The story of Clau de Nell is one of timing and serendipity. In 2006, Anne-Claude Leflaive – winemaker and owner of the famed Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy – had just established a marketing company to promote and communicate the benefits of biodynamic agriculture and viticulture. While touring biodynamically farmed vineyards in the Loire Valley, she discovered Domaine Clau de Nell. The owners of the estate, Claude and Nelly Pichard were young winemakers who had rapidly established themselves as the “rising stars” of the region. Unfortunately, financial circumstances prevented the couple from producing wines and in 2008, Anne-Claude and her husband Christian Jacques bought the centuries-old Domaine.
The estate is located in the village of Ambillou-Chateau in Anjou, France. The estate vineyard is a long contiguous parcel – 19.77 acres to be exact – which is located on a south-facing knoll at 295 feet above sea level. From the top of the vineyard one can see the Loire River and, from a distance, the Atlantic Ocean 75 miles away. The vines are planted on sandstone grit and red flint over tuffeau (the soft limestone indigenous to the region) and range from 30-90 years old. In 2011, Anne-Claude and Christian bought a two acre parcel called “Clos des Noyers” to which they planted Chenin Blanc, and in 2012 they signed a long-term lease for additional Chenin fruit from a two acre, biodynamically farmed parcel located in Saumur. The estate vineyard is primarily planted to Cabernet Franc (12.35 acres), followed by Grolleau (4 acres) and Cabernet Sauvignon (3.42 acres). The Chenin planted in 2012 and 2013 in Clos des Noyers and the leased vineyard will come into production in 2015.
In 2009, estate manager Sylvain Potin was hired. He keeps yields at the Domaine low (less than 30 h/h). Harvest is done by hand. The fruit is destemmed prior to cuvaison, which lasts for 20-30 days. The goal is not extraction but proper flavor development – the caps are gently punched down and pump overs are kept to a minimum. The wines age for 18 months in five year old Burgundy oak casks in the estate's centuries old limestone cellar. The wines are bottled unfined, unfiltered on a fruit day, as defined by the biodynamic calendar. Domaine Clau de Nell is part of the prestigious Renaissance des Appellations association and is Demeter certified as 100% biodynamic.