My previous encounter with the Loire was centred around Chenin Blanc, which was showcased in dry white and sweet wines. I liked it, a lot. But the Loire also produces fascinating wines from a number of other well-known grape varieties like Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Melon de Bourgogne; all of which I am comparatively less familiar with.
I tasted 13 wines altogether, ranging from sparkling to sweet (I skipped the rosé). The diversity between the wines is immense. But then for a region so widespread, you wouldn’t expect anything else. And just as equally, you wouldn’t expect to like everything.
Out of those 13, there were in fact only four that I really enjoyed. They’re all available at New Street Wine Shop but I will also bracket other places where you can buy them.
Although there were alternative in the sparkling line up, with a younger, fresher feel, the sparkling Philippe Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray NV was the first to catch my eye. It was rich in flavour with a blended flavour of toast and apple that was bolstered with incredible acidity. It also had smooth bubbles and was nicely balanced. I felt it was very comparable to Champagne, which is made in the same method. £19.65 Also available from Gauntleys.
The whites flew by and the first red to get my attention was Domaine des Roches Neuves Terre Chaudes Saumur Champigny 2013. Having been to the estate before, I felt like I had a vested interest in liking the wine. But I didn’t. At least not at first. As I tasted the wine though, I got more and more notes out of it and, well, I had to say it was pretty good. It starts with a sort of concrete hardness that melts into gentle tanning and a dark, brooding herbaceousness. It had great food potential as it is but then the long finish of residual fruit, red currant and black pepper really brought it together. £19.80 Also available at Excel Wines.
In startling contrast to the Saumur Champigny, Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 2013 was extremely open and friendly. It was rich and fruit-forward as well as being rounded and vibrant. It was simple and easy drinking – and you can’t fault it for that. £11.50 Also available at Haynes Hanson & Clark.
As a lover of sweet wines, I was of course pleased to find a good one in the Philippe Delesvaux Selection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon 2011. It’s perhaps on the young side but its lush, fragrant nose is very appealing right now. The rich and complex blend of apricots finds a nice back bone in the balance of the sugar and acidity. Not too intense but thoroughly enjoyable. £18.60 (half-bottle) Also available at Fine + Rare Wines
I mentioned briefly in the post about wine and technology that there would be a vlog coming up… Well, you didn’t have to wait too long for that because here it is:
Côteaux du Giennois
For this first vlog, I tasted a trio of wines from the French wine region of Côteaux du Giennois.
Côteaux du Giennois is right in the middle of France, quite close to Sancerre, and lies between the towns of Gien and Cosne sur Loire by the Loire River. As an appellation, it’s relatively new, AOC since 1998, but grape pips have been found in archaeological digs in Cosne sur Loire which suggests that wine has been made there since the 2nd century.
As in other parts of the Loire Valley, the soil in the area is a mix of flint and limestone which suggests good potential for the white wines. These are made from Sauvignon Blanc. They also make rosé and red wines from Pinot Noir, Gamay or a blend of the two.
Anyway, here are the tasting notes for the three wines:
Domaine de Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A medium bodied wine with intense nose of lychee, pear, apple and citrus. Some stony minerality. A little floral note too. Don’t serve this too cold as acidity will prevail. To have with a creamy seafood dish. RRP£9.99 available from Marks & Spencer.
Les Aupières Rosé Côteaux du Giennois 2013. Light red berry nose with a little hawthorne, perhaps even rose. Slight bitterness at the end. A delicate red-style rosé wine. Enjoy with a chicken and pomegranate salad or something similarly light from the Middle East. RRP£10.99 available from Laithwaites.
Clement et Florian Berthier Rouge Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A little vanilla coming through followed by strawberries. Overpowering farm-yardy aromas. Not one for me. RRP£12.99 available from Laithwaites.
If sabrage is your way of introduction to the Champagnes of Charles Heidsieck, then you’re already off to a good start. Even better if your bottle isn’t adulterated by glass shards.
I have to admit, I’ve tried Charles Heidsieck before. It was at a trade tasting in January this year and I remember being very impressed with it. Digging out my old tasting notes now, I realised that I’ve come to almost the exact same conclusions – the 1999 Rosé Millésimé was a firm favourite. But more on that later.
First up was the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV. For a non-vintage, it is incredibly rich in flavours owing to the fact that 40% of the blend is made up of reserve wines with an average age of 10 years. With equal measures of fruit and nut characteristics, it makes for a complex starter.
When I originally tasted the Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV, I wasn’t a fan. Whilst there was plenty of fruit on the palate, complemented by a soft mousse, it just wasn’t a stand out wine. Fast forward a little, my second tasting showed a wine with much more development. The evolution in this particular bottle helped it to become something much more complex.
The Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésimé 2000 fared equally well between the two tastings. The toasty intensity was very forthcoming but there was also honey and autumn fruits followed by a crisp, dry finish. The wine has developed well in the 10-plus years of ageing and, while it can go on for some more, I’d really prefer to enjoy it as it is.
In comparison, it was immediately obvious the Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésimé 1999 should be aged for much longer. As it is, the meaty and bold Champagne is stunning. Then (in the January tasting), as now, it was a favourite despite my aversion to rosé wines. Right now, it’s displaying an unrivalled intensity of fruit with undertones of toasted smokiness. There was obviously development in the wine but it still had an incredible amount of freshness.
The final vintage was the Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 1995. With almost 20 years in the bottle, it was showing quite a lot of age. It’s confidently nutty with fading fruit. I’m not a fan of Blanc de Blancs as a rule so this exceptional vintage doesn’t quite do it for me, especially following the Rosé Millésime 1999.
This selection reminded me how bubbles can do incredible things to your preference for wine. Rosé Champagne I can fall in love with but Blanc de Blancs I just don’t get on with. And yet in the world of still wines, it’s just the opposite. My nose is turned up at the rosés on offer while I seem to find Chardonnay irresistibly alluring in all its forms.
In any case, this is a seriously fine collection of Champagnes to discover and re-discover.