Profile: Maison Clavelier et Fils (Comblanchien)



The brightly-roofed building of Maison Clavelier is something of a landmark, though also something that most people simply by-pass on their way towards or from Nuits St.Georges. I have limited experience of Clavelier – I remember a 1990 Vosne Suchots found a dozen years ago in a ski-resort restaurant – not the finest of tannin, but a peacock’s tail of a finish – and a few 1980s magnums that I picked up in an auction – serviceable wines too. By chance, at a Tastevinage tasting in the Clos de Vougeot, I was seated next to Henri-Noel Thomas – one of the Thomas (Thomas-Moillard) family, and indeed, one-time Export Manager for Moillard. Henri-Noel is the owner of Maison Clavelier. Henri-Noel seemed a very good taster and we talked of many things before he gave me a visiting card – hmm Maison Clavelier – maybe they were actually worth a visit!

Henri-Noel was born in a house on the quay of Nuits in the late 1940s. He reminisces that was before the current ‘proper’ drainage works, when Nuits would be flooded on an annual basis – he particularly remembers 60 cm of standing water in the Moillard cellars in 1979.

Maison Clavelier’s building dates from 1958 – an all concrete construction – built on three levels. There was a small addition at the back of the building in 1978 – this is when the current roof was installed. These excellent cellars house the barrels on the bottom floor – double-stacked there’s room for 340 barrels – and stock on the middle floor that can be directly accessed from the rear of the building. If the building only dates from 1958, Maison Clavelier is a little older – started on the opposite side of the road by Antoine Clavelier (known as ‘Toine’) in 1935. Toine had three sons; Andre, Jean and Gerard who still worked with the firm up until 2006.

Investors bought into Clavelier in 1992, but little was changed before the outright sale in 2001. At that time the main business was table-wines plus lots of private customers across Europe who bought in barrel – Henri-Noel notes with a smile – it’s still possible to buy in barrel… Those customers now mainly import wines from Spain or Italy instead he notes. After Henri-Noel bought the business, he looked to change Clavelier’s market orientation, moving away from the volume business and away from supplying (for instance) large catering organisations in Dijon. Henri wanted a more ‘standard’ (for the Côte d’Or) ‘appellation business’.

A few wines…

Today there are six employees and 0.78 hectares of domaine wines too; Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Fixin and Nuits, each of those three parcels being 0.22-0.29 hectares. The domaine grapes and those that are purchased are vinified in a cellar in Gevrey-Chambertin – there is a little wine purchased in barrel too, but Henri-Noel emphasis that this is very small. Everything is destemmed, and the target is to produce wine of finesse and terroir – Henri-Noel’s preference.

So what of a small selection of his wines?

2008 Maison Clavelier, Gevrey-Chambertin
The nose has quite pretty, soft, ripe fruit notes – very forward and friendly. In the mouth there is also a good fruit ripeness, allied to a good balancing acidity – the flavours linger well. There is a little tannin in the mid-palate, but it is ripe enough. Good wine and worthy of the label.

2010 Maison Clavelier, Nuits St.Georges La Petit Charmot
Organic grapes from Michel Thomas – Henri-Noel’s brother – who likes to grow grapes but isn’t interested in making wine. These grapes are kept separate from both the domaine and purchased grapes from NSG (info on the bottle’s back-label).
The nose offers a round and very, very pretty aroma of super-red fruit – this seems excellent. Fills the mouth, ripe fruit, finely grained tannins too. This is a very above average NSG, and one that has real style. I bought some!

2011 Maison Clavelier, Morey St.Denis
Medium, medium-plus colour. Quite a classic MSD nose I would say, augmented with a whiff of tobacco. Supple, sweet fruit, quite dark fruit. Growing intensity with understated, yet underpinning tannin. Good length – I have to say that this is excellent 2011 MSD – I bought some of this too!

2011 Maison Clavelier, Bourgogne Hautes Còtes de Nuits Les Acacias
Made from a mix of grapes and must purchases, with all barrel elevage, 1/3rd new. High-toned and airy – quite pretty I would say. The fruit is ripe with plenty of acidity in reserve – there are no sharp edges here. Easy, but pleasurable drinking…

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