In many of our articles, we share the histories of the great Italian winemaking families who make our industry so special. But of course, there are many countries that have stellar wine industries of their own beyond Italy. And of all of them, France’s may be the most prestigious.
It’s not inaccurate to say that the French and Italian wine industries have always had something of a friendly rivalry. Though each recognises the contributions of the other, each is also in deep competition to extend its reach (and sales) in every possible territory.
This competition extends to every aspect of both industries. In both cases, the countries are rightfully proud of the contributions that they’ve made to the industry at large. And in both cases, the countries have families involved in the industry that have histories dating back centuries.
This friendly rivalry even extends to specific types of wine. Perhaps the most famous of these rivalries is the one between Champagne and Prosecco. Each stands as its respective country’s most famous example of sparkling white wine. And in recent years, we’ve the Italian wine of Prosecco make up ground, and eventually overtake, Champagne in terms of pure sales volume.
And yet, Champagne will always have an allure that few other wines, perhaps even Prosecco, can match.
It is with respect for this great rivalry that we’ve decided to turn our focus away from the Italian wine industry in this article. Instead, we will turn it towards one of the greatest modern examples of Champagne, which just so happens to come from one of the most established French wineries. We’re talking about the Clouet family and this is their story.
The true origins of the Clouet family have been lost to the mists of time. This is a family that has such a long history that it’s impossible to trace it back to its beginnings. But what we do know is that the family has enjoyed notoriety in France for many centuries.
Known as a family of winemakers even during ancient times, the family first came to prominence during the era of Louis XV. At the time, winemaking was little more than a hobby, with the family more focused on printing work. For several generations, this balance of industries persisted, with printing being the focus and wine falling into the background. In fact, the company even makes reference to this interesting part of their history with the phrase “Ancien Régime”, which is seen on many of its wines labels and is a direct reference to the early founders of the family.
The balance began to change towards wine in 1492.
It was in this year that the family acquired several plots of vines in the territory of Bouzy. Situated near the Mountain of Reims, the territory has been the home of the family and its vineyards ever since that fateful acquisition. Interestingly, this territory is also among the most disputed in European history. The mountain itself is one of the highest peaks standing between Germany and the UK and has served as a battleground in many ancient conflicts. All of the way back in 451AD, Attila the Hun set up camp on the mountain during his many conquests.
But today, it is not war that the territory is known for. It’s the famous Pinot Nero grape.
It is this very grape that goes into the many Champagnes that Andre Clouet produces. However, that name is not the name of its current leader. That man is Jean-François Clouet, who those in the industry point to as a larger than life character who has brought great passion to the Champagnes that he creates. Building on the centuries of history that lie behind him, Jean-Francois does what all of the Clouets have done since the end of the 154th century:
He makes amazing Champagnes.
Many point to his products as the best grower’s example of Champagne available. Clouet is said to be on first-name terms with the Swedish Royal Family and he regularly welcomes famous state dignitaries and celebrities to his family’s vineyards. Much like the ancient Clouet family was part of the nobility of its era, so too is the modern version of the family deeply involved with what you could call the nobility of modern times.
Jean-Francois oversees a plot of nine hectares of vineyards, with every acre of the land classified as 100% Grand Cru. This is a man who, like the generations of his family that came before him, has dedicated his entire life to the production of only the highest quality Champagnes. And it is one of these Champagnes that we’re going to take a look at right now.
The Andre Clouet Champagne Grande Reserve Brut
Perhaps the first thing that you will notice about the Andre Clouet Champagne Grande Reserve Brut is how affordable it is. Despite the deep lineage that lies behind the wine, Jean-Francois has made it available for less than €40, which makes it one of the most affordable high-end Champagnes on the market.
For some, this may lead to worries that the wine doesn’t match up to the expectations that they have of such an ancient family.
But we’re happy to confirm that these worries are unfounded. From the moment that you pour the wine and see its light golden colouring, you will see that this is as elegant an example of Champagne as you’re likely to find.
When introduced to the nose, the wine emits a bouquet of floral, fruity, and citrus notes. Refreshing is the best word to describe this wonderful combination and it will certainly tempt you into that first sip, perhaps even faster than you anticipated.
Tasting the wine reveals a near-perfect balance between minerality, acidity, and alcohol content. This is a wine that feels as smooth as silk to drink, while maintaining a persistent aftertaste that is both enjoyable and interesting.
The wine has already received high ratings from both Robert Parker and Decanter magazine. Now, the Xtrawine team throws its hat into the mix with a rating of 90/100 for this wonderful example of Champagne.