Clos de l'Oratoire

Clos de l’Oratoire is an estate located on the slopes of Saint-Émilion, a commune on the Right Bank of the French wine region of Bordeaux.

The domain is one of the most prized properties of the German wine entrepreneur Stephan von Neipperg, who acquired full ownership and control of Clos de l’Oratoire in the early 1990s.

Although Clos de l’Oratoire is widely considered an oasis of excellence in the present day, its origins are relatively new. In fact, it was only in the 19th century that Château Peyreau, a vast property estate in Saint-Émilion, was bought by the Beylots, a family of négociants from Libourne.

In 1960, Michel Boutet purchased the entire estate and separated Clos de l’Oratoire from the rest of the property in order to identify and highlight the best plots.

This choice proved to be very convenient as in the 1969 Saint Émilion classification, Clos de l’Oratoire was ranked as Grand Cru Classé, officially classifying it as a superior wine.

In the early 1970s, a German family of wine entrepreneurs called von Neipperg, began investing in Bordeaux and the acquisition of small domains continued, with properties such as Château Canon La Gaffelière, La Mondotte, Château Peyreau, Clos Marsalette, and Château d’Aiguilhe purchased over the following decade.

The shares acquisition of Clos de l’Oratoire represented one of their first investments in the area and since 1991, the domaine has been under the full control of Stephan von Neipperg following his purchase of the remaining 30% from other investors.

Stephan is a thorough connoisseur of Bordeaux terroirs and a believer in the biodynamic approach winemaking and viticulture in general. Despite being part of a bigger group, Clos de l’Oratoire still preserves a strong connection with traditional and sustainable winemaking, focusing on quality rather than quantity.

Clos de l’Oratoire is hardly a mass producer, averaging around 2,000 cases of wine annually.

This high-quality, small scale philosophy is produced from just 10 hectares of vineyard surface, 90% of which is represented by Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc representing 5% each.

Another aspect of such small scale production is a deeper focus on each process of winemaking, facilitating the reach of higher peaks of quality. Clos de l’Oratoire focuses on the biodynamic approach for vineyards, as is the case for the other von Neipperg estates.

Traditional viticulture practices are maintained so the process is not intrusive, allowing the preservation of flavour in the final product. Examples of such an approach can be observed in the grass left to grow between the vine rows, an extensive application of pruning to encourage growth, spare usage of mostly organic fertilisers, as well as the avoidance of chemical products.

At Clos de l’Oratoire, the soil presents two different profiles, clay and limestone on the hillside, clay and sand at the bottom of the hill. Also, as the vineyards are located on the north-east slope of St Emilion, the climate is slightly cooler, ideal for cultivating its dominant grape, Merlot.

The density of vines in the estate varies between 5,500 and 7,500 per hectare, with newer plantings being slightly higher in density, with the average age of plants around 35 years old.

Harvest is carried out by hand and delayed for as long as possible, in order to obtain maximum ripeness from the grapes, which are selected and sorted immediately after picking.

The process of ageing takes place for a period of between 13 to 22 months. Particularly interesting is the amount of new oak the wine is exposed to, which can reach up to 80% and impart a significant amount of character.

Fining and filtering are kept to a minimum, performed only if necessary and depending on vintages.

Signature wines of Clos de l’Oratoire have a rounded and opulent profile that comes from the dominant Merlot grape, while Cabernet Franc delivers power and complexity. They are also often referred to as “seductive”. Wines from this producer reach the peak of their maturity between 7 and 20 years after release. Young wines need to be decanted for at least one hour, in order the wine to open up. Older vintages do not require quite so much decanting, just enough to get rid of sediments.

The Beauty & The Taste have selected for you a 2005 Clos de l’Oratoire, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru.


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