We went to the Loire to taste the Chenin Blancs of Vouvray and Savennieres but found some wonderful wines that destroyed our prejudices against red wines in the area. Our first stop was Domaine Huet, the doyen of Vouvray.
Dm Huet cellar door
Dm Huet ‘porte ouverte’
Sometimes one is dead lucky, although as Gary Player, the golfer from South Africa, once famously said, ‘the harder I practice, the luckier I get’. Our luck this time was to arrive at a ‘porte ouverte’ where they had some 35 of their wines available for tasting; sparkling, sec, demi-sec, sweet and extra sweet Chenin Blancs and red wines from Chinon. The sparkling wine was well made but not champagne. The dry whites were what we had come to taste and we were not disappointed; off dry in the mouth, good fruit and a dry swallow. We tasted the, the Le Mont and the Le Clos du Bourg from 2010 and the 2008 Le Haut-Lieu; really interesting how the vineyards differed. We also like demi-sec wines provided there is enough acid to keep it fresh rather than just sweet; the 03 did not have enough acid because of the heat wave that year, but the others did. We tried the 10 and 07 and it was really interesting how the vintages varied and how the wine aged. And, of course, a good sweet wine is a luxury, and these were good. The revelation was the Cabernet Franc from Dm Philippe Pichard in Chinon. In the past we have been particularly unimpressed with wines made from Cabernet Franc. The ordinary Les Gravinieres 10 and Les Varnes 09 were not unpleasant and the premium L’Arcestral 08 was really good – a revelation. We bought Le Clos du Bourg demis-sec 2001 half bottles (€11), the 2008 Le Haut-Lieu sec (€15) and the L’Arcestral 08 (€17).
We tried a few other places that said that they were open, but no one was around so we moved across the river to Mont Louis wine area and the village of Husseau.
Dm Moyer, a former hunting lodge
Dm Moyer tasting room
Domaine Moyer, 2, rue de la croix des granges, Husseau, Tel 02 47 50 94 83 www.domaine-moyer.fr
This domaine specialises in Chenin Blanc. We tasted the full spectrum; the dry 2009 (€7); the lightly oaked ‘Edmond’ 08 (€10) which surprisingly (because we generally don’t like oaked Chenin) we really liked; the demi-sec 09 (€7); the sweet Moelleux 07 (€12). These were definitely well made wines and a bargain. We bought some of each.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups
Dm de la Taille aux Loups cellar door
Dm de la Taille aux Loups tasting room
Dm de la Taille aux Loups, 8, rue des Aitres, Husseau, Tel 02 47 45 11 11 www.jackyblot.fr
In the next road from Dm Moyer is the award winning winemaker Jacky Blot who makes these wines and those from Dm de la Butte in Bourgueil. Again the Chenin Blanc was made through the range. We liked and bought the sec Les Dix Arpents 2010 (€10), Clos de la Bretonniere (€6.50 for a half bottle), the demi-sec 2009 (€12) and the sweet Cuvee des Loups 2003 (€30). The Cabernet Francs from Dm de la Butte were a revelation; not the type of wine we were expecting even after the good ones from Dm Huet. They had great fruit, rounded tannins and good acid. They made four wines each from a different part of the slope of the vineyard. We bought the more easy drinking wine from the foot of the vineyard, the Pied de la Butte 2010 (€5 for a half bottle).
Several leading French wine guides only seriously rate two vineyards in this area – the two we visited.
Domaine Aux Moines
Dm Aux Moines cellar door
Dm Aux Moines tasting room
Dm Aux Moines, Savennieres, Tel 02 41 72 21 33 www.domaine-aux-moines.com
We had a vertical tasting of La Roche aux Moines dry Chenin Blancs; the 09 was young and fruity (€18); the 04 was minerally with a bit of bottle age (€14); the 03 showed the effects of the hot summer (€14); the 99 was minerally with real bottle age(€16); the 94 which for us had just too much bottle age (€16). We bought the 09, the 04 and the 99. They also have sweeter wines but we did not try these because of time constraints.
Coulee de Serrant
Coulee de Serrant
At one time (a century or more ago) these wines were as well known as Chateau D'Yquem. Now Mr Jolly is well renowned for his advocacy of methode biodynamique. This approach to vineyard and cellar management abhors all artificial interference in the vineyard and pays attention of the cycles of the moon – obviously a gross summarisation. The picture of his tasting room might give a hint or two about what is going on. All this caused real shock when we tasted the flagship Clos de Coulee Serrant – there were about 6 vintages available for tasting and they all had alcohol levels of 15% or more. Something is wrong somewhere – the 1998 is 12.5%. We do not taste, buy or drink wines with more than 14.5% alcohol – our line in the sand against over-alcoholic and over-extracted wines.