages. There are two parcels of one hectare each here: one, planted in 2000, is in ‘Clos Lavaux’, just across the road from the Château, and a second called ‘Le Gaudrets’, was planted in 1948. These grapes are now sold off to Ackermann in Saumur. The Cabernet Sauvignon parcel is just below one hectare in size and was planted in 1975. This sits on the plateau of Savennières between the Moulin de Gué and Le Clos du Papillon. From 2006, it has been used to produce a Cabernet d’Anjou.  

More recently, from the 2009 vintage, the Verdelho that once was 'lost' within the wines of the appellation has been isolated and harvested separately to produce a vin de table that goes under the name Eau de Pluie, an historic reference to the 'Rainwater' Madiera that was popular in America in the first half of the 19th Century.

The Wines:  
I think there has been a significant improvement in quality here since 2002. Prior to this, my memories of tasting the wines always left me with the impression that they were a little too rustic in style. With the arrival of Evelyne de Pontbriand and Bruno Perray in the cellar, there is clearly a desire to move the domaine to another level, both with the commitment to convert the land to organic farming methods and in allowing the wines to evolve into something cleaner and with greater focus. This clearly places Domaine du Closel as one of the leading producers of the appellation. The wines are certified organic from the 2009 vintage. 

2009 'Eau de Pluie' Vin de France
Very floral nose and pretty crude and aromatic. Not unlike the aromas associated with Viognier. The palate has a firm acidity and a yeasty 'natural wine' profile. It carries around 20g/l of residual sugar. (02/11)

2009 'La Jalousie'
Very pale. Light, primary Chenin nose with white flowers and mineral behind. Good weight and structure on the front palate. Focused. The flavour profile is distinctly 'biodynamic' with a sense of natural yeasts playing a part here. It tastes like a 'natural' wine. Builds well to a dry, persistent and mineral finish with a characteristic bitter twist. This is approachable now but would be expected to improve. (10/10) 

2008 'La Jalousie'
Broad, ripe and quite open nose. Round with some exotic notes. Some cloves, with a mineral edge lurking below. Not obvious, but there are also aromas of honeycomb and quince. Delicate. The palate is much more focused than the nose suggests. Still taut and appears drier and more mineral than the 2007, with the acidity running through the wine. Serious, with good focus and length. Drinking now, but would be expected to evolve further. (01/10)

2008 ‘Les Caillardières’
Quiet and restrained nose, but attractive and delicate. It shows some ripeness behind. Firm on entry but with some noticeable residual sugar. Very good depth and concentration. Clean, earthy and mineral; a classic style. Very good structure and length. It will be approachable on release, but would benefit from a couple of years in bottle. Only 12hl/ha due to the frost damage. (01/10)

2007 'La Jalousie'
Harvested during the last week of September and the first week of October. The berries were yellow but not over ripe. The wine was raised for one year in tank before bottling. Mid-depth yellow-gold appearance. Lovely nose. Authentic; taut, smoky and very mineral. Well textured on entry with flavours of apples. Very good focus and structure. Already open and expressive but will age and evolve further. (01/10)

2007 'Clos du Papillon'
Very old vines. Harvested in three or four passages to achieve perfect ripeness at picking, with about 5% botyrtis included in the bunches. Raised for two years in 400 litre Allier and Vosges oak barrels. Noticeable oak on the nose, but well integrated. Attractive and authentic. Appears dry on entry but is very rich with the impression of oak and botrytis. Powerful and concentrated and would certainly benefit with keeping. Perisistent finish. Serious. (01/10) 

2006 ‘La Jalousie’  
Bright. Pale straw appearance. Attractive, forward and open nose. Very floral. Delicate on entry, it builds well. This is light, fresh and very easy. Soft, but with good structure and length. Drink now and over the next 3 – 5 years. (02/08)  

2006 'Clos du Papillon'
Broad, open and clean. Typical Savennières. Smoky with an underlying schist-like minerality. This is relatively open but the on the evidence of the nose this would benefit with more time. Broad on entry with very good structure and a penetrating minerality. Taut and linear. Powerful and does show its alcohol a little, although this is starting to drink well now; it should evolve further. (10/10)

2005 ‘La Jalousie’  
Youthful nose and still quite primary. A bit awkward and simple at this stage and not showing a lot of character. This may evolve with time, but currently lacks a sense of place. Approachable, but ideally give it some more time in bottle to find itself. (02/08)

2005 ‘Clos du Papillon’  
Bright. Mid-depth yellow/straw. Attractive, open nose. Rich and honeyed. Already showing some complexity. Rich on entry with a broad structure. Builds well with very good focus. The wood shows a little at this stage, but harmonised by very fresh acidity. A touch phenolic and a bit savoury. Approachable, but will age further. (02/08)

2004 ‘Les Caillardières’  
Bright. Youthful pale straw. This is more old fashioned and classic Savennières on the nose and palate. Very good focus to the acidity; racy and fresh. Great structure and powerful. Very mineral with a pithy Chenin twist to the finish. Persistent. Linear. Drinking now, but will be expected to age another decade or so. Very good. (02/08)

2004 ‘Clos du Papillon’  
Bright. Mid-depth yellow-gold. Broad but backward nose. Rich and linear, but giving nothing much away at this stage. Dense, concentrated and more serious on the palate. There is a hint of wood. Rounded with a lovely texture. Very good structure and length. Approachable now, but would benefit with a few more years in bottle. (02/08)

2003 ‘Les Caillardières’  
Bright. Mid-full yellow/gold. Open and accessible nose. Quite smoky. Well textured on entry with good richness and structure. This shows the heat of the vintage a little. Drinking now, but could be expected to hold and evolve further over the next few years. (02/08)

2003 ‘Clos du Papillon – Cuvée Spéciale’  
The previous release of this was in 1989. 35g/l residual sugar. Yield: 10hl/ha. Polished. Mid-depth straw. Rich and lush on the nose. Ripe, exotic and concentrated. Ripe on entry with a silky texture. Builds well to a powerful and concentrated finish. There is more botrytis than expected (given the vintage conditions), but the wine is still balanced, although clearly a petit moelleux in style, retaining a strong sense of minerality to the finish. Individual and atypical, although uncannily still authentic. Approachable now, but could be expected to age and evolve further. (02/10)  

2002 'Clos du Papillon'
Very deep yellow-gold appearance. Broad and open, but showing distinct signs of maturity. A little flat, dull and resinous on the nose. This is much more advanced than one would expect of the vintage. Rich on entry. Broad and open and in better condition than the nose suggests. Well balanced. Builds well. Flavours of orange and orange peel. Good concentration on the finish. Drinking now, but should hold, if not really improve. (02/10)

2002 ‘Les Coteaux’  
First release. From desiccated fruit with all rotten berries removed. Mid-depth, orange bronze appearance. Faint caramel to the nose and palate. Lemon Crème Brulée comes to mind. Zesty. The sweetness shows through, but the wine retains lovely balance. Delicious now, but is capable of ageing and evolving over many years. (02/08)  

2001 'Clos du Papillon'
Pale appearance. Attractive, open and quite floral, showing white flowers. Quite restrained still giving the impression it has more to offer. Complex and attractive. Delicate and deft on entry. Well balanced with a chalky texture. Builds well with a powerful, mineral finish. This is drinking well now and has the potential to evolve a little more. (02/10) 

1999 'Clos du Papillon'
Broad and expressive nose. Typical, if slightly dull and old fashioned. There is a distinct schist-like minerality. Gentle and mid-weight on entry. Well balanced, although the flavour profile remains a little simple. Builds well and retains good structure with a pithy edge to the finish; even a bit tannic and phenolic. Grippy. This should hold, but probably won't improve. Good and authentic. (02/10)

1998 ‘Les Caillardières’  
Bright. Deep yellow-gold. Mature appearance. Old fashioned, tired and rustic nose. Flat, with aromas of bruised apples. Stripped of fruit, with just some faint quince and orange-peel behind. Delicate and faintly smoky. Light and delicate on entry. Juicy, with good focused acidity. The rustic nature continues on the palate, although the development is not advanced as the nose suggests. Drinking now, but probably won't improve any further. There are more bruised apple flavours to the finish with the acidity carrying the wine. (04/09)

1998 'Clos du Papillon'
Mature nose. Distinctly advanced. Floral, flat and a bit flabby. It's an old fashioned, rustic Savennières, although honest and authentic. There are hints of rot - orange peel and resin. Light on entry, with decent acidity, but more mature orange peel flavours. Chalky textured and falls a bit short. Simple and needs drinking up, although it might hold on a few more years. (02/10)

1997 'Clos du Papillon'
Light on the nose. A little bit earthy and grubby (two bottles tasted). Minerality shows behind, but this is now at a tertiary stage and has lost any sense of fruit. Flat and dull. Mature on entry. Floral, but also a bit flat, lacking freshness and acidity. Fatiguing and shows its (14.8%) alcohol. Pithy to the finish and falls a bit short. Dull. (02/10)

1996 ‘Clos du Papillon’  
Mature nose. Savoury, cheese-straw nose. This is looking very tired. Light on entry. Broad but lacks any real definition. There is an underlying power and minerality, but the flavour profile indicates this is overmature. Falling apart. (02/10)   

1995 'Clos du Papillon'
Deep orange-bronze. Very mature and oxidised in appearance. Orange peel on the nose. This is over mature and tired. Fat and flabby, although retains some acidity. It is still concentrated and pwerful but has lost its flesh. Pithy and phenolic. Best drink up. Ordinary. (02/10)

1993 'Clos du Papillon'
Pale appearance. Straw-yellow. Mature but complex nose; old fashioned and a little rustic. Schist and smoke. Floral too, with some white flower aromas. The palate is surprisingly fresh. Mid-weight, with some fresh acidity still present. There is a phenolic edge to the finish. This retains some structure and integrity. It is still in good condition and drinking well, although it would be best consumed now. (02/10)

1992 'Clos du Papillon'
Mid-depth yellow-gold. Savoury, saline nose that is now showing some signs of maturity. Sweated onions? Light and elegant on entry with more flavours of cooking onions on the palate. It retains its savoury and saline edge. There is a line of linear acidity running through the wine which has helped to preserve the wine. But this is starting to loose its fruit and charm. Best drink up. (02/10)

1991 'Clos du Papillon'
Mid depth. Orange. Dull. Tired on the nose, with a savoury, maderised character. Light on entry with tight and aggressive acidity. Lean and drying out, having lost its core of fruit. The savoury flavours persist on the palate. Falls short. Needs drinking. It retains some acidity, but the wine is rustic and falling apart. (02/10) 

1990 'Clos du Papillon'
Deep appearance. Mid-full orange-bronze. Broad and ripe. Shows concentration. This is still very precise and expressive on the nose. Delicate and complex, restrained and refined. The style is still quite old fashioned and traditional. Gentle on entry. Well balanced. Attractive with good texture. Fresh and clean, with a nervous line of acidity running through the wine. Powerful to finish, with a characteristic pithy and phenolic edge. Authentic. Drinking now, but will keep and possibly still evolve further. (02/10) 

1990 ‘Vieilles Vignes’  
Polished, mid depth. Yellow. Mature oxidative nose. Tertiary, mineral and austere. Almost like a mature Semillon. Very little fruit and beginning to dry out. Waxy textured with some honey. The acidity is a bit low. Rustic. Just going over the plateau of maturity and needs drinking. (02/01)  

1989 'Clos du Papillon'
Mid depth. Hints of orange. Mature, but gently complex nose. This appears more advanced than the 1990, but is slightly more open and expressive, and probably more complete. The palate appears fresh and retains good focus and structure. Builds nicely. Elegant and understated. Authentic and saintly pithy to the finish. There is a hint of reduction or flint along with notes of citrus and honey. This is still in very good condition. (02/10)

1989 ‘Cuvée Madame’  
Polished. Mid-depth yellow with youthful green hints. Very attractive, open, rich and complex nose. Smokey, terpine, mineral. Faintly rustic and old fashioned in style. On the palate, it shows white flowers and marzipan. This is gentle and mature but retains a good mineral expression. The riper conditions of the vintage show through. This is something as a surprise. Still in very good condition and there is no rush to drink this up. (04/08)

1988 ‘Clos du Papillon’  
Pale appearance. This has barely evolved. There is a distinctly reductive/gunflint nose which accounts for the light colour. Restrained nose, but there is evidence of tropical notes behind: passion fruit. The palate shows great freshness. Very elegant, gentle and mineral. This is almost a Baumard style wine, given the vegetal, asparagus and pea-like flavour profile. There is a lovely acid balance running through the wine. The reductive qualoty has preserved this well, although it is unlikely to improve further. It should hold. (02/10)

1983 Demi-Sec  
Polished. Yellow-green. Attractive, herbal. Very accessible nose. Smoky with obvious residual sugar on the palate. Good weight and balance. Very persistent, with juicy lime-citrus acidity. Still very fresh and youthful. Very long. This is both rustic and classical. Drink now or hold. (06/04)

2005 Anjou Rouge  
100% Cabernet Franc. Mid-depth. Full bright youthful red. Clean, light and fresh on the nose with good Cabernet Franc fruit. Still very primary on the palate, with flavours of red fruit and blood. Iron-like minerality. Chalky textured. This is drinking well now, but could be expected to age further. (02/08)

2003 Anjou-Villages  
50%/50% Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon. Mid-full appearance. Deep youthful red. Dense and backward on the nose. Quite high toned, showing a hint of volatility. Softer on the palate, with good flesh and ripeness. Retains a deftness and delicacy given the vintage. Still quite tight and tannic to the finish. Approachable now, but will age well. (02/08)

Evelyne de Ponbriand  
Domaine du Closel
T: +33 2 41 72 81 00  
02 41 72 86 00  



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