One of the smallest estates in Pomerol, at just under a hectare in size, Clos Saint-Andre is truly a one-man show, run by Jean-Claude Desmarty. The first vines were planted in 1923 by Jean-Claude’s great-grandmother, Alice Desmarty, as part of a polycultural approach that included several vegetable plantings. Alice sold her wines to local merchants. The next two generations allowed outside vignerons to tend the vines and make their own wines; thus, Jean-Claude is the first in his family to produce estate-bottled Pomerol under the Clos Saint-Andre name. The first wine to be bottled was the 2004 vintage.
Jean-Claude treats the tiny vineyard like a garden and refers to himself as a gardener rather than a vigneron, as he works each vine by hand, with no mechanical aides. Many of the original vines, planted in 1923, are still alive and healthy, though the average age as of 2011 is just above 60 years. The low yields of well-aged vines allow him a mere 35 hectoliters per hectare, which is below the typical Pomerol levels of 49hl/ha. When the grapes ripen, Jean-Claude calls together a small group of family and friends to work harvest. All the fruit is carried into the winery in bags loaded on people’s backs. Next, the group works to sort the fruit before adding them to the stainless steel tanks where fermentation takes place. No tractors or pumps are involved, every action is by hand, allowing for the highest possible standards when selecting the grapes that will make up the wine. Vinification lasts about three weeks and is entirely manual, using grapes, two arms, thoughtfulness and care as tools. Alcoholic fermentation occurs spontaneously, initiated by the indigenous yeast found on the grape skins, followed by a natural malolactic fermentation. The wine spends 16-18 months in barrels, of which a small portion is new oak.