Clos de l’Oratoire is a 25-acre Grand Cru estate in the appellation of St.-Emilion, in Bordeaux. It is owned by Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg, a family of military leaders and wine estate owners originally from Germany, where the family’s winemaking history goes back to the 12th century. In 1971 the family purchased four estates in St.-Emilion, and several of them, including this one, are run by Stephan von Neipperg. Vineyards are planted to 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Some 40,000 bottles are produced each year. There is no second wine. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that “Stephan von Neipperg …has pushed this wine’s quality into St.-Emilion’s top echelon.”
Saint-Émilion is on the east side of the Dordogne River. At 13,400 acres it is one of Bordeaux’s largest appellations, and perhaps its most picturesque. It is also home to what has been called “the garagiste” movement of upstart, tradition-defying winemakers who produce artisanal wines in styles that are unconventional for the appellation. The village of Saint-Émilion dates from the middle ages and it sits on low hills, surrounded by ancient walls. Like its neighbor Pomerol, Saint-Émilion was not included in the famous Bordeaux classification system of 1855. But a century later a ranking system was put in place, and unlike the classification system for the Medoc, the Saint-Émilion system is reviewed every ten years, meaning that estates can be upgraded or downgraded. There are three rankings: Grand Cru Classé, Premier Grand Cru Classé B and Premier Grand Cru Classé A, with the final ranking being the best. Such legendary Saint-Émilion estates as Châteaux Ausone and Cheval-Blanc are Premier Grand Cru Classé A, along with Châteaux Pavie and Angélus, both added to the classification in 2012. Wines in this appellation are primarily Merlot, mixed with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.