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Showing posts with label Loire Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Loire Valley. Show all posts

01 January 2016

France: 'classic' reds, St-Emilion & Loire Valley...

For want of a better title, or 'some tasty Merlot and Cab Franc' perhaps. Over to those two reds then, both from well-known producers, both different and one of them better value probably because the 'appellation' is less sought-after...

Who'd have thought we'd be invited to Chateau de Chassilier, ay Gessiah?
Pic from josephjan
oueix.com, misquoted Python line from davidpbrown.co.uk.

Château Haut-Sarpe 2012 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (13.5% abv): 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 12 months in oak - Quite closed up to start with background cedar-y oak hints and aromatic plum/soy sauce notes, quite lush and concentrated with structured tannins vs rounder mouth-feel too, grip and freshness to finish; pretty serious red needing a few more years to express itself. £20 for 2009: Eton Vintners (England), Fine & Rare Wines also lists a few older vintages. €33 cellar door France - Joseph Janoueix Wines.
Couly-Dutheil 2014 'La Diligence' Chinon (13% abv) - Surprisingly ripe and smoky with earthy rustic edges vs aromatic damson and sweet blueberry/red pepper, fairly supple with a little dry bite and weight; attractive red, went well with a Chinese roast duck dish. £14.95 Perfect Cellar (London), €9.30 cellar door.

13 August 2015

Muscadet: Guilbaud Frères

Pascal Guilbaud
Pascal Guilbaud and family are the latest in a long line of grape-growers and winemakers to be at the wheel of this eye-opening estate winery, which just goes to show that there's Muscadet and there's Muscadet. They've obviously managed to lift up this well-known (and often rather boring) dry white wine onto a higher dimension, stylistically, as I noted about their 2012 old vine cuvée, like "a mix of good Burgundy and Riesling." Which inevitably translates as their wines being a little dearer, but not by much for this quality. These three tried and tested below are all made from 100% Melon de Bourgogne aka Muscadet to you and me - I get the impression the latter name is perhaps considered an inferior moniker for the variety, especially by producers like the Guilbaud brothers who obviously take it very seriously... The Vintage House in London stock some of their wines priced about £10; also available in Germany and Belgium.

Le Clos du Pont Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2009 - Sourced from a well-exposed sunny spot from a vineyard planted in "clay on schist" with 30 to 40 year-old vines. 2009 enjoyed a particularly hot summer with "selected, very ripe grapes" coming in to the cellar. The fledgling wine spent "several weeks in vat on lees" before fermentation in large oak casks, then aged for more than two years in barrel afterwards (not new oak though), which is unusual for Muscadet - most of it doesn't get any near wood or isn't aged even, made and kept in stainless steel tanks.
Seemed surprisingly youthful for its age, kind of like 'flat' Cava or Champagne with toasty almond, yeasty and appley aromas and flavours, maturing savoury and nutty notes contrasting with that crisp appley side, complex ageing and rounded finish yet still quite steely underneath. Unusual and well tasty. €10.55 cellar door.

Château de la Pingossière 'Vieilles Vignes' Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012 - From "silica, schist and Gneiss soils" (for all you geologists out there), picking started late in 2012 due to a late winter freeze (causing a fair bit of damage too limiting the final crop) and slow start to summer. This vineyard is found in the Vallet village area on a hilltop, planted with 35 to 45 year-old vines. Yeast-lees stirring was done once a week for the first two months, then ageing on fine lees for 10 months "partly in underground vats and partly in old tuns in the cellar." (It must all be in the geeky detail you might be wondering..?)
Very nice style mix reminiscent of Burgundy vs Riesling, quite concentrated and intense, crisp and 'salty' with 'mineral' celery tones vs more savoury baked apple, long fine fresh finish vs nutty oily texture. Very good. €7 cellar door.

Le Soleil Nantais Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2014 - From "different parcels in silica-clay soils around the village of Mouzillon and schist soils around Vallet." Younger vines aged 20 to 35 years. In 2014, vintage conditions were all going fine up until a rather rainy August, but which was followed by a great September (like just about everywhere). Seven months on the lees in those "underground vats" and stainless tanks.
Refreshing and crisp with nice 'chalky' texture vs ripe apple and melon flavours, again has good depth of character and racy acidity to finish. €6.50 cellar door.


By the way, all Loire Valley words and wines will be moved from WineWriting.com (links to page where it is at the mo) to this blog sooner or later...

07 May 2014

Rhone: Rasteau and Loire: Quarts de Chaume

Or a couple of gratuitous red versus white "sweeties of the moment," which have nothing in common whatsoever but are both worth sipping and talking about. Let's start in the southern Rhone Valley with a 'port-style' speciality made by the co-op winery Cave de Rasteau, who are celebrating 70 years of the Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel (VDN, fortified sweet wine) appellation. To mark this, they've repackaged the bottles with a retro label (makes you think of those cute old French booze posters you still see around, occasionally, very much from the "drink this and live to 100" era of advertising, which is now considered on a par with terrorism in France), and you can get it as a gift pack in a nice tin cannister too (€19.50 cellar door). As for how it's made - the red at least, there's also a "golden" presumably 'tawny' style - crushed whole berries of old-vine Grenache are fermented on the skins with hand-plunging, then it's fortified and left to steep for longer before pressing and ageing in vats and large tuns. It has 16.5% abv and 90 g/l of natural residual sugar.
Rasteau rouge VDN - alluring nose/flavours of dried black fruits, kirsch, prune, stewed plum and liquorice with smoky tobacco edges; more savoury and meaty on the finish vs sweet baked fruits vs dark chocolate twist, some firm tannin and nice spicy oomph. Try with mature or blue cheeses, dark chocolate and choc nut desserts; or what about a fairly spicy lamb curry too?! Hercules Wines (UK) £10.95; O'Briens Ireland do the posher 'Signature' vintage red VDN for €19.49.

More Cave de Rasteau wines here: Rhône "reds of the moment" featuring their 2011 Ortas Tradition 'regular' red (posted July 13).
And another estate in Rasteau featured on this blog: Domaine Coteaux des Travers (posted June 12).

Also sweet - much sweeter probably - but 'lighter' too with only 11% abv, this classic luscious Chenin blanc from the Loire Valley is made from botrytis affected and/or shrivelled grapes ("depending on the vintage," as it says on their site) picked by hand passing through the vineyard three or four times. Try with fruit tarts (especially peach or apricot), a variety of cheeses (goats, blue, mature, soft, ewes...) or just pour a little over vanilla ice cream. It kept surprisingly well for two or three weeks in the fridge actually.
Domaine des Forges Quarts de Chaume 2007 - complex and everlasting nose of spiced honey, quince jam, dried apricot, sultanas etc. Lusciously sweet palate yet has nice fresh acidity underneath still and a certain lightness of touch, despite the intense honeyed fruit and long flavours/finish. James Nicholson sale price of about £14.50, usually twice that I think.

31 December 2013

S Africa, Italy, France, Chile: 'whites of the mo' Chenin, Fiano, Sauvignon.

Following in the red-tinted wake of my previous New Year-y Italians of the mo type posting, here are a few gratuitous and varied white recommendations sampled recently hailing from the deep Italian south (Puglia, Sicily), South Africa, Chile and France...

The Garden Route Chenin blanc 2013 Western Cape (13% abv) –

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...

07 June 2012

France: Centre-Loire, Pinot rosé and red

The next in this nail-biting mini-series - see my Centre-Loire "silex" tasting - brings about a seasonal change of colour and grape variety, and highlights a handful of lesser-known wines from this part of central-northern France. Rosés from Sancerre, Menetou-Salon et al seem to have made headway in recent years gaining listings in some supermarkets even; but the reds are still fairly rare outside of France or specialist independent wine shops. The main variety behind these wines, that dear old friend Pinot Noir, only comes to about 20% of what's planted in the region; plus there's a tiny bit of Pinot Gris too in Reuilly used for rosé (thanks to the pinkish hue on its skin). I've included a lot less of the reds than I actually tasted (in London a few weeks ago), as disappointingly too many of them were a little lean on flavour and lacked charm or excitement. Which does make you question whether Pinot Noir for reds has a great future here, if it only really produces high-standard wines in particular vintages or sites? Then again, I guess they can always make nice rosé out of it every year! I've added names of UK importers or ex-cellar prices where available.


Domaine Claude Lafond 2011 Reuilly - juicy and zesty with light yeast-lees undertones, hints of rose petal aromas although this basically tastes like a good white wine. Charles Sydney.
Domaine Cordaillat 2011 Reuilly - similar pale style, perhaps more intense on the palate with attractive lively finish. Theatre of Wines.
Domaine Cirotte 2011 Sancerre - crisp juicy leesy mouth-feel layered with subtle red fruits, long and zingy with fair extract too. Quite classy rosé. €5.60
Domaine Bernard Reverdy et Fils 2011 Sancerre - a tad redder in colour vs green fruit edges, lively juicy finish. Nice style. Goedhuis & Co.


Domaine de Chatenoy 2010 Menetou-Salon - shows attractive Pinot character, quite delicate and mouth-watering with light grip and freshness vs subtle underlying red fruit. Good. Enotria Cellars.
Domaine Pellé Morogues 2010, Menetou-Salon - a touch 'reduced' on the nose, moving on to a fairly concentrated palate with subtle savoury cherry fruit, refreshing bite on the finish; lacks a little charm maybe but nice enough.
Domaine Teiller 2010, Menetou-Salon - juicy delicate red with light 'sweet/savoury' profile, not bad Pinot style although perhaps too subtle for its own good!? Yapp Brothers.
Gérard Millet 2011, Sancerre - a bit fuller in the mouth vs tangy 'sweet/savoury' flavours, lively finish with elegant fruit too. Good.
Domaine Matthias et Emile Roblin 2010, Sancerre - aromatic floral cherry with truffle notes even, quite concentrated yet refreshing, juicy and elegant length. Easily my favourite in this line-up: very good. €6.70 ex-cellar.
Daniel Chotard 2010, Sancerre - hints of 'sweet/savoury' Pinot character, shows fair concentration vs tight and delicate; finishes a touch lean perhaps although still quite good. Richards Walford.
Domaine André Vatan 2010, Sancerre - understated 'sweet/savoury' vs violet notes, attractive dry texture vs ripe red fruits vs fresh bite too. Pretty good. Yapp Brothers.
Domaine Philippe Raimbault 2009, Sancerre - hints of maturing 'sweet/savoury' style, it's a little over-extracted but has enticing perfumed fruit finish too. MH Wines, Bijou Bottles, Griffinwell.

There's a Sancerre vertical tasting HERE (2005 to 1996)...

19 May 2012

France: Centre-Loire "silex" tasting

Silex? Sounds like a distant planet in an implausible sci-fi movie, but silex actually comes from the Latin for a kind of hard flint, although it can also mean silica in modern English according to Wikipedia. Anyway, this wasn't a rock-sucking tasting but of ten 2010 vintage whites from the Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre regions in the central Loire Valley, where in places this type of soil crops up mixed with clay. Well, do these wines really taste "flinty"?
Photo © Benoit Roumet
The science behind any possible correlation between soil, vines and actual flavour in wine is complex and, as yet, not very conclusive and probably not that helpful either. And this sort of geological jargon only helps perpetuate old clichés about soil being more important than anything else in growing grapes and making wine. However, you'll notice the regular use of words like "chalky," "steely" and "mineral" in my tasting notes below; maybe because I knew these wines were from 'silex' and inevitably you're influenced by this? What they do have in common is high quality, with some excellent wines in the line up, and showing intense expression of the Sauvignon blanc grape variety (they're all made from 100% SB, steeped in flint chips of course...). I see that, on the vins-centre-loire.com site, they don't go overboard about silex in the glossary simply saying: "...Wines sourced from these soil types generally have good ageing potential," which I wouldn't disagree with.
Being intense concentrated and well-built like this also makes them great food dry whites, including the usual fish-pairing suggestions but should handle rich or full-flavoured sauces well (wine, sherry, cream, black pepper, parsley, basil etc.). And why not try with e.g. a succulent pork rib roast, rabbit stew or duck/goose even. Or anything with cheese in it... I've included a few UK distributors and prices where available.

Domaine Pellé Le Silex du Carroir, Menetou-Salon - grassy gooseberry aromas tinged with intense citrus and lime even, crisp chalky mouth-feel with long finish and subtle ripe green fruits. Very good.
Domaine de RiauxPouilly-Fumé - more fragrant gooseberry / kiwi style, concentrated vs crisp palate with lingering citrus and ripe greengage flavours, oily notes too vs steely and intense. Very good. Layton's Wine Merchants.
Domaine ChampeauPouilly-Fumé - similar profile to above although "flintier" perhaps, certainly has zesty chalky texture vs nice green fruit depth vs oily notes too, crisp elegant finish. Lovely wine.
Domaine Masson-Blondelet Pierres de Pierre, Pouilly-Fumé - showing yeast-lees edges and vibrant gooseberry fruit, steely mineral palate vs concentrated and ripe, great balance and length. £16.95 from Stone, Vine and Sun (appropriately as the wine's name is "stone stones" or "Pierre's stones" perhaps...)
Domaine Michel Girard et Fils Silex, Sancerre - leesy and "flinty" nose, subtle green fruits vs a riper side vs nice crisp length. Good stuff although less expressive than some of the others at the moment. Boutinot.
Claude Riffault Les Chailloux, Sancerre - blackcurrant leaf aromas, quite intense and chalky mouth-feel to start although falls away a little perhaps. Flint Wines (ho ho).
Vincent Grall, Sancerre - nettley gooseberry tones, steely chalky and intense with crisp long finish vs tasty concentrated fruit. Very good. Jascots, Decorum Vintners, Avery's of Bristol. About £16.
Domaine Vacheron Les Romains, Sancerre - don't mention the Romans! More closed up on the nose, moves on to an intense palate showing green vs oily combo, elegant crisp length with underlying green pepper / sweet gooseberry flavours. Stevens Garnier.
Domaine Laporte Le Rochoy, Sancerre - screaming gooseberry and greengage fruit, builds up to lively zesty finish with steely chalky undertones, very long and classy wine. Auriol, Roberson, Jascots, Ellis, Cellarrange/L'Assemblage. About £19.
Serge Laloue Cuvée Réservée, Sancerre - smoky notes plus gooseberry fruit, pretty intense and "flinty" actually with lovely bite and length vs riper rounder side too. Grands Vins de France.

More Centre-Loire posts: Pinot Noir rosés and reds and Sancerre vertical tasting (2005 to 1996 vintages).


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