If you stand in the town square of Vosne-Romanée and look up the hill in the direction of La Tâche, then on your left hand side at the edge of the square is an interesting looking triangular building. As you can see from the picture to the left, the building is number 8 and shows the legend Clos des Réas over the door. Last month workmen were busy replacing all the roof tiles – just in case you were interested!
The Clos des Réas is classified as a Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru, and is a monopole of the Gros family, today vinified and marketed by Domaine Michel Gros. The vineyard was acquired by one Alphonse Gros in 1860 and has stayed within the family ever since. Interestingly Michel is the only Gros family member (with a domaine) not to own a chunk of Richebourg, I guess this is the price of keeping the vineyard a monopole! Although Michel Gros has been making the wine for 20 years, the label has only borne his name since the 1996 vintage, prior to that it was labelled as being from Domaine Jean Gros – his father.The AOC villages vineyard of Vosne-Romanée ‘Aux Réas’ next door is also partly owned by the various Gros family members. The Clos des Réas vineyard itself is the lowest lying of the Vosne-Romanée 1er Crus – most other vineyards of this elevation are designated as AOC Vosne-Romanée villages – as is Aux Réas. Next-door, lying just higher up the slope is the Vosne-Romanée 1er Chaumes which itself touches on the even more ‘upslope’ 1er Cru vineyard of Malconsorts and Grand Cru La Tâche.
The vineyard and the elevage
All the usual references for the roots of vineyard names are silent on the subject of Réas, so unfortunately we don’t know the derivation for the name Clos des Réas. The 2.12 hectare vineyard has a soil made up from a Bajocian (Jurassic) marl, predominantly of fossilised shellfish (ostrea acuminata). There is a very gentle slope towards the southeast, and the vines planted with a north-south orientation. Not merely Clos by name; the triangular Clos des Réas is surrounded by stout walls on two of the three sides – most likely built by the monks of Citeaux. At the northern corner pointing into the village square of Vosne-Romanée is the small house (pictured above) bearing the number eight. The Clos des Réas and ‘aux Réas’ might look contiguous on the map, but there’s actually a steep drop, of perhaps 20 feet down to a road with Aux Réas starting on the other side – they look ‘very separated’ if you stand by edge of this drop.The wine is produced with average yields of below 40hl/hectare which for the vineyard size means in practice a production of 28-30 barrels. The grapes are completely destemmed with a 3/4 day cold soak before fermentation up to 32°C. As much as 70% new oak barrels are used in the elevage.
To summarise the 14 vintages I tasted the wine is a consistently elegant, smooth, medium-fat wine of some complexity. A wine that tends to display more of the red fruit spectrum but the black is always waiting in the wings. Unlike many from Vosne there is only a very subtle spicy element. Maybe it’s the soil or maybe it’s the lower vineyard elevation, but you won’t find the same depth or dimension as in (respectively) the best Suchots or Malconsorts. Despite the relatively high amount of new oak, it’s never really obvious on the palate, whereas on the nose the oak seems to take around 5 years to be subsumed into the mix. The weak years tend to be very good wines, though if I’m honest, the lauded vintages often don’t scale the anticipated peaks – that said, the 1993 was superb.
I decided you would probably get bored if I gave you my full notes, so what you see below are curtailed a little – If you want the lot, just let me know:
2000 Clos des Réas
Medium cherry red. The oak is showing on the nose, plus high toned redcurrants. Red fruit on the creamy palate. Smooth tannins – a good wine.
1999 Clos des Réas
Medium-plus cherry red. A little spice and a little less oak but still some toast, hard to get at much else. Red fruit with good acidity and smooth tannin – comes across a little firm but also comes across very young.
1998 Clos des Réas
Medium cherry red. Similar toast to the 1999 with a little blacker fruit. Lovely fruit with well mannered but grippy tannins – perfect acidity. Very good.
1997 Clos des Réas
Medium, medium-plus cherry red with a little amber. The oak is barely detectable together with black and red fruit pies. Excellent fruit and depth with good acidity. Starting to drink now.
1996 Clos des Réas
Medium-plus with no fading again well integrated oak and fruit shaded to black. Less forward and firmer than 1997. Very good acidity and well mannered tannins – very young still.
1995 Clos des Réas
Medium-plus colour. Nose is most closed yet – no obvious oak. Some others didn’t care for this wine but with intense fruit and broad tannins I really enjoyed this slightly more rustic performance.
1994 Clos des Réas
Medium ruby red fading to amber. Red nose with a hint of spice. Mature palate despite the slightly rasping tannin with sweet creamy fruit. A little shorter than the rest.
1993 Clos des Réas
Darkest and best of the first 10 wines. The colour shows a deep ruby with a more watery rim. Still showing a trace of oak on the nose with distant black shaded fruit – more closed than the others. Simply super depth to the fruit. The tannins are denser but very well presented. Acidity that’s ‘just right’. The star of the line-up so far. Will be excellent.
1992 Clos des Réas
Medium-plus ruby red with a little amber. The nose is less expressive than when tasted 1 hour ago. After the 1993 the fruit is a little muddied. In isolation a nice wine, but after the 1993…
1991 Clos des Réas
Another wine whose nose was better 1 hour ago. Fat with good acidity. Smooth with fulsome tannins – this is delicious!
1990 Clos des Réas
Medium-plus ruby red. Sweet red nose, little estery too. Super-sweet fruit on the palate, nice acidity and creamy tinge to the finish. Excellent, but 1991 stands out more for the vintage.
1989 Clos des Réas
Medium-plus ruby. The nose has more obvious coffee and little black fruit. Lower acidity then 1990 – or at least seems less fresh. Good quality, but it was always a tough job to follow the 1991 & 1990.
1988 Clos des Réas
Medium ruby red. A bready, cherry tart nose. Sweet fruit, resolved tannin and good acidity – adds up to a very nice wine.
1985 Clos des Réas
Medium, medium-plus colour. Estery, old-burgundy nose. Nice mature fruit that lingers. Again very nice.