My Luscious Loire visit - June 2005
Article and photos © Nicos Neocleous

Sancerre
Nicos Neocleous stands in the vineyards of Sancerre
What started out as a casual remark among friends several months ago had grown in a full blown French extravaganza. The trip was now in full flight after months of careful logistical planning. The three wine musketeers on this adventure comprised myself and my two good friends Andrew and Laki. In the past, I had enjoyed the Chenin blanc wines from the Loire, especially Vouvray. For drier styles, the delicate balance of freshness and fruit of Sancerre, together with the minerality and steeliness of Pouilly-Fumé whites, had always been one of my favourites. A number of friends had remarked on how attractive the Loire Valley was in terms of wine, scenery and gastronomic delights, so this had further sparked my curiosity.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay special thanks to my friend Deene W. Lindsey. Deene was very gracious with his time and invaluable expertise throughout the trip. With his extensive assistance, my Loire Valley visit was a seamless magic carpet ride of learning and pleasure.

Sunday 19 June 2005

Our route planned, we set out from London to Poole, taking a ferry across to Cherbourg. From there, we drove to the picturesque coastal town of Granville to enjoy a relaxing seafood lunch in the summer warmth. From then on, we drove around to our first port of call, St Malo. Here we stayed at the Thermes Marins de St Malo (http://www.thalassotherapie.com). This hotel was well know for its relaxing environment and healthy spa facilities, and was located by the sea. Dinner that evening at a local restaurant continued the seafood theme.

Granville
The town of Granville in Normandy

Sancerre & Pouilly
Monday 20 June 2005

Having recharged our batteries, we set out on Monday for the six hour drive to Sancerre. Here we had several appointments lined up with some of the top producers of this well known area. Our aims for the trip with respect to wine were as follows:

  1. Understanding the different styles of wines given the varying terroirs;
  2. Tasting as many of the better producers as possible, given our time restraints and availability of producers;
  3. Comparing the recent vintages of 2004 and 2003, together with older vintages where possible. Our understanding was that 2004 had been a benchmark vintage, while the hot summer of 2003 producer atypical wines.

Terroir in the Sancerre area

There are broadly three soil types in the immediate region which make up the kimmeridgian limestone. These are:

Hotel near Sancerre

The view
The view from my bedroom window
Jude
Jude, the owners' pet, named after a character from a Thomas Hardy novel
Our base camp for the next two nights was the old style stone based building called "La Chanceliere". It was comfortable and showed touches of modernity, but essentially this building must have been well over 100 years old. The owners (Jacques and Nicole Jaudibert) were running it and we were grateful for the friendly and attentive service throughout our stay. (http://www.la-chanceliere.com)

Domaine Vacheron

We were fortunate to have Jean-Louis Vacheron take us through his wines. The Domaine is run by him and his brother.

  1. 2004 Sancerre blanc- Domaine Vacheron
    Very pale, hardly any colour. A fresh nose that displays some green fruit and a hint of honey. The palate shows poise, balance, freshness and is quite enjoyable. Benchmark Sancerre. 88/100.
  2. 2003 Sancerre blanc - Les Romains - Domaine Vacheron
    The reserve bottling of Sancerre, made from older vines and this receives some newer oak treatment. Yields were 20hl/hectare. Pale optic, a hint of butter on the nose, together with lemon rind and some minerality. A fine thread of acidity underpinned the well weighted mouthfeel and the concentration is admirable. 89/100.
  3. 2003 Sancerre rouge - Domaine Vacheron
    Bright red, with dry cherry and hints of earth and raspberry jam was well. Fairly dry tannins, earthy and a long tannic length. Needs a few years to soften. 84/100.
  4. 2002 Sancerre rouge - Belle Dame - Domaine Vacheron
    Strawberry red, hints of wild red fruits with a hint of new oak as well. Several waves of crunchy red fruits, balanced, earthy and a moderately dry finish. 89+/100.

Nicos with Madame Reverdy
Nicos Neocleous with Madame Reverdy
Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy

Based in the nearby town of Maimbray was this small producer whose annual output is approximately 85,000 bottles. The average age of the vines is 26 years old. Our tasting was with Madame Reverdy.

  1. 2004 Rosé - Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy
    Light pink, with a hint of bubble gum and rose petals on the nose. Fine concentration of slightly sweet red fruits. Delightfully pure and a lovely length, this is drinking extremely well now. 87+/100.
  2. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Terre de Maimbray - Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy
    Very pale, with grapefruit and rose petals wafting from my glass. A lean citrus palate feel, a focused wine but not overly concentrated. 86/100.
  3. 2003 Sancerre blanc - Vieilles Vignes - Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy
    Light yellow, with white truffle and a hint of pear drop boiled sweets on the nose. Low acidity, rounded and with a slightly alcoholic finish, this wine showed a concentration to it. Drinking now, if you enjoy this fatter style due mostly to the hot vintage conditions. 86/100.
  4. 2003 Sancerre rouge - Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy
    Medium red with dry cherries and hints of wet earth on the nose. Balanced, some acidity underpinning the slightly lean red fruits. 85/100.
  5. 2002 Sancerre rouge - Evolution - Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy
    This is the top red cuvee. Bright red, with fresh cherries, nougat and a hint of dry earth. Prominent acidity underpinning a solid core of light red fruits. This is young and should develop over the next few years. 88/100.

Sancerre
The hilltop town of Sancerre in the distance, surrounded by vineyards
Domaine Daulny

They own and harvest 15 hectares (37.5 acres) of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The oldest wines are approximately 30-40 years old. The export markets of this Domaine include the UK, USA, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. The aim of the Domaine's owner is to produce a consistent style from year to year for each of his wines.

  1. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Domaine Daulny
    Pale light yellow, with a fresh nose of cut grass. Clean, good acidity with some green plum, this is classic Sancerre for my palate and ready to drink now. 87/100.
  2. 2003 Sancerre blanc - Le Clos de Chaudenay - Domaine Daulny
    Light yellow, with a ripe citrus nose. Medium bodied, soft acidity and a decent length. Ready to drink but a touch too fat for my liking, due to the hot vintage. 84/100.
  3. 2003 Sancerre blanc - Domaine Daulny
    Light yellow, soft cut grass that smells a day old. Very low acidity, soft mouthfeel, short length, ready to drink. 82/100.
  4. 2002 Sancerre blanc - Domaine Daulny
    This wine had all been sold and I could see why! Light yellow, with a hint of white truffle in there somewhere. Waves of beautifully balanced finely tuned fruit and acidity, perfectly ready to drink. 88/100.
  5. 2004 Sancerre Rosé - Domaine Daulny
    Very light pink, with pomegranates coming out of the glass. Light raspberry fruit, fresh and a nice summer luncheon wine. 85/100.
  6. 2003 Sancerre rouge - Domaine Daulny
    Cherry red, with earthy notes and a hint of greenness as well. Red fruits show a hint of ripeness and a decent length. 86/100.
  7. 2002 Sancerre rouge - Domaine Daulny
    Burgundy red, with some hints of green stems and dry earth in the glass. The mouthfeel was rounded, balanced and the soft acidity led to a palatable performance. 86/100.

Domaine Claude Riffault

We had the pleasure of tasting several wines from different vineyard locations. The difference in the terroirs was noticeable to us and we each had our favourites.

  1. 2002 Sancerre blanc - Les Chasseignes - Domaine Riffault
    Pale light yellow, delicate citrus, honeyed nose with a hint of minerals. Soft mouthfeel, some citrus taste and a slightly imbalanced alcoholic finish. 84/100.
  2. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Les Chasseignes - Domaine Riffault
    Almost colourless, fresh cut grass on the nose. A core of green plum shows well on the length, this fresh wine is ready to drink. 86/100.
  3. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Les Boucauds - Domaine Riffault
    Virtually no pigment on the optic, with a light fresh walnut nose overlaid with hints of citrus. Tight lemon taste with a seemingly sherbet fizz freshness to it. Certainly drinkable now. 87/100.
  4. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Les Prerrottes - Domaine Riffault
    The vines for this wine were grown on Silex based soil. No colour to speak of, with a very pure mineral laden nose. Concentrated, waves of fine citrus and minerals and a long length. Excellent! 89/100.

Dinner - La Tour Restaurant Telephone number: 02 48 54 00 81

Dessert
My white chocolate mousse dessert

This restaurant was going to be a treat. Located in the centre of the town of Sancerre, this was a lovely meal with many fine touches. The service was excellent and discreetly efficient. It was a warm evening and the restaurant had opened its doors to enable al fresco dining to take place. I chose the following dishes, all of which were very good:

The wine list was quite impressive and it took me several minutes to finally choose a couple of wines.

  1. 2002 Vacheron: Sancerre blanc - Les Romains
    Pale gold, with subtle butter on the nose, soft citrus and a hint of aniseed. Compact, with several waves of maturing citrus fruits, clean and showing a long length. Balanced, refreshing and no hint of new oak. Excellent. 90/100.
  2. 1999 Corton - Pougets Grand Cru - Domaine Rapet
    Decanted about an hour ahead and then cooled down to an appropriate drinking temperature by the sommelier. Deep red, with lots of aroma action going on inside my glass. Cooked beef, Asian spices, a certain depth to it that kept making me sniff again and again. Liquid silk, medium to full bodied, seamless, surprisingly drinkable at this stage of its life. Very subtle and finely grained tannins. A stunning bottle that sang for us that evening. 93/100.

Tuesday 21 June 2005

An early breakfast was necessary to prepare ourselves for the mornings tasting session. I was looking forward to trying some new Domaine's in both Sancerre and Pouilly.

Francois Cotat

We had the distinct honour of having a tutored tasting by the winemaker himself, namely Francois Cotat. An unassuming and humble man, he answered all of our questions and was generous with his time. Having tasted his wines and spoken to him, there is little doubt in my mind that he is one of the appellations top winemakers.

The age of the vines used in his respective cuvees are as follows:

Nicos and the Cotats
From left to right: Nicos, Francois Cotat and Andrew
  1. 2004 Les Monts Damnés - Cotat
    Pale green/yellow, with a tight minerality overlaid by light lemon. The long citrus length is well balanced and fresh. This is an excellent wine showing really well now and I suspect it will develop with a few years in the bottle. 90/100.
  2. 2004 Cul de Beaujeu - Cotat
    Light yellow, with more open light fruit aromas and a hint of freshly cut grass. More fruit on the nose than the previous wine, rounded palate, good length. Drink now - 2 years. 89/100.
  3. 2004 Grande Cote - Cotat
    Pale lemon, a soft minerality and citrus wafts into my nose sniff after sniff. Initially shy on the palate, this opens up to waves of citrus fruit that climax in a fantail finish that fades slowly into the distance. Very impressive, this wine needs time to develop more complexity. 91/100.
  4. 2004 Rosé - Cotat
    Light pink, with very little red fruit on the nose. Ultra light raspberry fruit are clean and fresh. 84/100.
  5. 2003 Cul de Beaujeu blanc - Cotat
    Light yellow, with a delicate white truffle nose. Flat palate, very little acidity, simple, drinking now. 82/100.
  6. 1989 Grande Cote - Cotat
    Francois Cotat had a twinkle in his eye as he returned from his cellar with this mystery bottle (no label). Light yellow, there were strong aromas of white truffle with delicate aniseed and citrus. Slightly off-dry, aniseed follows through on the palate, fine thread of acidity, surprisingly still youthful and showing a long length. Can Sancerre age? This bottle proved to me beyond any doubt that the finest examples can do so. 91/100.

Domaine Boulay
Sign at Domaine Boulay
Gerard Boulay

We were fortunate to meet Gerard Boulay and his charming wife at the Domaine, which was a stone's throw from Francois Cotat's cellar. The Domaine owns a total of 10 hectares (25 acres). This includes 1.3 hectares (3.25 acres) of 30-60 year old vines that are used to produce the Clos de Beaujeu cuvee. The biggest export market for the Boulay wines is the USA and Germany is also another major market.

  1. 2004 Sancerre Rosé - Boulay
    Light pink, with nougat and fresh raspberries floating out of my glass. Light fresh cherry nuances, fine acidity, enjoyable now. 85/100.
  2. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Boulay
    Very pale yellow, soft grass and clear green apple on the nose. Rounded fruit on the palate, clean acidity, classic Sancerre. 87/100.
  3. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Clos de Beaujeu (barrel sample) - Boulay
    Pale yellow, with freshly cut grass shining through on the clear mineral laden nose. Concentrated, no harsh edges and with a fine thread of acidity, this showed a long length. A very good wine, potentially excellent once it is bottled.
  4. 2003 Sancerre blanc - Clos de Beaujeu - Boulay
    Light yellow, with hints of white truffle on the nose. This very rounded and slightly off-dry wine has a little acidity. A decent effort in a difficult vintage that should be drunk up now. 86/100.
  5. 2002 Sancerre blanc - Clos de Beaujeu - Boulay
    Pale yellow, with soft aniseed and a little citrus on the nose. Seamless, rounded mouthfeel, several waves of soft white peach fruits, ready to drink but no hurry. Benchmark old vine Sancerre. 90/100.
  6. 2000 Sancerre blanc - Clos de Beaujeu - Boulay
    Light yellow, hints of lemon and white truffle on the nose. Slightly off-dry, rounded citrus feel, very nice and ready to drink.

Domaine Thomas-Labaille
Part of the premises of Domaine Thomas-Labaille
Domaine Thomas-Labaille

The cellars of Mr Labaille were also a stone's throw away from Francois Cotat and he took us through his wines. He makes three white wine cuvees depending upon the age of the vines. In ascending order, these are Sancerre blanc, Cuvee Aristide and Cuvee Galiford.

  1. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Labaille
    Pale yellow with a soft nose hinting at freshly cut grass. Fine acidity, almost off-dry, nice length. 85/100.
  2. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Cuvee Aristide - Labaille
    Almost colourless, tight citrus with a hint of green grass on the nose. Lemons, good concentration, very nice. 88/100.
  3. 2004 Sancerre blanc - Cuvee Galiford (tank sample) - Labaille
    Colourless, a powerful mineral nose with a splash of pear drop boiled sweets. Seamless, waves of citrus laden fresh fruit, concentrated. This wine is definitely the best of the tasting at the Domaine and one of the highlights of the trip.
  4. 2003 Sancerre blanc - Cuvee Aristide - Labaille
    This wine was made from yields f approximately 30-35 hectare. Light yellow, with white truffle on the nose. Rounded, soft, off-dry, quite unusual and atypical for the region, but not for the vintage. 86/100
  5. 2003 Sancerre blanc - Cuvee Galiford - Labaille
    Light yellow, hints of white truffle and ripe citrus fruit. Off-dry, a hint of freshness, long finish but atypical for this cuvee. 87/100.

Nicos and Sandra Bourgeois
Nicos Neocleous and Sandra Bourgeois
Domaine Henri Bourgeois

We were greeted at the modern cellars of this large Domaine by Sandra Bourgeois, who is married to the winemaker. She kindly took us through a number of cuvees which gave us a good insight into their extensive range. This Domaine is one of the largest producers in the Sancerre region.

  1. 2004 Grand Reserve - Henri Bourgeois
    Pale yellow, with lemon and a hint of freshly cut grass on the nose. Tight citrus, fine minerality, drinkable now. 87/100.
  2. 1998 Le MD de Bourgeois - Henri Bourgeois
    Bright yellow, white truffle with a hint of red liquorice. Off-dry, low acidity, reminds me a bit of dry fino sherry, a little hot alcohol on the finish. 84/100.
  3. 2003 Le Bourgeois - Henri Bourgeois
    The vines for this wine were grown on Silex soil. Light yellow, with minerals and a hint of brazil nut on the nose. A fine thread of acidity, nice length, pure taste. 87/100.
  4. 2002 Sancerre - Cuvee Jodis - Henri Bourgeois
    This old vine cuvee showed a pale yellow, with hints of cut grass and fresh lemon on the nose. Seamless and with a good core of minerals and citrus, the length was impressive. 89/100.
  5. 2002 Sancerre - D'Antan - Henri Bourgeois
    This wine was grown on Silex soil. Bright yellow, with wet rocks and minerality to the fore. Lean and with a youthful fresh lemon core, the tart length was impressive. 89/100.
  6. 2000 Sancerre - Etienne Henri - Henri Bourgeois
    Aged in 100% new oak. Pure yellow, white plenty of white truffle on the nose. Rounded mouthfeel with a firm core of acidity that carries the fruit across the long length. 89/100.
  7. 2000 Sancerre - Le Chene Saint-Etienne 455 ans - Henri Bourgeois
    An interesting and true story. There was a 455 year old oak tree on the estate that was struck by lightening and fell to the ground. The tree was cut into pieces and made into several barrels. These were then used to age the best grapes from that vintage. Light gold, with hints of white truffle tickling my nostrils. Ripe fruit, bracing acidity, slightly off-dry, long length. A good wine but a little too fat for my palate. 88+/100.
  8. 1992 Pouilly-Fumé - La Demoiselle de Bourgeois - Henri Bourgeois
    Light gold, plenty of sweet white truffle on the nose. A slick mouthfeel, a fine thread of acidity is still there but this wine is fully mature. It is not every day that you get to try a 12 year old Pouilly white and this impressed me as well as gave me pleasure. 90/100.
  9. 1989 Late Harvest - Vendarge de la Saint-Charles - Henri Bourgeois
    A late harvest Sancerre that's nearly 16 years old! I was totally surprised by what I tasted. Bright gold, with white truffle and a hint of apricot on the nose. Sweet, lovely thread of refreshing acidity, mature but not about to fall apart. This wine would be an excellent match with foie gras or a light pastry dessert like tarte tatin. 91/100.

The Cheese shop
The Cheese shop
Goats cheese

The Loire region is famous for its goats cheese and we decided to visit the best producer in the area. We had been sampling its delights every day for either lunch, dinner or both. The quality at this time of the year is excellent, in part due to the availability of good quality grass. The styles of cheese varied from fresh to aged over six months.

White truffle smell from certain Sancerre white wines

It was surprising to keep coming across this smell in some wines that I tasted. After several enquiries, I established that no-one has a definite answer as to how this occurs. One theory is that the combination of ripeness in the grapes (for example in a hot vintage like 2003) together with a particular soil type combine magically to create this distinctive aroma.

Pouilly-Fumé

I had wanted to visit a couple of producers based in Pouilly to sample their wines. These tend to be drier and steely in character, in part due to the predominance of Silex in the soils of the area.

Patrick Coulbois

One cuvee is produced by this winemaker and all of the vines are grown on Silex soil.

  1. 2004 Pouilly-Fumé - "Les Cocques"
    Light green / yellow, plenty of freshly cut green apple and a hint of wet rocks. Very dry on the palate, with green apple and plum together with flint. A decent, if austere length. The owner said that this wine needs time to settle down but will easily last 7 years. 85/100.

The Chateau at de Ladoucette
The Chateau at de Ladoucette
De Ladoucette

To say this estate is visually impressive as you enter the grounds is an understatement. The beautifully kept grounds surround the fairytale-like chateau which is still lived in to this day. Another chance for your humble narrator to taste a few wines and admire the scenery. Our hostess for this pleasant afternoon was the helpful Emmanuelle.

  1. 2003 Pouilly-Fumé
    Light gold, with an expressive nose of minerals and citrus. Slightly off-dry and a tad alcoholic but nice. 86/100.
  2. 1997 Pouilly-Fumé
    Light yellow, with a hint of white truffle on the nose. Off-dry, soft mouthfeel with fine acidity and a good length. 88/100.

  3. de Ladoucette
    Nicos with Emmanuelle at de Ladoucette
  4. 2002 Pouilly-Fumé
    Light yellow, with a soft citrus nose that aims to please. Excellent length that rolls the balanced waves of fruit and minerals around my tastebuds. 89/100.
  5. 2001 Sancerre blanc
    Pale lemon optic, with a delicate citrus nose. No edges to this nicely concentrated wine that showed admirable persistence on the palate. 88/100.
  6. 2002 Grand Regnard - Chablis (Burgundy, France)
    Slight golden yellow. With a soft citrus and slightly oaked nose. The seamless palate was acceptable for a village Chablis and the length was quite impressive. A solid performance. 87/100.

Vouvray Wednesday 22 June 2005

After an early breakfast, we left our now familiar surroundings of St-Satur and headed north-west towards our final destination, namely Vouvray. I had wanted to visit Vouvray for some time and now here was my chance. Set on the northern bank of the Loire river, this picturesque town made wines from the Chenin blanc grape. This variety has good natural acidity that helps the wines age over many years. The styles ranged from dry to very sweet and there are sparkling wines as well. My personal favourites were the sweeter styles, and I have enjoyed bottles going back several decades. These wines have usually represented good value for money in my view, given the quality and ageing capabilities. The most well-known producer historically has been Domaine Huet and their wines are legendary. I wanted to try wines from three smaller producers, one of whom I was familiar with, namely Domaine du Aubiesieres.

The way to Domaine Allias
The way to Domaine Allias
GAEC Allias Pere et Fils

We were greeted by a cheerful Madame Allias. This fine and noble lady, who must have been in her 80's, had the energy of someone less than half her age. She took us through the wines we wanted to taste, opening every single bottle and answered all of my questions with ease. She packed my wine order within a short space of time, refusing all offers of help from me. A wonderful character, it was an honour to have met her.

The wines were worth my visit as well. The estate has 14 hectares (35 acres) of vines. Yields vary from year to year but are 40hl/hectare on average. In the hot vintage of 2003, yields were 30hl/hectare. Regarding the acidity levels comparing 2002 with 2004, Madame Allias said that 2002 had slightly more acidity than 2004, with 2003 being a low acid vintage.

  1. 2004 Vouvray Sec (dry) - Allias
    Light lemon, with delicate green apple and pear drops on the nose. Dry, steely, flinty and showing a respectable length. 85/100.
  2. 2002 Vouvray Sec (dry) - Allias
    Light yellow, similar to the 2004 in that it showed that green apple nose. More persistent length, with the tartness of the acidity balanced well with the pear fruit. 87/100.
  3. 2001 Vouvray Moelleux (sweet) - Allias
    Pale yellow, with tropical fruit, marmalade and a hint of pear drop wafting from my glass. Light sweetness, excellent length and with a dry clean finish. Still young, this will age for some years. 88/100.
  4. 2003 Vouvray Moelleux (sweet) - Allias
    Pale gold, with a soft honeyed nose that entices you to take a sip. The balanced sweetness on the palate is a joy and the length is impressive. A baby of a wine and this will probably evolve over the next 20 years. A bottle of the 1989 that we drank over dinner later that evening was superb and still youthful. 90+/100.
  5. 2002 Vouvray Cuvee Balzac Reserve (sweet) - Allias
    The top wine of the estate. The 2003 version had already sold out but I was told that the 2002 has more acidity and will age for longer. Light gold, with a definite ripe apricot sweetness with hints of white flowers as well that make it feel as if I am tasting outdoors. The excellent concentration of fine sweetness is balanced beautifully by the fine acidity. Seamless and with a long length, this is truly a wine that will age magnificently. Buy a few bottles of this wine and leave it in the cellar for as long as you can. 92/100.

Tarte tatin
One of the top ten desserts I have ever tasted. A stunning tarte tatin.
Philippe Foreau

Driving through Vouvray, we managed to locate the cellars of this Domaine on one side and the office/tasting room on the other. As luck would have it, Philippe Foreau himself would be guiding us through a selection of his wines. Monsieur Foreau told us that his annual production is around 55,000 bottles of wine in an average year. His export markets include USA, Japan, Belgium and the UK.

  1. 2004 Vouvray Sec (dry) - Foreau Light green with a hint of yellow. Faint green apple, delicate texture. Medium bodied, seamless, well balanced and showing a good length. In 2004 25% of the estate's production was in dry wine. 87/100.
  2. 2003 Vouvray Moelleux (sweet) - Foreau This wine had 70 grams of residual sugar in it. Light gold, with a faint ripe pineapple aroma coming out. The excellent acidity blends in with the sweetness. The long length shows off the focused sweetness that is not cloying. No hurry to drink this excellent wine. 90/100.
  3. 2003 Vouvray Moelleux Reserve (very sweet) - Foreau 150 grams of residual in this wine and what a difference compared to the previous cuvee. Light gold, a complex mix of ripe pineapple, marmalade and botrytis provide pleasure to my nostrils. Liquid ripe peaches, seamless, huge length that persists, outstanding. This wine should last 20+ years and provide pleasure as it evolves. 93/100.

Bernard Fouquet
The winemaker and owner Bernard Fouquet
Domaine du Aubiesieres (http://www.vouvrayfouquet.com)

The summer heat bore down on our relaxed bodies as we walked towards the cave of this estate. We were greeted by the friendly figure of Bernard Fouquet and soon set about tasting some recent vintages. This estate has 22 hectares (55 acres) of vines planted on a mixture of vineyard sites and soils.

  1. 2004 Cuvee de Silex (dry) - Domaine du Aubiesieres
    Pale yellow, with a mineral and fresh lemon nose. A long steely length with a hint of sweetness in the background. This wine will drink well over the next 5 years. 87/100.
  2. 2004 Le Marigny (dry) - Domaine du Aubiesieres
    Made from the single vineyard designation called Le Marigny. Light yellow, with dry lemon on the nose. A long, dry, steely length that is enjoyable but still youthful. 88/100.
  3. 2004 Les Girardieres - Demi-sec (semi-sweet) - Domaine du Aubiesieres
    A clear yellow, with a white pear and green apple nose. A lovely balanced mouthfeel, long length, fresh tasting and highly enjoyable. 89/100.
  4. 2002 - Le Plan de Jean (semi-sweet) - Domaine du Aubiesieres
    This late harvest wine is produced in a vendage tardive style, with the grapes being picked in November 2002. The wine contains 100 grams of residual sugar. A light gold optic, with pear drops and nuances of minerality, excellent length, cleansing acidity. This wine has an excellent future ahead of it. 90/100.
  5. 2003 - Le Plan de Jean (sweet) - Domaine du Aubiesieres
    Light gold, with a mute nose that hinted at sweetness. A balanced wine that showed a fine sweet fruit but was a tad shy compared to the 2002 version. 88/100.
  6. 2003 Le Marigny (sweet) - Domaine du Aubiesieres
    Light gold with nougat and hints of aniseed on the nose. A complex sweetness that showed many waves of long, balanced fruit. Impressive stuff. 90/100.
  7. 2003 Cuvee Alexandre (very sweet) - Domaine du Aubiesieres
    The top cuvee at the estate and made from a blend of vineyard sites. I first tried this wine in March 2005 and I had been bowled over by its impact. A mind-boggling 200 grams of residual sugar! Golden colour, with fresh apricots, peaches and complex sweet fruit vying for attention. A stunning mix of sweetness, fine acidity and a huge length. This wine was not cloying in any way and I am sure it has a good life ahead of it. It tasted bolder, sweeter and fuller than the 1990 did at the same stage of its life. Grab a few bottles of this wine and enjoy them over the next 20+ years. 94/100.

Chateau Belmont
Chateau Belmont
Staying in Tours - Chateau Belmont
(http://www.jeanbardet.com)

After a hard day's tasting and driving, we drove back to our hotel located in the city of Tours. Chateau Belmont is owned by Sophie and Jean Bardet. This lovely building is surrounded by sculpted gardens and houses. Jean Bardet is a renowned chef and the hotel houses a fine dining restaurant. After a refreshing couple of hours in the pool, we changed for dinner and ate a wonderful meal there. Overall, it was the best single meal of our trip and one of the best meals I have ever eaten. It is well worth a visit if you can make it to this part of France. The wine list is very impressive with deep verticals of certain Loire wines going back eighty years.

Conclusion

In terms of wine discoveries, I learned several things:

  1. The best winemakers are producing world class wines from their respective terroirs.
  2. The discovery of the white truffle nose on certain white Sancerre's was a revelation!
  3. For Sancerre and Pouilly, recent successful vintages have been 2002 and 2004. With respect to Vouvray, 2002 & 2004 were good for the drier styles of wine, and 2002 & 2003 were successful for the sweeter versions.
  4. The effect on the flavour and taste profiles of the wines from the vineyard sites and soils was noticeable. For example, the Silex soils tended to produce the drier, mineral laden and more austere style of wine. Some wines were made from a number of different vineyard sites and soils, which contributed to their complexity.
  5. Well-produced Sancerre from older vines from a successful vintage can develop over 15 plus years, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

It had been a roller coaster ride of fun with friends, uncovering many unfamiliar food and wine gems. Add the warm weather and friendly people, and you may begin to see why I want to return one day.

Artwork
from the smoking room
at Chateau Belmont

(June 2005)

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