A church with a new lease of life

I tend to give organised religion a wide swerve these days after dabbling in it as a teenager, but this week I rediscovered a church worth visiting. It is the home of Clos Henri Wines in Marlborough and while not actually used as a church any more, the quaint little colonial building that houses this winery’s cellar door is the sort of place that encourages a reverential approach.

It’s home to some of this country’s rare few single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs, all made entirely from estate grown grapes (nothing bought in), all of which are grown organically and biodynamically to ensure healthy soil and better regulation of plant vigour and health. The Clos Henri vineyards are also planted at high density with 5050 plants per hectare to enhance the expression of place that most definitely comes through in the wines, most of which are white and all distinctively different in flavour. The soils at Clos Henri are also different. There are three types. Broadbridge clay,  Greywacke river stones (on lower terraces around the chapel) and Wither Clay (on the hill behind the chapel). The wines in this story were sent from Clos Henri  to write about and rate, but it seemed a shame to keep them all to myself, so I put them in a blind line up for co workers at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington. We all discovered the incredibly high quality that Sauvignon is capable of, if produced with the love and care that the winemaking team at Clos Henri do. These wines reflect place, philosophy and quality more than they speak of Sauvignon Blanc as a fruity white wine. The philosophy of the French Bourgeois family, which has been growing grapes in Sancerre in the Loire Valley for 10 generations, shines through clearly in these excellent whites. This family came to New Zealand in 1999 to expand their Sauvignon Blanc production but it has always been about quality rather than volume. Even the (supposedly) entry level Sauvignon Blanc punches above its weight when it comes to quality and price. This Petit Clos Sauvignon retails for about $21.99 but it’s all about flinty subtlety, texture and dry flavours. Not all lower priced Sauvignon Blanc produced in New Zealand is actually dry these days so it’s incredibly refreshing to taste an entire line up that is.

Four wines of the week

17.5/20
2018 Clos Henri Petit Clos Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc $21.99
Fermentation of this organic Sauvignon Blanc was in stainless steel to retain freshness and the wine is bone dry. Its complex creamy taste comes from three months on lees maturation on lees to add depth, which balances the fresh acidity in this zesty little wine. It was fined once and lightly filtered before bottling.  

18.5/20
2019 Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc $33.99
This organic Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of  85% stainless steel and 15% old French oak barrels, with the oak portion fermented using wild yeasts. The complex creamy taste comes from eight months aging on lees with stirring to encourage body and mouthfeel.  French white wine lovers will find more than a hint of Loire-like flavours in this dry Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, which is more restrained and less overtly fruity in style than most. 

19/20
2016 Clos Henri Greywacke River Stones Sauvignon Blanc $65
Organically certified, hand picked grapes were fermented with wild yeasts in 600 litre Austrian oak barrels, aged on lees 20 months and bottled unfiltered. Just 701 bottles of this wine were made from the stony soils of the Clos Henri Vineyard in Marlborough. It is the ultimate expression of place, a concept that rings true in every sip of this waxy, full bodied, zesty dry white with its flavour notes of grapefruit, which I often find typical of great whites made in Marlborough.
Love this style. It is my pick of the four great Sauvignons made by Clos Henri and reminds me strongly of outstanding Sancerre. 

19/20
2016 Clos Henri Marlborough Broadbridge Clay Sauvignon Blanc $65

Organically certified, hand picked grapes were fermented with wild yeasts in 600 litre Austrian oak barrels, aged on lees 20 months and bottled unfiltered. Just 724 bottles of this wine were made from the clay soils of the Clos Henri Vineyard in Marlborough. It is the ultimate expression of place because it is made identically to the wine above, the only difference being the soil types on which the grapes in the wine were grown. This is a more herbaceous, flinty style and bears a strong resemblance to great Pouilly Fumé from the Loire Valley, France.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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