The Loire Salon is a well-timed opportunity to taste the latest vintage for the purposes of updating Oz Clarke Pocket Wine among other things, but it’s good to taste wines that are actually available in the UK and had a bit of time in bottle, for you and for my tooth enamel! Here are some highlights of samples tasted at home and available in the UK – stockists/prices given where known.
Crémant de Loire
Fact: the Loire is the largest AOC region producing sparkling wines outside Champagne and, speaking of Champagne, another fact. Bollinger acquired a majority interest in Langlois Chateau in the Loire in 1973. They make among the Loire’s best fizz.
Langlois Chateau Cremant de Loire Brut Rosé – dry, with a subtle, leafy/spicy edge cranberry, raspberry and dried cherry fruit, delicate, well balanced. Good. £12.49 at Hedley Wright or £65.50 per case of 6 (£78.00 per case from 1st April 2010) at Elwood Wines
Langlois Chateau Cremant de Loire Brut – very honeyed, with cookie dough, but quite dry underneath, marzipan, grapefruit, lemony acidity. Again nice balance. £12.49 at Hedley Wright or £64.50 per case of 6 (£75.00 per case from 1st April 2010) at Elwood Wines
Langlois Chateau, Langlois Brut Reserve Cremant de Loire 2003 - a rich, developed style, no doubt reflecting the vintage, it shows grilled hazelnut, noisette and lemon butter to its white peach fruit; nice persistent bead. A blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, aged at least 3 years on the lees.
Langlois Chateau Quadrille de Langlois Chateau Cremant de Loire 2002 – 2002 is one of my favourite vintages and this shows why – star bright, with fresh lemon, lemon thyme, fennel, honey and biscuit to nose and palate; a very fine mousse adds to the impression of elegance. Complex, very good. A blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged at least 4 years on the lees. £140.10 for 6 bottles (2001 vintage) at everywine
Three very different Muscadets to tickle your palate:
The Wine Society’s Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2008 (Chereau Carre) – pear and saline nose and palate, with some nice texture, decent leesy/ozony length. Very classic, well done. £6.50 at The Wine Society
Guy Bossard Cuvee Boss d’Art 2009 – a new cuvée, quite nutty, earthy, oxidative style, with an oily texture but good depth of flavour with brine-edged green almond and apricot kernal. Definitely a food wine. £7.75 at Artisan Wines
Le Clos du Chateau l’Oiseliniere 2003 Muscadet Sevre et Maine – lovely fruit weight on nose and palate, very suave, with a slight carbonic edge/prickle/ozone. Very clean, bright, with melon and pear, good thurst of minerals to the finish. Nice length/persistence, ozone. Very good. 12.5% bright as a button, indeed the fruit holds up really well on day 2 – nice depth, weave…£12.50 at The Wine Society
A contrasting pair, both well done given price point.
Langlois Chateau Saumur Blanc 2008 – dry with delicate pear, pear skin. Good freshness, with lemony acidity tinged with a hint of honey on the finish. Quite simple but good. £51 per case of 6 (£57 per case from 1st April 2010) at Elwood Wines
Domaine du Collier Saumur Blanc 2006 - dried honey and pear nose, with quince and apple core. Lovely weight and honeycombe texture in the mouth, with honey-licked pear, quince, bruised apple and a vanilla bean edge, perfectly balanced by mineral/grapefruity acidity. Youthful, this benefits from decanting and will age well. Contact Les Caves de Pyrene
And two very different Sauvignon Blanc producers, both working naturally but with very different stylistic outcomes because Riffault does not use sulphur. You can hear a lovely interview with Philippe Gilbert here talking about his background (he was a globe-trotting playwright before taking on the family estate when his father retired) and his conversion to biodynamics. It really spoke to me when he described how biodynamics gives his wines a “vertical axis,” as opposed to being upfront, “Parker wines.” The concept sits well with my idea that the best wines draw you back to the glass, as they unravel one layer after another. I found that particularly to be the case with Les Renardieres Sauvignon on day 2 – a wonderfully vital wine. Click here for Domaine Philippe Gilbert’s website.
Sebastien Riffault Akmenine Sancerre 2008 – a little cloudy with a yellow tinge but a sapid nose and bone dry palate shows lovely purity and a washed mineral quality. Far removed from the cats pee on a gooseberry bush pungent stereo type, this is like a subtle Sauvignon sorbet, a wine from times past, with ghostly blackcurrant bud and gooseberry. Layered and textured, it’s not for everyone but I like it and it passes the day two test. There’s a honeyed, nutty edge, a smell and taste of earth with that blackcurrant bud behind, but all to the good. Contact Les Caves de Pyrene
Domaine Philippe Gilbert Menetou-Salon 2007 – a ripe, peachy nose and palate with blackcurrant bud and dried herb hints; good depth of flavour and balance. A well made riper style, good to drink on its own or with food. Enough acid drive to hold up well on day two. £10.00 at Artisan Wines
Domaine Philippe Gilbert Les Renardieres Menetou-Salon 2007 – this old vine Sauvignon is aged for 12 months in oak. A ripe oaky, peachy nose, with lemon oil, which is quite pronounced on the palate. An oaky ambitious style which needs a bit more time for the oak to blow off, but it’s fresh and mineral beneath. Next day that minerality really comes to the fore and the oak, while present, is a benign spicy, cedary presence. I really enjoyed drinking this on day two! £17 at Artisan Wines
And a PS – a thoroughly modern screwcapped Sancerre from Nicolas Girard, who also makes a more traditional style of Sancerre at his father’s estate, Domaine des Brosses:
Domaine Nicolas Girard Sancerre 2008 – a sweet ripe nose with a very good concentration of fruit on the palate, thoughh it’s steely and tight, with grapefruity acidity; good length. £15.99 at Liberty Wines.
Chi-non, Chi-yes! I was so excited by these wines that I blagged/blogged about them the following morning.
Domaine de Pallus Les Pensees de Pallus Chinon 2007 – a gorgeous nose and palate of crushed, fresh red cherry, with a core of sweeter, baked cherry stone, uplifted by floral, peony notes and underscored by smoke and gravel. The tannins are gossamer fine, the wine subtly persistent, with a wonderful mineral freshness to the finish – not so much fruity acidity as a gently mouthcleansing wash of minerals. £12.75 at H2Vin
Domaine de Pallus Pallus Chinon 2006 – on day one, this is darker and spicier with an inky violet undertow, hints of ripe clove/star anise and those melt in the mouth tannins. By day two, it’s revealing crushed raspberries, even a subtle hint of blueberry. And the tannins have become even more mellifluous, the stone-washed fruit pelucid, with subtle spice and leather hints. I savoured every drop of this sensual wine…£26.25 at H2Vin
Philippe Gilbert and his father both trained in Beaune and their vineyards are planted to 60% Pinot Noir. Like the Sauvignons, these punch well above their weight for their appellation, showing a fine intensity of fruit and tannin. Impressed.
Domaine Philippe Gilbert Menetou-Salon 2007 - pale ruby, bright red cherry and currant nose with a delicate savoury edge. A delicate style with crunchy red fruits and a fine spine of tannin. A charming, lighter but structured style of Pinot Noir. Would be great with grilled salmon. It was still in fine fettle on day two, so pale, but definitely interesting. £10.50 at Artisan Wines
Domaine Philippe Gilbert Les Renardieres Menetou-Salon 2007 – bright red with a smoky oak nose and fresh red fruits. In the mouth it shows vivacious, spicy red fruits, quite juicy with slightly drying oak tannins a touch intrusive on the finish – it just needs time, a year or so to mellow, then I reckon the tannins will be more refined and better balanced with the fruit. My initial impression was reinforced the following day when the tannins appeared more integrated with the fruit. Very good. £18.00 at Artisan Wines
The Wine Detective
(Wines tasted February 2010)