The domaine’s story began in 2006 when Anne-Claude Leflaive and her husband Christian Jacques met the previous owners of the domaine.
They were immediately struck with the quality of the site, the age of the vines and the biodynamic principles that had been implemented in the vineyards since 2000.
Anne-Claude being one of the foremost proponents of biodynamic viticulture at the great Domaine Leflaive and founder of CLAC — a venture designed to support and promote biodynamic growers in exporting their wines — Clau de Nell proved far too tempting to pass up, and in 2008, in a bid to save the property from insolvency, Anne-Claude and Christian took the decision to purchase it.
Following Anne Claude’s death in 2015, Christian continues to run the estate alongside winemaker Sylvain Potin and Christian’s daughter Claire who oversees sales and marketing.
One of the guiding principles at Clau de Nell is Anne-Claude’s firm belief that winemakers should place nature at the heart of what they do, and wherever possible harmonise with the natural environment rather than resist it.
"At Clau de Nell, nature is essential, it is a philosophy of life. Letting nature take its course also means knowing how to grasp what is happening and how it will happen."
The wines are aged for 18 months in traditional caves created from the local Tuffeau quarries which provide the perfect conditions for élevage.
Harvesting is carried out by hand and the grapes are destemmed prior to maceration which lasts for 20 to 30 days.
All the wines are bottled without fining or filtration (the only exception being the Chenin Blanc which undergoes gentle filtration) which takes place on a fruit day in accordance with the lunar calendar.
Clau de Nell boasts 12 hectares of vines which include five hectares of Cabernet Franc, 4.5 hectares of Chenin Blanc, two hectares of Grolleau and one hectare of Cabernet Sauvignon. Production remains small, with average yields of less than 30 hectolitres per hectare. The vineyards are surrounded by forests and fields which encourage high levels of biological activity in the soils.
Geologically, the soils of Clau de Nell are incredibly varied, with the first 10cm being composed of silty sand, a product of fluvial erosion of rocks containing high levels of quartz. Further down, the soil is mainly sand and clay, with the deepest layers being composed of Tuffeau — a fine-grained limestone, made up of remains of organisms and fragments of rocks brought by rivers in the form of alluvium.