After nearly 12 years spent searching for the perfect terroir onto which to expand their rich legacy of winemaking, the Bourgeois family of France chose the Marlborough region of New Zealand. The Clos Henri estate now extends over 109 hectares of land, characterised by a variety of soils that adds great complexity to the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir produced there. Certified organic since 2013, the vineyards are managed in an environmentally friendly manner with special attention paid to preserving the natural ecosystem surrounding the vines. French know-how coupled with a deep respect for the Marlborough terroir is reflected in Clos Henri’s three beautiful ranges of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines: Petit Clos, Bel Echo and Clos Henri.
The Story of Clos Henri
The first 98 hectares of Clos Henri were purchased in 2000 when – after 12 years of thorough exploration – the Bourgeois winemaking family of France discovered New Zealand and deemed it a wonderful place for the cultivation of vines. When the Bourgeois family legacy passed from Henri Bourgeois to his sons, Rémi and Jean-Marie, the family began to look outside their original estate in the Sancerre region of the Loire to expand the business. Having fallen deeply in love with the youth and zest of the Marlborough region (as compared to the “well-worn” winemaking appellations of France), the family decided to cultivate their new vineyard in a way that respected and clearly expressed the terroir. The estate was named Clos Henri after Henri Bourgeois, with the designation “Clos” echoing French roots and know-how.
The first grapevines were planted in 2001 and the first harvest took place in 2003. In 2007 the family purchased 11 additional hectares, bringing the property to 109 total hectares. The estate’s own winery was constructed in 2009 and the first vintage was produced in that winery in the same year. In 2011, Clos Henri celebrated the 10 year anniversary of its first plantings and its successful blending of Old World winemaking tradition with New World terroir.
French Winemaking Tradition on New Zealand Terroir
It was originally the purity and potential of the Marlborough terroir that drew the Bourgeois family to purchase land there. The land on which Clos Henri is now established was previously used as sheep pasture and was largely untouched back in 2000. The terroir boasts a combination of three distinct soil types within the boundaries of the estate: Wither clay, Greywacke River stone and Broadbridge clay. This diversity is due to the geological movements in this region’s history, and the formation of the Wither hills in the southern area of the property and the Wairau seismic fault, which divides the plain into two different soil types. The diverse terroir is reflected in a diverse expression of the two varietals in which the Bourgeois family specialises – Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
The expression of the Marlborough terroir is complemented at Clos Henri with 10 generations of French know-how in winemaking from the Bourgeois family. The vineyard is planted with 6,000 vines per hectare, which is historically a European way of planting, twice as dense as the typical Marlborough vineyard. This technique is adapted from the family’s estate in the Sancerre. High density permits the vines to grow less fruit which in turn leads to a higher concentration in flavour and complexity. Faced with competition from nearby vines, the plants dig deeper for the resources they require, connecting more with the soil as a consequence. Over time the vines begin to rely heavily on the soil itself and are thus not as easily affected by climatic changes, which is especially important in cool climates like that of Sancerre. This technique also works to protect the grapes in a way from the climate of the Marlborough estate, which was previously bare.
Also crucial to the cultivation of vines at Clos Henri is the pruning process, which is carried out according to family tradition. The pruning system used is 100% double Guyot with extensive shoot-thinning in the spring to allow optimal fruit positioning and lower the risk of disease.
Dry Farming, Organic and Beyond…
To maintain a pure expression of terroir Clos Henri Vineyard Manager Fabiano Frangi and the vineyard team is fully committed to sustainable winemaking practices. A proud member of MANA: Marlborough Natural Winegrowers and certified organic since the harvest of 2013, Clos Henri is managed in a way that keeps the soil healthy and the vineyard “humming with life” (in the words of Frangi). The soils is replenished with natural compost made from the leftover grape marc, cow manure, cardboard and biodegradable waste produced by the estate. Mussel shells sourced from the Marlborough Sounds are also spread throughout the vines, providing a natural source of calcium. Weeds are controlled naturally by allowing sheep to graze in the vineyards. On its certified organic vineyard, Clos Henri does not use chemicals of any kind, including pesticides and fertilisers.
In 2010 Clos Henri carried out its first harvest of grapes grown with dry-farming practices. This means that the soil is not irrigated, and the vines can rely only on natural sources of water, thus better expressing the terroir and producing fruit with a higher concentration of flavours. The practice of crop thinning to limit fruit yield also makes possible the practice of dry-farming, as the next step in the direction of fully biodynamic winemaking.
Focus on 2 wines of Clos Henri
Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2014
This single-varietal Sauvignon Blanc white wine was produced in the Marlborough appellation of New Zealand. The Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc is made from vines aged between 8 and 13 years, planted on soils composed mainly of Greywacke rock. The climatic conditions of the Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2014 included a mild winter. The berries developed very quickly before an almost perfect maturation and early harvests. The ageing of the wine is carried out with stirring of the lees for 8 months on average, resulting in a round Sauvignon Blanc with a nice body and wonderful sensations on the palate.
The Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2014 develops a bouquet that combines fragrances of tropical fruits, citrus and flowers with beautiful minerality (flint). On the palate, the wine is complex, with great texture and very rich, offering mineral flavours, along with lemon and orange blossom. The Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is a balanced wine, with deep acidity, elegant and with a great length. It can be kept for 5 to 6 years.
Clos Henri Pinot Noir 2013
The Clos Henri Pinot Noir is a single-varietal Pinot Noir red wine produced in the Marlborough appellation in New Zealand. The vines, aged between 8 and 13 years on average, are planted mainly on clay soils. The wine is matured in French oak barrels (25% of which are new), for 12 months.
At tasting, the Clos Henri Pinot Noir 2013 shows off a fine, pure and elegant nose, developing fragrances of cherries and plums mixed with toasted, spicy and pepper notes. On the palate, the wine offers delicious touches of black fruit and liquorice, as well as woody flavours. The palate is pleasantly balanced in freshness and complexity, with a silky texture and generous tannins. Pinot Noir is known to flourish perfectly in the clay soils of the Clos Henri estate. The wine’s great ageing potential allows it to be kept 7-8 years.