Neal’s Report from the Eastern Loire

Posted on Posted in Domaine Lucien Crochet, Domaine Philippe Gilbert, Marc Deschamps, Occasional Thoughts

“The afternoon of Tuesday, Nov 19 2013 was spent in the Eastern Loire visiting with Marc Deschamps, Gilles Crochet and Philippe Gilbert.

Deschamps in Cellar - March 2007In Pouilly-sur-Loire, Marc Deschamps reported favorably on the results of the current harvest, better results than might have been anticipated considering the up-and-down conditions during the growing season. He predicts a wine with characteristics similar to 2007 and/or 2011.

2012 produced wines here that are quite strong – a smaller harvest, quite concentrated, somewhat higher in alcohol than usual. The nose and flavors across the board are etched in deep relief. The Porcheronnes is marked by a touch of slightly bitter citrus “confit” –Schweppes, if you will. The Vignes de Berge displays its usual notes of “mentholé” over peach with a strong limestone finish. The Champs de Cri, all old vines, is more floral but also, as usual, less open at this stage (always bottled later than the other cuvees and, as of now, still in cuve). The just-bottled Vinealis ’12 has a spot of gold to its robe along with flavors reminiscent of bitter orange. All four have the richness of 2009 but with firmer acidity.

The 2011 vintage chez Deschamps is very attractive with a delightful freshness and purity – excellent rendition of this intriguing terroir with a persistent mineral finish, fruit covering a broad range of citrus from grapefruit to tangerine. These Pouilly Fumes from Deschamps offer an ode to their limestone underpinnings! Lovely vintage …

Vignobles - CrochetThe good news at Domaine Lucien Crochet is that the quality here remains at an extremely high level – a domaine that has never failed us and whose future remains scintillatingly bright. The bad news is that there was a small harvest in 2012 and an even smaller crop this year in 2013!

The 2012s at Crochet are uniformly excellent. The regular bottling of Sancerre is quite rich and dense – a star at this level. The Croix du Roy Blanc is even better – very linear, strongly mineral, pure and long. The Le Chene, as always, is a bit reticent in its youth, the least evolved of the group. The Cul de Beaujeu ’12 is very exciting. A masculine structure backed by a satisfying minerality. This wine is now being raised in 600 liter barrels (demi-muids) to minimize the oak influence.

I very much enjoyed the Cuvee Prestige Blanc 2009. Its price appears daunting sometimes for the market but we have to stick with it – a major work from a key producer.

The Croix du Roy Rouge 2009 is particularly impressive and we can look forward to its imminent arrival on the first container of 2014 during the early days of January. This is ripe, long and well-balanced – outside of category.

In Menetou-Salon, Philip Gilbert is hitting his stride.  The 2012 Blanc is quite mineral and “sec”, destined to be a solid companion at the table alongside a multitude of dishes whether shellfish, marine or lake fish and most certainly to include chicken and other white meats dosed with sauces or seasonings.

We will now revisit the Renardieres cuvées in both white and red. These special bottlings come from the “Les Treilles” vineyard in the village of Parassy which is planted exclusively to old vines. The Renardieres Blanc no longer undergoes elevage in barrel (in part, I am sure, because of our discomfort with that approach). Rather, this wine now spends 18 months in cuve with a fermentation of 10 months for the 2011 with the lies in suspension. It is an elegant wine true to its appellation with a persistent, satisfying finish.

The reds at Domaine Gilbert are interesting and often compelling. The 2010 now in our market offers strong proof – a particularly good vintage. The Renardieres Rouge 2010 will prove to be a proper companion. It was vinified with one-third of the berries left whole, spending one year in small barrel and another year in cuve. The regular Rouge from the 2011 vintage carries less color than the 2010 along with just a hint of “animal” in the nose.

The wines of Menetou, as interpreted by Philippe Gilbert and his team, are bound to find an expanding audience. Its close neighbors are Sancerre and Pouilly but the various cuvees of Menetou, both white and red, cut a unique figure. The reds can be more profound than their companions from Sancerre and the whites are often more strict and firm than either those from Pouilly and Sancerre – perhaps less elegant but more dense and generous.

Thus closes this report on our three growers in the eastern Loire – a long but rewarding afternoon ….


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