Clos Saouma

— About —


Rotem and Mounir Saouma own the iconic micro negociant Lucien Le Moine in Beaune and have been at the top of 1er and Grand Cru Burgundy for some years now. With a passion to own their own vineyards they made the leap and purchased some superb terrior in Chateauneuf-du Pape to start Clos Saouma.

They started with purchasing a 4.5 hectare plot in the lieu-dit Pignan in 2009 as they believe it’s the most elegant expression of Grenache from Chateauneuf du Pape. Most would agree considering the famed Chateau Rayas have vineyards in this same sub region  100% Grenache, vines planted in 1942. In CNDP it’s not a simple as opening a cheque book, you need to apply to the local administrator and state your case why you are buying the vineyard and convince them on your reasoning. Mounir tells the story that when meeting the administrator he asked Mounir why a Burgundian winemaker would want to buy/start a Domaine in Chateauneuf. With a typical cheeky yet considered response Mounir replied “I want to a make a bottle of Chateauneuf that two people can open & enjoy/finish together”. The point he was making was that he passionately believed they could make a wine of with elegance from this vineyard, as others have proved. Given that the French often refer to Grenache as “The Pinot of the South” it’s easy to understand why Mounir and Rotem wanted to purchase vineyards here.

Mounir & Rotem vinified their initial vintages at Chateau Beaucastel and while this was happening they searched then purchased a property just outside Orange where they began construction of their own winery. In addition they planted 9 hectares of vines consisting of mostly Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc but including a full spread of the other permitted varietals in the Rhone. These vines were planted to specifically produce Inopia, their Cote de Rhone Villages.

In addition to their home vineyard in Orange and the 4.5 hectares in Pignan they now own 8.4 hectares in Chateauneuf of red production across all five communes and 2.5 hectares of white Chateauneuf. Of these ‘white’ vineyards 1.7 Hectares is from Pied-Redon – Mounir refers to this stylistically as the Perrieres of CNDP, Sandy soil with the ‘roots’ of the mountains to the East running under the vineyard. They also have 0.8 Hectares from Le Pointu the highest point in the appellation. Rayas & Bonneau also have plantings in Pointu.

One of the key points of difference with Clos Saouma is that 30% of their production is white wine in a region dominated by red wine production. To give context white represents just 3% of the total production of Chateauneuf- du-Pape. If you haven’t experienced Clos Saouma’s whites Inopia or Magis get ready for an experience. They are truly fascinating white wines and often I’ve put them in blind line ups against White Grand Cru from Burgundy.



To understand the wines Clos Saouma is to understand their winemaking philosophy of their Burgundian wines. They employ the same techniques they use in Burgundy yet in the Rhone they manage every stage of the process, starting with the vineyards they own and all aspects of winemaking through to bottling.

Mounir seems to so often be labelled a ‘modernist’ due to his long elevage technique, lack of sulphur use during elevage and no racking hence a lot of work with the lees. In fact, as he says himself its “as traditional as it gets” given the winemaking history of Burgundy as explained further below.  They visit growers and taste the wines very early just after the press, in the case of whites taking the juice straight to barrel and the reds working alongside the grower with the vinification process of the primary ferment.



First off it’s important to understand the pressing and lees component. Upon pressings their Rhone wines for both white and red (white juice and red wine post primary ferment) no racking takes place at any point, thus what he calls ‘dirty juice, keeping every last drop of lees. To put in context it would be fair to say ‘most’ wineries use between 1 to 2 litres of gross lees,  he wants at a minimum 5 to 7 litres of lees in each barrel.

Why do they use so much lees? Mounir often uses the simplest example of cloudy/with bits Orange juice vs filtered, who can argue which one tastes better. He believes so much of the soul/terrior of each site is contained in the lees of the pressings, brings a added dimension of texture to the wines.The other key reason which is explained below is they help protect the wine during long aging without sulphur.


When Mounir and Rotem started building their winery in Orange a key element to this was finding a way to mimic the same conditions in their cellar in Beaune, most importantly one that was naturally humid and very cool, more of a challenge in the warmer region of the Rhone valley. One of the key ideals of their Burgundian operation Lucien le Moine is the attempt to replicate the ‘traditional’ ways of making wine in Burgundy which was very hands off. Before the ‘LOFI’ or natural wine movement poked it’s head the monastery’s of Burgundy were employing such techniques simply due to mitigating factors such as a colder climate and that they didn’t have the time or technology to mess about with the wines during ferment and elevage. To better understand this I’ve summarised the key aspects of their Lucien le Moine ways of working which they also adopt for Clos Saouma:

Climate – Harvests in Burgundy and the Rhone valley were much later than they are now due to global warming. Picking grapes in October meant pressing your wines to barrel and often having to wait until the following Spring for your fermentations to finish simply due to the fact the cellars/climate was too cold to allow the yeasts to ferment the sugar + malolactic fermentation to begin. This meant a much longer period of fermentation. Often at Clos Saouma you visit in the following year and the white ferments are still going on over 12 months from harvest. They ‘close’ their cellar throughout spring to retain the humidity and low temperature, pushing the malolactic/elongating the process.

Time = Texture – Rotem teased me once by asking if I’ve ever racked a barrel using a hand pump. I went a rather deep shade of red and admitted I hadn’t had the pleasure. She reminded me that it can take up to 1.5 hours to do. She was making a point. Early winemaking in Burgundy and the ways of life at the time meant Monasteries/early Domaines weren’t regularly racking their wines, it was simply a-lot of work. Wine was left on lees for the full aging process. Clos Saouma’s wines have very long elevage, up to 25 months in some cases on full lees, giving the wine time to ‘feed’ as Mounir puts it on the lees, adding texture and complexity. Regular battonage takes place (dependant on vintage) to further help the lees contact with the wine. A common signature tasting note of Clos Saouma’s white’s for example is ‘dry extract’, that texture of tart/dryness/mouthfeel that is in part from the extended lees contact.

No Sulphur during aging – Sulphur is only added during the initial pressing/collection of juice. Wines are made under no sulphur and for the entirety of their elevage (let’s remember this can be up to 2 years), relying on CO2 and the large qty of lees to protect the wine. Again by not racking it allows the wines to retain a-lot of natural CO2 present from the fermentation that would normally dissipate when moving from barrel to barrel/tank. Mounir has often reminded me by making the wine ‘a friend of oxygen’ ie not putting a blanket of sulphur over it when it’s in it’s infancy is a key component for him in the ability for the wines to shine/age.  Sulphur is added at bottling but in small amounts with larger than normal CO2 in still wine, left from the elevage. No fining or filtration, bottled by gravity.  An important note for all Lucien le Moine wines is to double decant them due to this higher level of CO2. They are not fizzy :), just helps them open up.



Unlike Lucien le Moine at Clos Saouma they use a variety of aging vessels, including cement egg and large format oak due to the differences in terrior & grape varieties.