Tag Archives: Loire Valley

Domaine Chatelain – 29/11/2012

Chasselas 2010 (Pouilly-sur-Loire)
At first it smells like play-doh. Then the very tight brisk fruit comes through. Thin crisp no real character, not much point drinking it really. Alcoholic water. Different, but not really that interesting. Quite biting.

Harmonie 2010
Lovely and vibrant, nice and concentrated, bright fresh fruits with a good measure of green elements. Not a lot of minerality, to be expected at this level. Exceptionally well balanced, vibrant and full without any heaviness or density, warm and a little textured, well delivered.

Les Chailloux Silex 2010
Much more mineralic, very flinty and smoky (understandable). Very focused and precise, cuts like a razor. Lovely and ripe on the palate, very expressive in fruit, warm and full but great concentration and complexity of minerality.

Les Charmes Chatelain 2010
More complex, deeper and slightly toastier, richer and riper, some stone fruit with the citrus, very subdued floral elements. Concentrated and intense, wonderfully developed fruit and minerality, toasty around the edges, brisk and very textured for now, needs a few more years.

Prestige 2008
Slightly more floral, deep and rich, wonderful concentration, really complex but at the same time very rich ripe and vibrant, wonderfully deep fruit. Minerality will show in a few more years. Not the same structure, much better, wow in the mid-palate, exquisite expression of sauvignon blanc.

Domaine Chatelain

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Domaine de Ladoucette – 29/11/2012

Classic 2009
Crisp brisk and minerally, fresh bright citrus fruit notes, a little floral, some nice blossom notes, but very clean pure and inviting. Generous weight and texture on the palate, mouth-filling fruit and acidity, a touch on the warm side perhaps dude to vintage conditions. Delivers everything you would hope for at this level. Ageable too.

Chateau du Nozet 2006
Slightly deeper and more giving on the nose, less precise and mineralic, riper and slightly more floral components. Also showing a very slight maturity to it, perhaps oxidative? Richer rounder deeper, a little creamier with a very late honey element to it. Not as bright and crisp as the first wine. Ageing nicely, still plenty of acidity.

Grand Millesime 2005 (late release)
Still a little closed, but also very subtle and complex. Showing the floral elements but without the intense mineral components. Round and inviting on the nose, but still good fruit. Still wonderfully crisp and fresh, contained and assured, wonderfully dense and complex minerality, builds a little on the palate. Still far too early, needs another five years to begin to open up a little more.

Domaine de Ladoucette

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Henri Bourgeois – 28/11/2012

L’Elegance de Petit Bourgeois 2011 (Vin de Pays)
Very grassy herbaceous green fruit, crisp and varietal in character. Bright fresh and generous, again varietal in nature and nothing particular about it. Well made commercial wine.

Les Baronnes 2011 Sancerre
Showing a little more minerality and restraint, less obvious varietal characters, crisp pure and fresh. Lighter and fuller at the same time, more extension, balance and breadth to the wine. Generosity but also a little more warmth and texture. Good ripeness.

Pouilly-Fume 2011
Slightly more subdued on the nose, not as bright but also a little riper profile. Denser but cleaner at the same time, more in balance and harmonious, more focus and drive on the palate, not as obvious and not as warm. Better character for the style, and more pleasant drinking. Does have a slight sweatiness to it, they probably sell heaps of it.

Le Mont Damnes de Bourgeois 2011 Sancerre
Smokier and much more mineralic, flinty and granitic on the nose, very interesting and complex. Gentle on the palate, some nice viscosity to go with the freshness and fruit ripeness. Herbaceous and nice green fruit character, reflective still of the variety more than the appellation.

La Demoiselle 2011 Pouilly-Fume
Again, less obvious on the varietal character, perhaps more reflective of its terroir than the sancerre wines. Some green olive, unsalted capers, quite mineralic. Subtle complex yet approachable and fresh. Good extension on the palate, fruit flavours linger quite nicely. Perhaps vintage better in Pouilly than in Sancerre.

Jadis 2010 (unfiltered)
Bright tropical and floral on the nose, quite ripe and fresh but not overt. Peach texture(?), nectarine, apple, pear and grapefruit, quite tropical but not typical of the variety. Bold full expression, really ripe and fruity, pleasant and a crowd-pleaser. Perhaps went through malo?

Jadis 2006
More developed but still in the tropical realm, showing some lees influence on the nose too. Deep and full, good extension, softening in fruit intensity compared to the younger vintage. Looking a little creamy in texture, round and broad, fills the palate with good fruit and acid balance. Still quite young.

La Bourgeoise 2010 (flint area)
Has that stinky smoky complex nose of barrel and lees stirring, but also intense and ripe tropical notes. Certainly showing its flintiness, but will show more in time. Rolls across the palate, but actually stops a little short and flat. Promising start but disappointing finish. Not too much of anything, good fruit, good acid, just doesn’t have the logical conclusion. Nice and rich and broad though, perhaps needs more time in the bottle.

D’Anton 2010 (silex)
Flintiness smacks you in the face, very expressive jumps out of the glass. Ripe and tropical, quite a lot going on in the wine. Exuberant is the word. Much better balance and extension, nice and ripe tropical fruit fills the mouth, well contained acids, very young and will benefit from age.

D’Anton 2002 (silex)
Opening up nicely, flint and lees subsiding and richness ripeness of the tropical stone fruit expressing more. Quite intense and fruit sweet, no green edges to it at all, big and bold expression, still very young though. The characters seem to come in stages; first mineral, then fruit, then winemaking, then maturity.

Etienne Henri 2010 (new oak vinification)
Toasty marmalade notes, quite intense but not too powerful in expression. Ripe low-yielding crop, high acidity and density, quiet at the moment, still to early to see the true potential and character.

Les Baronnes 2009 (pinot noir)
Clean pure, balance between red fruit and a little spicy stalk note. Pleasant easy-drinking varietal style. Good consistency and delivery.

La Bourgeoise 2009 (pinot noir)
Like raw pasta, kind of doughy, spicy red fruits. Pretty quiet actually, not showing a lot. Bright fruit sweet currants and cherries. Deeper and tighter tannin structure, quite long in tannins in fact, a little overworked and unsubtle.

Le Chene Saint-Etienne 2002 (pinot noir)
Deep hauntingly complex, smoky meaty and mushroomy, very subtle red fruits. Not heavy but pretty dense, good acids, breadth but it’s all about the savoury elements with this wine. It will continue to evolve, but I’m concerned there’s not enough intensity and weight to it to fill out the structure. Seems to indicate umami on the nose but doesn’t deliver on the palate.

Vendage de la Saint Luc 2007 (late harvest, 45g/L sugar)
Lovely smoky flinty minerality, not showing much fruit for now quite subdued. Full flavoured, but also very well balanced acid and sugar. Sweet and fruity but also contributing a lot of savoury elements like minerality and a very delicate hint of green characters. Not obviously sweet and certainly not cloying, a wonderfully diverse food companion.
A barrel of Henri Bourgeois wine

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Jean-Max Roger – 28/11/2012

Menetou-Salon 2011 (sauvignon blanc)
Quite bright, very classic varietal characters, plenty of fruit and grassy cat piss vegetal notes. Very basic, clean and fresh, nice fruit not heavy or overly ripe, not tropical, good balance pleasant more of an aperitif style wine. Freshness is the key.

Pouilly Fume 2011
More subtle subdued and elegant, delicate yet ripe fruit, somewhere between pear and citron. Riper fuller mouth feel but still very pure and fresh. Slightly rounder with a little more warmth and depth to it. Lingers on the palate longer than the previous wine, introducing a little more savoury character.

Les Caillots 2011 (blend of different plots with the same soil type)
Quieter and more assured, some intensity and depth aromatically, slightly shy fruit. Much broader and leaner on the palate, more depth and minerality again, more sea-shell characters, I want some oysters with this wine. Tight and focused acids, purity yet some extra dimensions that will develop in time.

Cuvee C.D. 2011
A little more expressive aromatically, showing more vegetal herbaceous notes, even a hint of spice as well. Good ripeness, well integrated but also complex fruit, nice balance and minerality spice coming through on the palate. Certainly more varietal in character but still sancerre. Texture and some depth.

Cuvee G.C. 2011
Deeper more complex nose, somehow earthier and even a little mealy in the nose, perhaps through natural ferment and lees-stirring? Some complex cheesy characters showing through. Fuller yet all on the mid-palate, quite dense but nor seeing the right balance or extension on the palate.

Cuvee C.M. 2011
Back to minerality and sea-salt influence aromatically, purity of fruit, a little floral as well. Depth weight and power, very expressive and full fruit. A little bit warm though, heavy on the alcohol out of balance. Quite concentrated but also disappears on the back palate relatively quickly, also quite green.

2011 Vielles Vignes
Very quiet and complex nose, not showing much for now, perhaps even a tad reductive. Great depth and intensity on the palate, a full textured ripe mouthfeel with some alcohol to support. Very powerful expression a lot going on, but the oak is very young and dominating for now. Needs one year to subside and open up a little before drinking.

Vielles Vignes 2010
Ripe rich yet savoury, very complex creamy and toasty, floral but also ripe fruit and dried/toasted herbs. Full expressive and concentrated fruit, dense toasty yet subtle oak, good structure, great complexity, minerality showing very well, slightly flat and sour finish though, still developing?

Vielles Vignes 2008
Quite intense nose, very floral but also some sweet(?) sea shell notes, juicy almost tropical fruits, even a bit candied. Soft subtle smooth and rich, yet showing some nice maturity and depth, broad and silky through the palate, does sancerre gain more sexiness as it ages? Probably. Generous yet mysterious.

Vielles Vignes 2007
Tighter more acidic tropical fruits, particularly pineapple, minerality comes through a little later. Oak has subsided and integrated by now, barely noticeable. Wonderfully complex yet still very alive, youthful and rich, great layers and waves across the palate, excellent balance of fruit and savoury, still plenty left in it.

Rose 2010
Meaty and mature on the nose, a tad flabby and probably on the way out. Pleasant but lacking enough freshness and fruit. Good acids though.

Rose 2011
Brighter tighter and juicier, more inviting on the nose. Good berry characters, but still an interesting meaty edge to it. Nice and savoury, a complex nut and cheese side to it. Concentrated, a little bit of woody vegetal character, certainly a food wine.

Menetou-Salon 2010 (pinot noir)
Very light in colour. Bright fresh fruity berry notes, lively and enthusiastic almost like a Beaujolais. Fresh juicy cherry and strawberry, great crisp light and fresh varietal style. Pretty good for the style, good value, an excellent quaffer.

Cuvee la Grange Dimiere 2010
Quite soft clean nice and precise, very focused and pure, but with some complexity as well. A touch savoury around the edges. Lovely depth balance finesse and elegance, nice minerality and supportive acids, clean and precise in terms of varietal character, intense but not at all heavy. Great character.

Cuvee Vielles Vignes 2010
Deeper tighter toastier nose, darker berries and more concentration. Juicy full fruit expression, dense and more tannin from fruit and oak, more powerful and expressive, but softens quite nicely on the back. Still early needs a few more years to soften around the edges.

Cuvee la Grange Diniere 2009
Soft and lean, good red fruit with a hint of mint herb and rosemary. Bright intense yet very balanced and fresh, intense on the mid-palate, quite full tannins and slightly masculine on the back. Fuller expression, some poached pear in red wine. Deeper and certainly more appealing to lovers of fuller red wines.

Cuvee Vielles Vignes 2009
Very closed and shy on the nose, yet to open up. Full silky and expressive but still with good tannin concentration. Still developing and softening, actually some excellent potential. I’m being more impressed with the red wines of Sancerre.

Cuvee la Grange Diniere 2008
Toasty slightly meaty nicely concentrated, dense but subtle fruit. Excellent balance, very pure yet complex great fresh fruit but some minerality coming through, juicy bright fresh yet complex with good length.

Cuvee Vielles Vignes 2008
A very pretty nose, some floral elements with the fruit, elegance yet approachability, depth yet brightness. Classic pinot noir characteristics, soft silk tannins, some tasty new oak very late on the palate showing there is still plenty of youth left in the wine. Very long and complex, continues to evolve.

Cuvee Vielles Vignes 2006
Classic pinot noir maturity, dense but showing more mushroom earthy notes. Developing a little quickly to be honest, not sure about the more recent vintages standing the test of time. Still excellent for the price. Toasty and very concentrated youthful tannins, much fuller and denser than the younger wine. Very different extraction maceration.

Cuvee Vielles Vignes 2000
A very nice stink to it, needs to breathe a little bit to open out. Classic burgundy style of old world with lots of wild complexity. Some serious Asian food characters; reminds me of eating at a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant on Victoria Street, Richmond. Classic umami! Bean shoots.

The Jean-Max Roger white wines

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Personality plus (Sancerre, France – Day One)

Any skill for organisation I may have developed on this trip seems to have abandoned me on my break, and the journey from Touraine to the Central Loire Valley was the victim. The first thing I realised was that Orleans, the city I had decided to stay in during my time in Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire, was at least 90 minutes away. The problem was that I realised this the day I was set to check-in, and changing to a motel close to Pouilly cost me the first nights accommodation in Orleans. My second big error was that I had forgotten my initial plan, which was to stay in Tours an extra night and stop at a winery on the way to Sancerre, one which I had made an appointment with. The winery is located about 150 minutes away from Sancerre, and driving back for one appointment was not something I wanted to do. So due to my incompetence I then had to cancel this appointment, something I felt quite ashamed about and also disappointed. My mood picked up a lot and I managed to move on a little as I stopped at three chateaux in Touraine which were amazing. The castles in the Loire Valley are well known to be some of the most beautiful and grandiose in Europe, as most of them hark back to the Rennaisance period when the French monarchy was one of the most wealthy and influential.
The Sancerre Centre

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Alphonse Mellot – 26/11/2012

2012 Reds – excellent balance and structure, not heavy but certainly expressive, good acid balance with supple yet bold tannins. In certain wines very prominent blackberries, but also a little savoury.

2012 Whites – exceptional balance, some wines showing amazing complexity, exquisite minerality and harmonious fruit. Depth and completeness never before seen in wines made entirely from sauvignon blanc. Interesting once in the bottle after a few years. Excellent ripeness without being too much of anything. The best balance between minerality, fruit (not tropical) and herbaceous elements I’ve seen.

Penitent 2009 (Chardonnay)
Bright juicy and fruity aromas, lovely and ripe possibly due to the vintage, slightly candied and floral, a hint of fennel and artichoke. Broad light a little crisp with some nice complexity but not lasting too long on the palate. Pleasant, balanced and fruit-driven chardonnay, not a lot of oak to get in the way. A little texture to add a dimension.

Edmond 2000
Getting a slight urine aroma in a good way, quite complex, some grapefruit, apple, pear. Very beautiful complex bouquet, completely unique to sancerre. Expression but harmony, quite full flavour, still plenty of exuberant fruit starting to find it’s groove, great minerality fills the mouth and carries the wine through the palate, still quite young and plenty of life left in it. Balanced, complex, expressive and lively. Wonderful savoury elements. Wonderful ripeness in the wine, absolutely no harsh edges.

La Moussiere 2002
Wonderful pear aromas, some lovely quince and fig, concentrated fruit, not too ripe but expressive, not at all tropical, more orchard fruit and a little citrus. A bit sherbet. Quite light but wonderfully soft generous broad and mouth-filling. Graceful in its balance, less intense and complex than the previous wine, supple subtle and full. Nice extension on the palate, drinking well and will for another five years. Doesn’t taste of sauvignon at all.

Grand Champs 2007 Pinot Noir
Amazingly bright and intense fruit with an element of olives as well. Lovely and soft and rich but also intense and soft, but nicely tight in its structure with some wound-up tannins. A nice slightly stalky green side to it as well, still taking time to open up. A totally different expression of pinot noir, serious food wine.

Generation 2003 (19th generation Mellot, 5th generation Alphonse)
So many things going on in the aromas, fruit and earth, savoury and somehow meaty as well. Rich and yet hauntingly subtle on the nose. Rich full ripe and volumous, powerfully expressive but showing some richness and complexity of age, a little dense and broad, not the same concentration and briskness of acidity and minerality on the palate as other wines. Already losing something on the front of the palate.

Some of the Alphonse Mellot wines

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Moullieux out (Vouvray, France – Day Two)

Not having done any serious winery visiting for so long I had forgotten that generally in certain countries in Europe they don’t really show visitors vineyards. I have a number of theories about their reasons for this. The first is that a lot of the time cellars are not on the estates the vines grow, partly as it is more important to use land for vines but also as originally the vineyards were owned by the church and then split amongst the people in the villages by Napoleon. The second theory I have is that with so many vignerons owning vineyards in essentially the same area they can rarely claim a terroir as their own, and must therefore talk about their expression of the terroir. Another theory I have is that there is an assumed understanding about their appellation and terroir, and there is very little need to show the vineyards. The final reason is that generally visitors are more interested in either flash wineries (Bordeaux) or cellars, and of course in tasting the wines. So it is with disappointment that after three days and seven appointments already I have only had one of my hosts show me vineyards. This is the case in France and Germany, but less so in most of Italy, Spain and Portugal. I took it upon myself to drive around the vineyards of Vouvray to get acquainted with them, but it isn’t the same without someone pointing out specifics like viticulturist practices.
The cellars of Bernard Fouquet

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Straddling the Loire (Vouvray, France – Day One)

Closer to Tours to the north-east sits Vouvray, the Loire Valley’s second or third most famous appelations and one of the great white wine regions in the world. Until recently no-one could claim that they were doing more for the chenin blanc variety than Vouvray, but some upstarts down in South Africa are now establishing a reputation with this misunderstood variety. To be labelled as Vouvray AOC you can only make white wine from 100% chenin blanc, but similar to Alsace they make wines of differing levels of sweetness as well as producing some excellent sparkling wine. The vineyards of Vouvray sit on a plateau about 50m above the village of the same name which lies on the banks of the Loire River. On the opposite side of the bank sits Montlouis-sur-Loire, which is actually between the Loire and River on a headland. Montlouis is also 100% chenin blanc and the wines are arguably as good, but they aren’t as famous as their neighbours across the river. I spent my first day in this part of the region on either side of the bank coming to terms with a variety that isn’t particularly fashionable in Melbourne, but is more widely planted further west.
Did I mention how cold it has gotten?

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A red dot in a sea of white (Chinon, France)

It was a little strange and unfamiliar at first, returning to winery visits and regions. Interestingly the last region I visited before my break was also in France, but was almost four months ago. I’d forgotten that fear of arriving late or not finding the winery but it came back a little bit. Visiting regions in the Loire Valley is almost like being in Inception as there are so many layers. For example you have the different parts of Chinon which sit around the town of the same name on the Vienne River, and they each have specific vineyards. Then Chinon is part of Touraine, which is then part of the Loire Valley. At this point we are already four layers deep, not including France and Europe. Chinon is the best known red wine appellation in the Loire Valley, although there is quite a bit of red vineyards mostly dedicated to rose in the whole region. They do make some white wine from chenin blanc, but it represents at most 5% of the vineyards and production. The important variety here is cabernet franc, and although there is more planted in Bordeaux, Chinon is the unofficial home of cabernet franc. Appelation laws allow them to use a percentage of cabernet sauvignon, but as sauvignon ripens later they don’t always get it to maturity in this cooler than Bordeaux climate.
Chateau de Chinon

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Domaine Huet – 23/11/2012

Domaine Huet Petillant Brut 2007
Clean mineralic citrus. Very tight and fresh, lean and balanced, good fruit, mineralic and intense, purity of fruit and good lines through the palate. Nice finish and quite long on the palate.

Methode Traditionelle 2002
Lot’s of lees autolysis, very creamy and buttery, bready and biscuity, some oxidative characters as well. Rich and very subtle, a lot of complexity but a little flat. Lacking elegance and expression, not sure about this style with the variety, lends itself to the champagne varieties more.

Le Haut-Lieu 2011 Sec
Very grassy on the nose, green apricots, cumquat and quince. Nice pleasant light fruit, fairly simple structure, approachable with good acidity, some minerality and sea-salt, a really great wine to pair with seafood. Finesse but also some simplicity. A little late nut character on the back.

Clos du Bourg 2011 Sec
Tighter darker earthier nose, more sweet nut characters, some very subtle vanilla root, apple blossom and citrus. Richer and fuller on the palate, builds more in the mid- and carries through. Deeper and more expressive, powerful and complex fruit. More depth and concentration, but also very generous.

Le Mont 2011 Sec
A little tighter and more seashell notes on the aroma, green nuts pistachio, crushed salt and herbs, less fruit than the others. Full expression and weight, power but less fruit, more integrated earthy savoury elements, more alcoholic expression and texture. The most masculine of the three.

Le Mont 2006 Demi-Sec
Oily flinty and ripe rich fruit characters, showing a little maturity. Presents as quite sweet initially, slightly savoury and earthy. A little short on the finish, but perhaps ageing quickly.

Le Haut-Lieu 2007 Demi-Sec
More sea-shells, some oily apricot kernel, savoury biscuit. Bolder and more textured, more expressive and intense, powerful and dense but still very fresh and great acid. Rich and full, lots of ageing potential, great balance.

Clos du Bourg 2007 Moelleux
Floral honey, ripe fruit on the nose. Textured but also very clean and pure, complex but wonderfully balanced and intense. Carries the sweetness beautifully, good acids and again lovely with cheese. Not dessert wine, but certainly sweet.

Le Haut-Lieu 2009 Moelleux
More floral and intense fruit nose, candied and some fairy floss characters, jubey juicy and bright. Fresh and full of fruit, very powerful and expressive. Nice clean finish, some nice texture, but very young for now. Nice and broad on the palate.

Le Mont 2009 Moelleux
More waxy and less fruity, mealy and cheesy, some lees notes adding complexity. Somewhat closed at the moment. Dense and expressive, but kind of hollow in the middle of the palate. Lovely and juicy but seems somehow simple and sweet. Lacks structure and elegance. Perhaps will improve with age.

Premiere Trie 2006 Moelleux
Quiet mineralic and flinty nose, some ripe stone fruit but also a hint of spicy sweet herbs. Balanced, very complex, hauntingly long on the palate, wonderful precision and harmony, excellent concentration without cloying sweetness. Some nice savoury elements will continue to evolve in the bottle.

Premiere Tre 2008 Moelleux
Fascinating nose, more like a riesling or an albarino, sea salt oily truffles, dried fish, daikon. Much bolder richer and more textured, but glides away on the palate beautifully. Initially has more sweetness and richness but then the balance comes through on the mid-palate before dissipating. Very long again, some lovely juicy fruit on the back of the palate keeps things fresh for the next sip. 

Premiere Trie 2010 Moelleux
Brooding concentrated dark root beer, a touch volatile on the nose, some barley and tequila. Very heavy and sweet, on the cloying side, pear and apple on the palate, honey and wheat, some molasses and also some volatile aromas.
Domaine Huet

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