Le Claux, planted in 1870 on the very first American rootstocks resistant to phylloxera, had to be pulled up in 1914 because the vineyard was beginning to age and production was declining. At the time, there was little talk of quality but people wanted to produce large crops. My great-uncle Albert Vaton, a balloonist who was a prisoner in Germany during the First World War, wrote regularly to my grandmother who had stayed in Gigondas (yes, French and Germans exchanged letters from their respective prisoners...). When harvest time came, he would ask his sister if there was going to be a big crop. He never mentioned quality. In 1918, there were almost no men left. Uncle Albert died on November 9, 1918, 2 days before the armistice, and the vineyard was not uprooted due to lack of manpower. In the 1970s, the vineyard was so worn out that my father used monumental amounts of sheep manure to re-energize Le Claux.
He stored the manure just around the corner from the house. I was a child and found the smell atrocious. I couldn't understand how my father could say that this manure was “extraordinary”!!! After all its ups and downs, Le Claux is now an old lady in good shape and we plant replacement vines there every year. I don't think we will ever uproot it. In 2018, Claux expresses its customary aromatics of tar, soot and blackberry which inevitably remind us of the array of aromas in a good Barolo: it’s all in the terroir...
The 1.8-hectare Le Claux—meaning “Clos” in old French—is a field blend of predominately Grenache. Louis Barruol believes 10% of the vineyard is from the original 1870 planting. Vines are replaced by massal selection and the average vine age is 60-years.
Twelve months’ ageing: 20% in new casks - 50% in casks used for one wine - 30% in casks used for two wines.