The domaine consists of approximately 8.5 hectares of vineyards, all of which are located in the legendary sector of Les Loges just north of the village of Pouilly-sur-Loire and known as “the hamlet of the vignerons”. Harvest is manual; the fermentation takes place in a mix of stainless steel and cement cuves. Only natural yeasts are used. The wines are left on the lees a considerable time. The malolactic fermentation rarely occurs. The wines are generally racked for the first time in January following the harvest. A light fining and filtration takes place prior to bottling which occurs in June for all wines except the “Les Champs de Cri” and the “Cuvé Vinéalis”, both of which are bottled later (normally between July and September). These wines are classic examples of the appellation: rich, powerful, marked by an undercurrent of minerality and, above all, expressing the precision, elegance and exceptional length that makes the wines of the hamlet of Les Loges the envy of all the producers of Pouilly Fumé.
|“Pouilly-sur-Loire”: Slightly more than one-half hectare is planted to an old vines parcel (60+ year old vines as of 2012) of the Chasselas grape from which Deschamps produces his appellation “Pouilly-sur- Loire”. This parcel is a mix of clay on a deep base of limestone. Deschamps vinifies his Chasselas in a manner exactly similar to the way he handles the Sauvignon Blanc with the Chasselas being the first of his wines to be bottled in the spring following harvest. Production is very limited and we rarely have the opportunity to purchase more than 1200 bottles of this strikingly fresh and dry wine.|
|“Pouilly Fumé” Cuvée les Porcheronnes: This cuvée is a blend of wine from several sites scattered on the hilltop of Les Loges, specifically “La Cote”, and “Les Griottes”. These are some of the younger vines of the estate, now (2012) averaging 20 years of age. Combined this is a two hectare site on clay-limestone soil. This is the most elegant and sprightly of the quartet of Pouilly Fumés produced by Deschamps. We import on the order of 3000 bottles per vintage.|
|“Pouilly Fumé” Les Vignes de Berges: The “Vignes de Berges” is a 3.5 hectare parcel on kimmeridgian marne soils with a high proportion of stones known in the appellation as « terres blanches ». The vines here are in excess of 30 years of age (as of 2012). This wine is the most generous and earthy of the Fumés produced at the estate. Again, we import normally 3000 bottles each year for the US market.|
|“Pouilly Fumé” Les Champs de Cri: The “Champs de Cri” is an important parcel of 2.3 hectares known in Les Loges as the site that produces the most elegant and long-lived of the wines of this appellation. Deschamps’ holdings are exclusively old vines with an average age of 55 years (as of 2012). Out of respect for the complexity and depth of this wine, Deschamps leaves this wine in contact with the lees for several months more than his other cuvées and it is released for sale later than the other wines of the estate. It is frequently marked by notes of bitter orange, jasmine and beeswax. We are privileged to be allocated 6000 or so bottles per annum for the US market.|
|“Pouilly Fumé” Vinéalis: In the best of vintages, Marc Deschamps isolates the grapes from the oldest vines in the Champs de Cri vineyard (60 plus years of age as of 2012) which sits on the classic kimmeridgian marne of this region and vinifies a small amount of wine in barrel (4 to 8 barrels or 1200 to 2400 bottles in the vintages when it is produced). Both fermentation and elevage occur in small oak barrels between one and five years of age with extensive lees contact. This produces a broad, rich wine which maintains a lively acidity in the finish; it is round and fleshy with a hint of menthol and citrus on the palate. 600 or so bottles are allocated to us for the US market.|
Neal’s Report from the Eastern Loire
In 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 …
The 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 ….