Three years ago, launching Clos de Tart as C & B’s ‘hot’ new exclusivity was a little harder work than we would like to have let on. A Domaine that we truly believed in but whose reputation had waned in the years before Sylvain Pitiot – current ‘master’ – arrived. Three years later, tickets to our 100-strong Clos de Tart dinner at Goldsmiths’ Hall sold out in record time and the event was attracting an excitingly brilliant gang of A-list journalists: Jancis Robinson, Michael Broadbent, Neal Martin, Tim Atkin and Andrew Jefford. The latter had flown in from France to ‘second’ Sylvain with his flowing appreciation of the Domaine. Clos de Tart is reaching dizzy heights.
Andrew kicked off his intro to the assembled “Burgundophiles” (what a great word!) with a typically articulate recommendation (see video below). “You should put yourself – if entirely possible – into a position where you can buy as much grand cru as possible…” Why? Because they are from land that “has been subject to agricultural scrutiny over a long period of time.” Step forward Clos de Tart. 870yrs of agricultural scrutiny (and success) is a pretty strong indication that this is a very special plot. All credit to the meticulous, delicate-handed nuns who founded it, and the 2 (yes, only 2) families who have been in ownership since.
The advantages of Clos de Tart being the largest of just 5 single owned estates or ‘monopoles’ (can you name the others? clues on our website) are huge, stated Jefford; no management issues, no pollution from other people’s vines and a little bit more room to breathe within the wine-making process. Resource, insight, ‘cultural depth’ and importantly, customers, were the last keys he saw to the Clos’ s success. ”This great wine is a dance between the Mommessin family together with Sylvain on one side, with the customer on the other.” Cue a thank you to you, the customer.
Sylvain then took us through the extra-ordinary selection of wines. Clos de Tart 2009 gave us a very premature glimpse of this superb vintage, which he said is often compared to 2005. “Great Burgundy is made to drink in 15 years’ time” he went onto say, before stating that it will only then be a great wine if it was a great wine from the beginning. There was no doubting this – the wine was deliciously rich, classy and seductive. “This is the kind of Burgundy I hoped I would stumble across,” said Jefford “it is a great wine.” High praise.
The Forge de Tart 2007 and the Clos de Tart 2007 were slightly more closed that the ’09 and, interestingly, Sylvain said that people often prefer the second wine (La Forge) to the Clos at this stage of its maturing trail. A more open vintage, suitable for the enforced drinking window driven by the market, perhaps. The Clos’ trademark ripeness was clear to see – “Clos de Tart is, of course, Clos de Tard” said Pitiot, referring to his habitually late harvest.
The Clos de Tart 2001 was utterly divine. My wine of the night and perfectly accompanied by deliciously tender beef fillet. “This is a miracle” said Sylvain, who seemed genuinely shocked “I don’t know why this wine is so perfect!” Big, almost creamy and effortlessly stylish, it reminded me of a beautiful cashmere scarf that you enjoy wearing too much to take off. Interestingly, Sylvain suggested the 2008 may well mirror the 2001.
The ’99 was starting to open up after a little time in glass. Less obvious than its predecessors, it slightly divided opinion. ‘Needing more time’ was the general consensus – it was probably suffering from the surprisingly stellar showing by the 2001. And lastly the 1996. Attractively savoury and interesting in that it was Sylvain’s first vintage at the helm – he therefore had had no input in the vineyards. Again a dividing of opinion, but all against a back drop of huge appreciation for what this remarkable man has achieved.
“The best vintages are the ones where we have nothing to do” he said, emphatically, as he rounded up the night…and as he alluded to the cycling holiday he had booked, pre-harvest, for this summer, we crossed our fingers for a great (if scorching) vintage in the making.
Tim Atkin, my very happy neighbour, loved the line-up, and was pro the ‘96. He is a big fan of the Domaine and his enthusiasm seemed indicative of the buzz in the beautiful candle-lit room. What a treat. “I feel very privileged to have tried them” Jefford then enthused, as he took to the podium for the last time. I couldn’t have agreed more.
Click here to watch Andrew Jefford’s Introduction to Burgundy, and Clos de Tart: