Revamping the Range: An Insight into Clos Henri’s Exciting Transformation in Marlborough

By | 22 May 2024


Among the many wineries in Marlborough, Clos Henri stands out as one of the most intriguing. This vineyard is the property of the Bourgeois family from Sancerre, and has been managed by Damien Yvon for nearly two decades. Damien recently showcased their revamped selection of wines.

The Bourgeois family has made Chavignon, Sancerre their home for 10 generations dating back to 1696. This renowned village boasts a mere 120 residents and has agriculture at its heart. Its position opposite the renowned Mont Damnes vineyard is noteworthy. The Bourgeois family is celebrated for crafting a distinctively pure Sancerre variant. Their wines exude precision and they hold a profound belief in terroir.

In the waning years of the 1980s, the family felt motivated to seek out new surroundings for the cultivation of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. They embarked on a rigorous exploration of other temperate climates. Every year a representative from the family would tour a different nation. This in-depth exploration spanned an entire decade until they settled upon their current base in Marlborough. Arnaud Bourgeois makes no secret that their decision to relocate was a spontaneous one.

In 1999, they made their initial journey to New Zealand, charmed by the warmth of the locals and the appealing nature of the country. They were swiftly taken by the unique terroir of Marlborough. Soon after, they ventured back with a terroir specialist from Sicavac, conducted some extensive soil testing and ultimately became the proud owners of an expanse of untapped terrain, nestled in the Wairau Valley’s western side.

This piece of land, now known as Clos Henri, possesses a fascinating variety of soils, intersected by a geological fault line. It’s described as an incredible stage for crafting terroir wines. Currently, they have 44 hectares of vineyards situated within the 110-hectare estate, which also hosts a flock of sheep, a few cows, and a section dedicated to forestry. This is a ‘Clos,’ following New Zealand’s style, demarcated not by a wall, but by an 8-wire fence. They remain fully family-owned, with no intention of purchasing grapes, but rather growing them organically, a practice which only 3% of the vineyards in Marlborough follow.

They recently decided upon a redesign of their range and new labels. However, this change is not indicative of a mid-life crisis; instead, it reflects their need to better narrate the estate’s story after two decades. The term ‘Petit Clos,’ originally signifying young vine wine, no longer seems fitting as the vines age. Hence, vibrant new labels now depict the evolution of the estate and their focus on organic farming and biodiversity. They have opted to retool the Clos Henri label into special single block wines. It’s more of a stylistic shift than a drastic revolution.

All wines are now presented with DIAM corks, each sealed with a dab of wax on top, looking quite distinguished ensconced in their updated labels.

For a more in-depth exploration of Clos Henri, based on a visit in May 2018, see this article

Clos Henri Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2022 Marlborough, New Zealand
Beautiful aromas with lemongrass, pear, and a subtle hint of passionfruit. The palate is textural and expressive, anchored by a core of sweet citrus fruit, underscored by nuance of mint and chalk. There is a wonderful balance of crisp, crystalline acidity. 93/100

Clos Henri Otira Sauvignon Blanc 2021 Marlborough, New Zealand
This wine is fermented and aged in a large format 600 litre barrels with thick staves at 15%. The result is a powerful and intense wine with a beautiful mineral edge to the distinct white peach and pear fruit. Illuminated by its crystalline, mineral nature and carrying remarkable intensity, this wine showcases a delightful terroir-driven character. Palatable, refined, and a delight to the senses. 94/100

Clos Henri Estate Pinot Noir 2019 Marlborough, New Zealand
Promising aromatics. Vibrant with sweet raspberry and cherry fruit along with a pleasant stony minerality. It’s supple and delicate with pleasing redcurrant fruit and a hint of spice at the finish. This wine showcases beautiful fruit and a hint of liquorice, rounded off by a subtle chalkiness on the finish. 93/100

Clos Henri Waimunga Pinot Noir 2020 Marlborough, New Zealand
Nice density to this wine which shows good structure under the black cherry and blackberry fruit, with the rich fruit characters surrounding a core of grainy, mineral detail. Finishes with some sour cherry. Very fine and textural; satisfying and expressive. 94/100

UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrene

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