Of Touraine’s Chenin Blanc focused appellations, Vouvray has historically enjoyed the higher profile and reputation. But times are a-changing. Jasnières and Montlouis-sur-Loire are giving it a run for its money thanks to an influx of second career creative types and young blood unafraid to experiment or work with minimal, if any, inputs (see my recent report on Jasnières here). Both regions provided plenty of inspiration for my selection of up-and-coming producers for the Loire chapter of The Wine Opus (publishing in the UK on 1st October).
Here are my tasting highlights from the Salon for Montlouis-sur-Loire, then Vouvray. I’ve also included tasting notes for a vertical of Jacky Blot’s Remus (96-2007) tasted in London in March. Blot is Montlouis’ original modernist and, on release, this dry, oaked Chenin made from meticulously harvested fully ripe grapes (pictured, picture credit Jacky Blot) was revolutionary, so interesting to see how it has developed in bottle. And you’ll find previous tasting notes with a bit of background on Blot, Chidaine, Cossais and Saumon here and on Huet (including some old but ever so sprightly older vintages here and here).
Stephane Cossais Le Volagre Montlouis-sur-Loire 2007 (barrel sample) – tragically Cossais, whom I met in 2008, died last year at the tender age of 43. The 2007 is his penultimate release; the 2008 is still in barrel. In 2009, the grapes were sold to Jacky Blot. The 2007 is dry and quite rich and oaky, though there’s the fruit depth to match. A poised wine.
Franz Saumon Le Clos du Chene Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008 (sample) – its star bright fruit on nose and palate puts me in mind of Jacky Blot; lovely depth with great precision, purity and persistence. Very promising indeed. 5g/l residual sugar
Franz Saumon Minerale + Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008 (sample) – a very aromatic nose with sweet apricot glazed pastry on the nose and palate balanced by pear skin. Promising. 13g/l of residual sugar. [Since tasted on 22 June at Terroirs restaurant, London - forceful in a good way and showing more apples than pears – well structured, very subtly sweet with its veneer of honey, great purity and minerality – impressed my sisters, need I say more?]
Francois Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut 2007 – a zero dosage methode traditionelle sparkling wine with fresh applely fruit, a hint of autolysis and a fine, persistent bead. Very good.
Francois Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Le Bournais Demi-Sec 2007 – very 2007, though a demi-sec its taut acidity, minerality and pure, poised fruit this give the impression of dryness. Long and persistent. Very good.
Francois Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos Habert 2008 – bright and expressive with glimmering apple fruit; concentrated, lively and long. Very good. 17g/l residual sugar.
Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups)
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Dix Arpents Montlouis-sur-Loire 2009 – bright and fresh yet with a lovely ripeness to its lemony fruit, balanced with a deft touch of near the (apple) core tartness. Very good.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Demi-Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008 - a nice depth of tangy, slightly leesy/cheesy (in a good way) fruit; well balanced with good length. Very good.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2009 – with lively citrus and pear fruit, this is very clear, bright, tight and focused – put me in mind of a Clare Valley Riesling so a really good effort for this hot vintage.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008 – quite oaky on the nose and palate which shows white chocolate, but there’s fleshy white orchard fruit to carry it cut with flinty, steely grapefruit, plus the oak adds to its poised structure. Long, persistent and powerful. Very good.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Plus Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008 - Remus is not made every year and Plus, an older vine barrel selection, is only made in exceptional vintages. It’s quite sweet on the nose though the palate is tightly coiled. It shows tight knit orchard fruit with pithy citrus notes. Long, tight and pure. Very good; needs time.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2007 – richer than I expected (07 was a cooler year), this has put on weight with time in bottle, showing peaches and cream as well as bright citrus fruit, edged with a sheen of oak; there’s a mineral vein which becomes more pronounced on the finish. Very good.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2005 – I really like the 2005 vintage for whites and this is no exception, bright, fresh and delicate yet intense with apple, bruised apple, quince and grapefruit, it has lovely persistence and length. Excellent.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2002 – another favourite white vintage, though showing tertiary, dried honey and toast on nose and palate, it plays its other cards close to its chest with tight knit apple (close to the core) and grapefruit. The acidity is a little jagged which could indicate a fundamental lack of balance. If it comes into line, this will be long lived and beautiful…
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2000 – pronounced grapefruit, a little super-dry as in bracing breakfast grapefruit, with developed spicy pith notes. A little unforgiving. I’m not sure this one will come round.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 1998 – this bottle out of condition, band aid/brett.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 1996 – nice development here and a fair old pulse, the 96 is an attractive melange of camomile, buttercup, lime, grapefruit and toast. Good. Drink up.
Lise & Bertrand Jousset
I first came across this young couple’s wines in Selfridges Wonder Bar and was impressed. The Salon provided a great follow up opportunity to taste across the range, all of which is fermented naturally in old oak barrels (large and small). Each of the 23 parcels they work is handpicked and vinified separately, with all transfers by gravity. It shows in their wines’ perfume, freshness, purity and line:
Lise & Bertrand Jousset Premier Rendez-Vous Montlouis-sur-Loire 2009 –This is perfumed, taut and well balanced with pear skin and sweet pear fruit of nice persistence/length. The 2008 is also very good.
Lise & Bertrand Jousset L’appetillant Brut Montlouis-sur-Loire 2007 – this method traditionalle non-dose is bright, with lively, aromatic pear skin, a good mousse/persistent bead. I prefer it to Bubulle, their non dose petillant (unlike a method traditionelle, no sugar is used to induce the second ferment) which is super bubbly and vivacious but less fine.
Lise & Bertrand Jousset Trait de l’Union Demi-Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008 – this sweeter wine has a richness and ripeness with cookie dough and honeyed pastry notes to its white orchard fruits, well balanced by acidity.
Lise & Bertrand Jousset Singulier Sec Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008 – from aged vines (those of Clos Renard +100 year old), this is tight, fresh and concentrated with a pronounced vein of lemony acidity giving an extended finish. Youthful yet composed – very good.
Lise & Bertrand Jousset Les Audouines 2009 (Touraine) – those aromatic pear skin notes and, in the mouth, this is tight and bright, with good persistence. Well done.
Lise & Bertrand Jousset Sur le Fil 2008 – this old vine moelleux shows a lovely depth of stone fruits with rich, ripe, apricot; beautifully balanced, it’s long and persistent. Very good.
Francois Chidaine Vouvray Les Argiles 2008 – great lift and freshness on the nose foreshadows a beautifully structured palate – this really dances, with fabulous persistence, long, long, terrific.
Francois Chidaine Vouvray Le Bouchet 2007 – a tight knit nose of apple, close to the core; in the mouth there’s a clarity – sorbet-like freshness – to its apple and grapefruit, with honey on the finish and minerals beneath. Very youthful. 17g/l residual sugar.
Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups)
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Caburoches Vouvray 2009 – dry, tight knit, lemony and fresh with some lemon pip bite contributing to the impression of dryness and concentration. Good. Needs time to open up.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Clos de Venise Sec 2008 – well structured with an edge of vanilla oak to its concentrated, lemony fruit; long, persistent finish. Very good.
Alexandre Monmousseau is as hearty and generous as his wines, which are characterised by lovely exotic fruit – modern, user friendly, well-crafted Vouvrays.
Chateau Gaudrelle Vouvray Le Sec de la Gaudrelle 2008 – awash with ripe, juicy citrus fruit, pineapple and pink grapefruit; tingly, fresh finish. Lovely fruit forward style.
Vincent Carême is one of Vouvray’s young guns, so it’s not just Montlouis that’s seeing an infusion of young blood. This professor of viticulture has worked several harvests in South Africa, home of course to world’s largest hectarage of Chenin Blanc and also consults to Thai Chenin producer Château de Loei, I know a distinguished sommelier who will be comforted to know that – suspect this was the producer behind the wine he was a little perturbed to find he’d awarded top marks at an international Chenin Blanc symposium at which I judged in 2004 and 2006!
Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec 2008 – shows sweet pineapple on the nose. In the mouth it’s less pineapple more fresh, bright and tight green apple. Good. A sample of the 2009 (picked before the grapes for sparkling wines) shows vivid citrus, lemon pip notes – one to retaste.
Vincent Carême Le Peu Morier Vouvray Sec 2008 – this has a lovely balance, a real hands off feel about it; well persistent with delicious honeyed quince. Very good.
Vincent Carême Tendre Vouvray 2008 – shows a good weight and line of juicy citrus and white orchard fruit. Long and persistent. Very good.
Domaine Huet Petillant 2005 – a sophisticated, long, precise fizz showing good depth of bruised apple fruit with a very attractive biscuity autolytic edge and chalky minerality. Mouthwatering acidity to finish – a versatile aperitif or food wine.
Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec 2009 – it’s always a highlight of the Salon to taste the latest vintage in its gangly youth with Huet’s winemaker, Noel Pinguet. 2009 was a hot year – for the dry wines, Pinguet told me they picked some berries green for freshness. He only produced one Demi-Sec (not tasted) from the 3 parcels in 09, from Haut-Lieu, the balance of which he says is between a demi-sec and moelleux. The wines are indeed relatively forward and ripe fruited in 2009. Haut-Lieu shows a ripe, concentrated core of citrus – juicy pink grapefruit. It’s unusually rich and weighty, very delicious too.
Domaine Huet Clos de Bourg Sec 2009 – again, quite big and rich, a little spicy too with ripe citrus and quince, gently cut by lemony acidity. The acidity feels lower here, but I reckon it will “pick up” a little once the fruit settles.
Domaine Huet Le Mont Sec 2009 – though it shows ripe citrus, there’s more pronounced (typical) mineral and floral notes, even aniseed/fennel. Tighter.
Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux 2009 – expressively ripe with fruit salad, nice purity and gentle persistence.
Domaine Huet Le Mont Moelleux 2009 – tighter, fresher, again more mineral, with a sorbet-like definition and clarity to its lemon and pink graprefruit, some texture too. Promising.
Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 2009 – a lovely freshness, clarity and pithy texture here too though the (grape)fruit is steelier (not pink). Very good.
Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1er Trie 2009 – good concentration and weight of fruit – pineapple and fruit salad, very ripe, very pure with good acidity. Forward for sure but good.
Domaine Huet Le Mont Moelleux 1er Trie 2009 – that minerality coming through loud and clear again; this has lovely persistence, purity and precision. Very promising.
Domaine Huet Cuvee Constance 2009 – very ripe fruit salad, pink grapefruit and pineapple, concentrated and pure. Very youthful now – lots of potential.
And finally, a word from Loire courtier Charles Sydney on the 2009 vintage for Chenin (click here for his full vintage report):
“The Jeremiahs of this world may say that the dry wines are just that bit ‘too ripe’ to make great wines for keeping, but that’s their problem – I always thought great wines were for drinking!”
The Wine Detective
(Wines tasted February 2010)