Château Clinet: a childhood dream
In just 20 years, Ronan Laborde has set himself up as a key figure in the Bordeaux wine world. This former marathon champion, who now runs Château Clinet (Pomerol), handles his terroir – and its more than eight centuries of history – with an artisanal touch. In conversation with Lambert Rollat, Regional Sales Director at Twins, Ronan Laborde looks back at his filigree work and the creation of the Ronan By Clinet range.
Château Clinet and Ronan Laborde: the encounter of a lifetime
At the age of twenty, Ronan Laborde was dreaming of fine wine. Although he was an elite cross-country runner, the vines were where he expected his career to take him. This young man, originally from the Paris region, thus set out to find the estate of his dreams, supported by his father. After visits to Burgundy and Argentina, it was ultimately in Bordeaux that the Laborde family found their rare pearl. ‘In the late 1990s, Bordeaux was a magical place. It was magical and open’, he remembers. Château Clinet, located at the heart of Pomerol, was up for sale. Ronan Laborde and his father seized the opportunity. Once there, the young man demonstrated great humility. Château Clinet is one of the oldest estates in Pomerol and he had everything to prove.
‘The estate was very artisanal in size, but it was less of a risk to cultivate eight and a half hectares than to buy a large estate, which brings different issues when it comes to selling wine. It was also high-end, which was very attractive to us.’
Ronan Laborde, owner of Château Clinet
To overcome the challenges facing him, this young man was wise enough to undertake training and surround himself with experts: ‘When you are 23, you want to forge ahead, but you also have a lot of gaps in your knowledge of what needs to be done’, he remembers. Over the course of twenty years, the team increased in size from four to sixteen, ‘all passionate individuals sharing the same values’. Today, Ronan Laborde knows all there is to know about the vineyards’ history and can hold forth for hours about Merlot, the flagship grape variety on Bordeaux’s right bank. As a testament to his successful integration within the Bordeaux landscape, the owner of Château Clinet has been president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (bringing together 131 prestigious chateaus) since 2019.
Ronan by Clinet: a team effort
As well as the Château Clinet fine wine, Ronan Laborde dreamt of developing another range. ‘The aim was to make an accessible, fun Bordeaux for customers who would enjoy it at family get-togethers by a swimming pool or with a barbecue’. And so the Ronan by Clinet adventure began. Ronan Laborde once again relied on teamwork to make this a reality. Supported by various winegrowing partners in Pomerol’s satellite appellations, Ronan Laborde launched the range in the 2009 vintage with a red wine: ‘To begin with we were venturing into the unknown, and it proved to be a huge success’. Ronan by Clinet, made by Château Clinet, is now also available as white and rosé wines made from grapes harvested locally in Entre-Deux-Mers and on the Bordeaux right bank.
Its success has been hailed by Lambert Rollat, Regional Sales Director (New York – New Jersey) for Twins: ‘It is a very enjoyable range that offers a way of exploring Pomerol. It serves as a gateway to Château Clinet, and it is a wine that also works very well in restaurants’. Who has not seen this iconic bottle – with its dandy astride a bicycle – sitting on beautiful dinner tables, especially in America?
Château Clinet 2019: a benchmark
Throughout his twenty years at the helm of Château Clinet, Ronan Laborde has proven to be a creative, exacting winemaker. Building on the Château Clinet terroir, he and his team have sought to make a wine with the strongest possible identity. Precise vineyard mapping enables each vine to be treated as an individual requiring personal care. Both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon flourish in this clay terroir. To explain this, we have to take a look back through history. In the 19th century, 50% of the grapes planted were Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot began to take over during the 20th century, especially after the 1956 frosts that destroyed two thirds of the vineyards in Libourne. Despite being hit by the frost, Château Clinet managed to preserve its heritage. ‘We still have plots growing old Cabernet Sauvignon, which represents a major part of Château Clinet’s DNA’, the winemaker explains. The Château Clinet blend contains approximately 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Although he has been making wine for more than twenty years, Ronan Laborde considers the 2019 vintage to be his benchmark. Emphasising ‘its depth and brilliance’, he views it as ‘a model to follow for future vintages’. When tasted, it gradually offers up a pure, complex aromatic expression made up of fruity, floral and spicy notes, appearing on both the nose and the palate with delicate tannins and a slightly creamy touch. Ronan Laborde describes a deep sense of ‘fullness, freshness and drinkability’.
Recommended food and wine pairing with Château Clinet 2019, by chef Arthur Leprevost:
Wagyu beef, creamed mushrooms, Bordelaise sauce, Morello cherries, raspberries, garlic shoots, mustard shoots and truffle oil.