A nine point scale is used by the Wine Society, and possibly others, to rate sweetness in a wine, with 1 being the driest. Geoff had warned me that this wine might be too sweet for me and so it proved. Bright, darkish lemon in colour with a caramel nose. Good, rich mouth feel, off-dry to medium with a rather one-note taste and a clean, non-cloying, rather dry finish, I found myself repeating what I invariably say about wines of this type – ‘well made, but…’ Just too sweet for me (even though it wasn’t that sweet).
[Geoff: I bought this bottle on a recent ‘official’ visit to the Loire. This wasn’t lusciously Sauterne sweet and I decided to try it with some roast pork in sweetish, apple-rich gravy. I very much enjoyed it, finishing it with some Bleu d’Auvergne cheese later. My wife agreed with Richard, saying it was too sweet. I also think something slightly less sweet would have been an equally good match.]
This was our second tasting of a wine (La Long Bec, Domaine Echardières. Loire Valley 2014) from a comparatively new (2011) appellation – Chenonceaux. A rather mature, dense looking wine, with a smokey, dusty nose and a hint of mint. Dry with dark fruit and a longish finish. A 50/50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc, with the second grape recognisable but not the first – we don’t drink much Malbec. Clearly well made and very drinkable.
[Geoff: I had tried another bottle of this red wine only a week previously and it really impressed me. There is a good blend of the very slight farmyard aromas of an ageing CF together with its trademark raspberry nose. the Malbec (Cot in the Loire) gives firmer, fuller body to the blend. This makes the taste a balanced blend of firmness, body and fruit. It is available from Vin Neuf at Stratford.]
I’d seen this in Waitrose and, to be frank, thought what an unfortunate handle. It reminded me more of a low-alcohol beer rather than a wine, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Richard presented the last of the bottle on Sunday and …… I was rather impressed.
It hails from the Loire, Anjou, and, more precisely the Coteaux de Layon, an area more associated with sweeter wines from the later-harvested Chenin. The grape is the same but picked earlier, maintaining acidity and with the sugars fermented out. I like Chenin in its multiplicity of forms and enjoyed this also.
Made by Domaine Cady from the 2015 vintage, it is organic and costs £16 (£12 on offer) from Waitrose. The colour is deep lemon with some viscosity (the Chenin does develop sugars easily) whilst the nose repeats the lemon acidity with the addition of a chalky note, also reminiscent of the classic Chenin ‘wet wool’. The palate was complex – almonds, acidity, richness with bags of character and the ability to develop in the bottle.
Getting a thumbs up from me, this wine would be great with veal, chicken, river fish or a quality cheese.
[Richard: no thumbs up from me, more a shrug. Too sweet and I didn’t find it as complex as Geoff did. Worth a punt but I wouldn’t buy it again, even on offer which this was.]
One family have managed and owned this vineyard since two years before the French Revolution which, considering the French laws of inheritance, is a feat in itself. Situated in the heart of the Coteaux du Layon, south of the Loire below Angers, this is a wine well-known for its sweetness and, surprisingly Richard liked it!
The Chenin Blanc grapes are harvested early (20%) for acidity, the balance being picked when the grapes have developed sweetness and it this superb balance of the sugars and acids which makes the wine so attractive. The wine is kept – in bottle – for 10 years before release thereby maintaining freshness as it slowly matures over the long period. The result – a beautifully balanced wine of 14% ABV which is a delight to drink.
Colour? Think Lucozade, deep orange, but bright as a button and with minimal viscosity.
Aromas? Slightly oxidised, slightly toffee, not particularly complex.
Taste? Sweet honey, long, acidity for freshness, light weight and relatively simple, beautifully made.
Absolutely superb with the salty andsweet Dolcellate which brings out its richness. Not so good with salty Roquefort as it makes the cheese appear acidic.
Great experience. A dessert island wine.
[Richard: from the WS, £30, not unreasonable for a 34 year old wine. Sold out unfortunately. Can’t add to Geoff’s comments except to emphasise that the wine really comes to life with a blue cheese. There is still plenty left so I’ll try with another variety next time.]
Namely Touraine Chenonceaux. Actually created in 2011 but in French wine bureaucracy terms that is as yesterday. The link has lots of useful information if, like me, you had never previously heard of this area or tasted their wine.
Speaking of which: a French style sauvignon blanc, that is to say lacking the sharp, sometimes piercing nose of a New World equivalent. Quite shy in fact with some melon or similar – a rather ‘sweet’ nose which led you to expect an off-dry taste. In fact, on the palate and wine was rich, slightly raw with some good acidity and length. Not tasted blind which was just as well as I’m not sure I would have picked the grape. Geoff found it not to his taste so I took the bottle home where Angie liked it a lot.
The wine: Domaine des Caillots 2014 ‘pur sauvignon blanc’.
[Geoff: The hospitality of three French vineyard owners (husband and wife teams) in Chenonceaux was infectious. All essentially rivals, but also keen to promote their new AC, they provided a tasting of a selection of their wines and then gave us two bottles each to take away! They’d have liked us to stay longer but we had a tunnel time to meet. We did feel guilty about not doing them justice – only 90 minutes for 9 wines.
I’m glad Angie liked it. For me it had the hallmarks of Sauvignon – albeit much muted – namely acidity, lack of richness and breadth with little complexity. However, I did appreciate its difference to the vast majority of Touraine wines which can be rather anonymous. A Chenonceaux white is stocked by Majestic.
We’ll try a Chenonceaux red soon which is the AC’s standard blend of Cabernet Franc and Cot (Malbec). I enjoyed these more than the whites.
I wish the new region well.
I have just spent four days in the Loire wine region of France with five fellow wine-educators, three of whom are currently studying for their Master of Wine exams. We visited seven wine makers who gave us tours of the vineyards and wine-making facilities as well as arranging tastings of their wines. We tasted about thirty wines per day and asked technical questions about the wines.
It was my maiden AWE trip; my thoughts are below.
When tasting for commercial reasons, it must be difficult for a wine buyer to remain objective and not ‘go native’. In a cellar, in front of an enthusiastic grower and trying the twelfth Cabernet Franc of that morning, the wine can taste and smell wonderful. “It’s so much richer than Cabernet number three, not as mineral as number one because it is grown in clay, hand harvested and kept in oak for twelve months”. However, will all this be experienced by Mr Jones taking it from the shelf at Asda on a Friday night? Probably not. How do buyers (and I’ve never bought commercially) remain ‘end-user focussed’?
The enthusiasm – not to mention their generosity – of wine growers is contagious. Proud of their produce and eager to share knowledge with an interested audience, small vineyard owners must be the hardest workers in the wine business. Their tasks are endless, very repetitive and often physically demanding. We’ve got the easy job – drinking it and then writing and talking about it.
There seems to be a lot of wine sold direct to the public who live close to vineyards. That would make a great study for a budding MW’s dissertation “Compare and contrast the local sales profile of vineyards?” The Parisian on-trade got mentioned a few times but all the vineyards had payment and collection facilities for customers. Are there any local wine shops in wine regions? Why would someone go to a wine shop rather than the vineyard to buy their wine?
Lastly, what’s in it for the growers? Why spend time, money and resource on putting on tastings for wine educators? There were a few times when I felt guilty about not buying some wine after the time spent on us by a grower. Maybe it’s just my naivety of the whole experience but I wondered what the grower’s private response was as they saw the minibus pull out off their premises without a few cases of their produce.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed the experience and would jump at doing it again.
This beauty is twenty-one years young; Chinon Cornuelles Domaine Sourdais 1996 was sold by the WS for £20 along with the same wine’s elder sibling, the 1993 vintage. Understandably, the WS sold out very quickly. Richard and I each bought two bottles of both vintages.
Pure Cabernet Franc, the wine weighs in at a good, old-fashioned 12.5% ABV – as was generally the case before the days of red bruiser-weights between 14 – 15%. In my opinion, the lower alcohol give the wine’s more subtler flavours to shine and this was certainly true in this tasting.
Of medium intensity and with some evidence of viscosity, the wine’s core colour was ruby but had a slight brick coloured rim – as would be expected. But the redness of the core said that this wine was still young at heart. On the nose, a gentle sous bois aroma was overladen with pepper, dusty-notes and the developing cherry-tartness which reminded me of Italian wines.
The long taste was a wonderful blend of unripe damson fruit, grippy tannins and earthy notes. What was remarkable was the freshness which shone through after twenty-one years. Research tells me that CF, when grown on limestone – prevalent around Chinon, has the best capacity for ageing because of its tannins and acidity. It certainly proved itself here.
The wine was served at just the right temperature (thanks Richard), i.e. slightly cool. It was one of those wines that stick in the memory. I’ve got a 1993 to try – I’ll probably drink that in another ten years!
[Richard: photo is of the ’93 but they are identical, apart from the date. A lovely wine, still fresh and certainly not tasting – or looking – 21 years old. Can’t add anything to Geoff’s note except to say the it was a pleasure to finish the bottle over the evening.]