The living legend of Vouvray: Philippe Foreau and the Clos Naudin

The living legend of Vouvray: Philippe Foreau and the Clos Naudin

Of my many visits with some of the greatest wine producers on the planet, there have only been a few occasions where I have found myself in awe of the presence of a genuinely special soul, one who is both thoroughly masterful in the depth of knowledge of their craft as well as so plainly humble in their egolessness.  These people have devoted their lives to their land, and when they speak it is with an authority and clarity afforded only to those who have lived and breathed this experience of understanding Nature’s Way for an entire lifetime.  One such soul is Philippe Foreau of Vouvray, a true Jedi Master of the highest order.
Philippe is the third generation to farm the venerable Clos Naudin, which his grandfather Armand acquired in 1923.  The 12 hectare domaine planted uniquely to Chenin blanc is located in Vouvray’s northeastern sector, with an ideal southern exposure; although there are several pet names for specific smaller plots, the two main vineyards are known as the lieu dits “les Perruches” and “les Ruettes” with an average vine age of 35 years.  His father Andre ran the domaine until fully handing over the reigns to Philippe in 1983.  Production is roughly split 50/50 between still wines of varying degrees of residual sugar and traditional Brut style sparkling wines.  The house style favors a crystalline cutting purity, of gorgeous balance and supreme ageworthiness.  Farming is organic and meticulous, with harvest done in several “tries”, or passes, harvesting each portion of the vineyard at its optimal ripeness.  No wine is ever chapitalized, no wine goes through malolactic fermentation.  All wines are aged in well maintained old wooden 300 liter barrels, with approximately 5% new wood added each year.  The sparkling wines spend a minimum of 4 years on the lees in bottle prior to disgorgement; this allows the bubblies to achieve a wonderful vinosity, or complex still wine like quality of terribly fine texture.  Philippe seeks to complementarily balance the characteristics offered by the three principal soil types here: clay, limestone, and silex aka flint/quartz.  It is very widely recognized that, along with his neighbor Domaine Huet, Philippe is the flag bearer for the greatest wines of Vouvray, if not the greatest Chenin blancs on the Planet.
The day prior to meeting with Foreau I was with Gerard Boulay in Chavignol, Sancerre.  When I mentioned my upcoming visit chez Foreau, Boulay lit up, asking me to put in a good word for him to procure a few bottles of one of Foreau’s rarest wines, produced only three times in history: his profound Moulleux style wine named la Goutte d’Or.  Boulay also shared his unabashed esteem for Foreau as a taster and wine pairing master, of the finest in all of France.  The next day, Philippe and I walked the vineyards before descending into the massive and cool hand carved cellar.  There was an eerie netherworld fog inside the cellar.  “When there is fog in the cellar, it means that a storm is coming,” Philippe opined.  In all aspects of his awareness, there was a certain timeless quality, as though he had experienced and understood all of the variables and their relationships in his Vouvray universe.  He possessed a gentle intensity and focus, lucid in his insight; this is much like his wines…….It was in tasting that I really was awed by the entirety of his life’s work and vision.  The brightness, poise, complexity, and balance of the wines was striking.  As we progessed through 15 or so wines, he had minute and pointilist precision to his commentary, especially when it came to the dishes that he recommends for pairing.  By the time that we arrived at the 2009 Moelleux reserve, a profound wine produced only a handful of times in the past eight decades, my cage had been rattled.  I was moved to the point of tears, humbled at the compelling and singular beauty of this man’s work, and that it is now my time to represent it.   I thanked him for believing in me, and for allowing me the opportunity to carry forward this proud tradition.  Philippe demurely smiled, and introduced me to his son;  together, we will carry the legacy of the Clos Naudin onward……Here are the wines that are in the first parcel to arrive in late September:

2008 Vouvray Brut $22 : From the unlikely “miracle” vintage of 2008, this wine offers bright and pretty aromas of white flowers, with a citron note on both the nose and palate.  The mousse is quite fine.  A delicious and mouthwatering intro.2007 Vouvray Brut Reserve $26 : A deeper and leesier nose leads to a wine of more pronounced mineral clarity with a wonderful tension of elements.  There is a touch of almond/pistachio in its long resonant finish of very fine texture.  This is smokin’ good.  Philippe recommends pairing this with scallops in a light cream sauce withmushrooms; it also pairs quite nicely with smoked salmon.

2010 Vouvray Sec $25 : From the wonderfully pure and crystalline 2010 vintage.  This wine has gorgeous tension, charm, and length.  Philippe says that this wine will reach its 15 birthday without the least sign of oxidization.  Solid as a rock.  Best paired with shellfish, specifically razor clams.  Also recommended with sushi and tartares.  6 grams of acidity, and 3.5 grams of residual sugar for you geeks out there.

2009 Vouvray Demi sec $25 : To be paired ideally with pan seared foie gras, stone fruits, or lobster with roasted peaches.  35 grams residual sugar.
“Scents of freesia, pink grapefruit, and blood orange anticipate the combination of exotic richness with luscious citricity (despite its analytically modest acidity) that characterize the palate performance of Foreau’s 2009 Vouvray Demi-Sec. For all of its superficial sense of richness, body, and high-glycerin, this displays not just the aforementioned potential for some refreshment, but also an underlying sense of restraint and chalky, alkaline minerality. Foreau thinks this is like a stallion being held back at the starting gate and that when the full range of 2009 richness and complexity is unbridled there will be a much more impressive show. Perhaps – but I find it pretty impressive in its way, already, and at the demi-sec level there is ample precedent chez Foreau for wine that can be worth following for 15-20 years.” 92 points David Schildknecht of Parker’s Wine Advocate

2008 Vouvray Demi sec $29 :
“Subtle and alluring scents of musk, white truffle, iris, lily, and narcissus mingle with quince on the nose of Foreau’s 2008 Vouvray Demi-Sec. Lush and glossy (13% alcohol, incidentally) and lusciously loaded with quince, kumquat, and grapefruit, it carries hints of coriander, zesty sizzle, rhubarb tartness, and persistent truffle and floral perfume into an uncannily buoyant, soaring finish. The balance here is so deft you can practically consider the wine dry, and its scent from the open glass alone is worth the asking price. Expect it to be worth following for at least two richly rewarding decades.” 94 points David Schildknecht 

2010 Vouvray Moelleux $39 : Once again, the crystalline purity of the 2010 vintage is on full display.  Of lesser must weight than the 2009, but with a gorgeous balance, brightness, and freshness.  Ripe grapefruit, orange marmalade, and mineral salts are noteworthy flavor elements.  Foreau recommends a pairing with lobster and citrus.

2009 Vouvray Moelleux $45 : Ideally paired with apple tart desserts, baked apples in butter, or sweet gorgonzola.  80 grams residual sugar.
“Candied grapefruit and lime peel in the nose of Foreau’s 2009 Vouvray Moelleux – a wine from largely over-ripe but not botrytized fruit – anticipate a tactile sense of palate attack that he thinks is too often lacking in wines of this vintage. A hint of white raisin woven into the candied citrus rind- and quince preserve-dominated palate here points to a level of ripeness that in Foreau vintages of an earlier era might have signaled a special reserve moelleux. Peppermint, white pepper, and citrus zest deliver piquant contrast to the candied sweetness in a finish of hugely impressive, sustained grip. Foreau thinks this ultimately superior to the corresponding 2008 (just as he agrees that 2008 has the edge in sec and demi-sec) but I am not prepared to go that far. Certainly, though, it is early days for this 2009 moelleux, a wine likely to reveal many additional facets over the next quarter-century.” 94 points David Schildknecht

2009 Vouvray Reserve $59 : 144 grams residual sugar.  This has a magical sense of intensity and balance.  A complete mindblower.
“What there was in this vintage of botrytis, Foreau reports, essentially went into his 2009 Vouvray Moelleux Reserve. Brown-spiced pear liqueur and quince preserves dominate the proceedings – wreathed in perfume of freesia and lily – and there are buoyancy and elegance, despite viscosity, enormous richness of texture and residual sweetness, that indeed point to the magic nobility rot can convey. Its sense of lift – when combined with luscious, still juicy suggestions of grapefruit and blood orange familiar from the corresponding demi-sec – wards off any risk of palate fatigue. Mysterious botrytis manifestations of stale bread, truffle, and white raisin emerge from the empty glass. This extraordinary achievement will stand with such past great Foreau moelleux reserves as 2005, 2003, and 1989-90 and is likely to merit 30 or more years of consideration.” 97 points David Schildknecht

These are profoundly traditional wines, that merit serious consideration for both newbie and connoisseur alike.  In both bubbly and still wines, they are absolutely compelling.  It is my honor to carry the torch to my corner of the world, all offered at the best prices in America.  If you have any questions whatsoever, you can find me at
Cheers to inspiring beauty of the Clos Naudin, and the labor of love of the Foreau family!!!


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