On Monday Benoît Roumet was in town to host a tasting of white, rosé and red wines from the Central Loire (Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly and Coteaux du Giennois) – the whole shooting match!
I was immediately drawn to the themed tables, focused on Sauvignons from silex soils and a Sauvignon vertical – 2005, back to a very impressive 1996.
Silex is a flinty soil which, so they say, accounts for the gun flint or smoky notes of Pouilly-Fumé. Sure enough, bash a couple of silex stones together and you’ll pick up a smoky, mineral note, sometimes a very different heat – curry powder! Not that I always find it in the wines, the markedly fruity Domaine de Riaux being a case in point.
However, I do tend to find that wines from silex soils are among the Central Loire’s most taut – intensely powerful. For cousins Jean-Dominique and Jean-Laurent Vacheron of Vacheron, its strength also lies in its heat conserving properties – good for ripeness. Click here to see them celebrate the virtues of silex in their silex strewn Les Romains vineyard which, it just so happens, produces one of my favourite expressions of this soil (see below).
And here’s a little known fact – you’ll find more silex in neighbouring Sancerre than in Pouilly-Fumé. Even a little pocket in Menetou-Salon (see the first wine).
Here are my highlights from the silex themed table. Same soil, but some intriguingly different wines. Report on the vertical to follow:
Domaine Pellé Le Silex du Carroir 2010 (Menetou-Salon)
Off to a cracking start with this, I’m told, the first Menetou-Salon wine made solely from Silex soils. It’s from a very small parcel of this leading producer’s vineyard which used to be blended with Sauvignon from their more predominant limestone/clay soils. Tightly focused, taut but subtly textured, it’s shot through with minerals and lemony acidity. Very good. 13%
Domaine de Riaux Pouilly-Fumé 2010 (Pouilly-Fumé)
While the mineral-focused Pellé absolutely met with my expectations of Sauvignon grown on silex soils, this fruit-focused wine was a contrast. Exuberantly fruity with sweet passionfruit and peach, it’s possessed of good structure too – long and persistent. 13%
Domaine Masson-Blondelet Pierres de Pierre Pouilly-Fumé 2010 (Pouilly-Fumé)
From a small parcel of 40-45 year old vines, this is super classic, flinty and mouthwatering, with good line – steely grapefruit - and a long, very precise mineral finish. Very good.
Claude Riffault Les Chailloux 2010 (Sancerre)
Claude’s son Stephane is an exciting winemaker who has placed great emphasis on site selection. Fermented and aged for 9 months in barrel on the lees, this is a substantial wine, the first to show vanillin oak, yet it’s tightly corseted too, leaving you in no doubt of its power. It shows ripe lemon, lipsmacking (ripe) lemony acidity and a cool leesy/minerally tang. Top stuff in a modern vein, it brims with power and youthful potential. 13%
Domaine Vacheron Les Romains 2010 (Sancerre)
This biodynamic producer has made another very powerful wine, completely different from Les Chailloux – tres classique and the most austere wine of the line up. Straight as an arrow, it’s fabulously steely, tight, long and penetrating, wedged with smoky minerals and lipsmacking as a breakfast grapefruit. Terrific.