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07 January 2013

France: Loire, 'old' Sancerre

Not a spotlight on cobwebbed-infested bottles of the Centre-Loire Valley's best-known dry white wine, but an intriguing vertical tasting of Sancerre ranging from a youthful seven to brooding sixteen years old (and juxtaposing a variety of very different vintages). You wouldn't usually expect anyone to talk about Sauvignon blanc wines and bottle age in the same sentence, but it just goes to show what a surprising variety Sauvignon can be. Tasting these wines, some of them wonderfully quirky rarities from top producers by the way, a few months ago now in London (although I doubt any of them has changed much since then), reminded me of some gracefully elderly New Zealand Sauvignons I once sampled; as they'd developed in the same way showing lots of intricate unexpected aromas and flavours, and how alive some of them still were/are. Commercially speaking, I imagine you'd be hard-pressed to find any of these vintages on sale of course... But, if you visited the winegrower and got on the right side of them over dinner, it's the kind of bottle they might suddenly reveal in a moment of enthusiastic conviviality (now that sounds a bit French)! More generic info on the region's wines: vins-centre-loire.comor browse around the webosphere for individual producers' sites/blogs mentioned below.

Picking at henribourgeois.com
2005 Joseph Mellot Châtellennie - 'oily' vs greengage aromas, almost Riesling like nose actually! Quite juicy and yeast-lees edged with a touch of mineral bite vs rounded with ripe kiwi fruit. Wow, still looking towards superb.
2004 Château de Sancerre / Marnier-Lapostolle - 'burnt' toasty notes, developing 'sweet' gooseberry fruit vs richer toasted side vs surprisingly fresh acidity; good and interesting wine even if that aged character vs acidity clashes a little.
2003 Domaine Fouassier Les Chailloux - ripe kiwi and quite exotic papaya type fruit, perfumed vs sweet profile; a bit weird toasty and fairly punchy (alcohol?), still has some acidity underneath though vs almost creamy texture. Odd but quite good.
2002 Pierre Prieur et Fils - developed greengage and towards toasty notes, still has very fresh acidity vs richer almost toffee like flavours; again odd but I like it! Very good.
2001 Domaine du Carrou - weird 'sweet' vs vegetal nose, ageing characters yet nicely perfumed, rounded and creamy vs crisp and mineral. A surprise, never had anything like this before! Good + perhaps.
2000 Domaine Bailly-Reverdy - I think this was a little corked, as it had musty background notes and was a bit stripped of flavour on the palate. Certainly quite rich and concentrated though.
1999 Domaine Gitton Pere et Fils - Fairly oxidised nose with Fino tones vs sweet green fruit vs toasted hazelnut; still showing a tad of freshness on the palate though, almost like old Burgundy although perhaps over the hill? Yet it's pretty long intense and interestingly quirky!
1998 André Dezat et Fils - toasty yeasty notes vs 'sweet' and rounded with pineapple vs green fruits, again it's interesting although a touch flabby in the end.
1997 Jean-Max Roger GC - much livelier than the previous two vintages, showing ageing gooseberry fruit with toasty nutty edges then crisp mouth-feel. Difficult to believe this is a 97, still has structure and freshness vs lovely maturing fruit. Very good.
1996 Domaine Henri Bourgeois La Bourgeoise - oily 'petrol-y' Riesling-esque nose, gets richer toastier and creamier in the mouth vs lively structured mouth-feel and bite. Pretty amazing really, still alive and very long. Superb.

More Centre Loire here - Pinot rosés and reds & "silex" tasting...

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.