There are always exciting discoveries to be made at the Salon. New discoveries don’t have to be new domaines, by the way; it could be a new wine from a well-known vigneron, or some other significant development, such as the completion of an innovative project or certification as bio (organic) or biodynamic perhaps. Sometimes it may be a perceived change in the style of winemaking. During yesterday’s time at the Salon, I saw examples of all these….on occasion many of them all rolled up at just one domaine, which is invigorating. It drives home what a lively and dynamic wine region the Loire really is.
On top form yesterday, and clearly innovating and developing, were Pithon-Paillé, home to Jo Pithon (pictured left). I have often really liked the wines of this domaine; last year I found traces of oxidation running through the wines but happily this turned out to be nothing more than two tired samples, and subsequent tastes were better. The first thing I noticed here is that the style of winemaking has progressed away from the more wood-influenced and perhaps slightly oxidative style that typifed the Pithon wines of old and which I thought might be returning when I tasted last year; yesterday the white wines had a really fine, matchsticky, slightly reductive style, a characteristic which interestingly I have noticed in more white wines this year than ever before. It is a style that really appeals and which bodes well for the wine’s (and region’s) future I believe. When I asked what had changed in the winery, it turns out there has been a progressive move from smaller oak barrels, at 225 litres, to 350 litres and now 600 litres, along with rigorous topping up. These whites are much more serious as a result. Then came another innovation, a Pithon-Paillé Crémant de Loire, made using wine from 2009 and must from 2010, with the addition of a neutral yeast, a novel method – more on this when I write a report. And also news that, now certified as organic on the vast majority of their plots, not only those they own but also on those from where they acquire their Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur fruit, Pithon-Paillé will be converting to biodynamics in 2012. It is a process that commences with the pruning, so by the time the 2013 Salon comes around – if InterLoire manage to organise one, that is – they should be fully certified. Regardless of your opinion of biodynamics, there is no doubt that it is associated with the production of high quality wines, so these are exciting times at this domaine!
Of course, that s just one domaine; I also discovered some really good Crémant de Loire from Château d’Aulée, nice Muscadets from Château Coing de Saint-Fiacre, and some really exciting white Anjou (good reds too, but the whites are tip-top) from a trio of young vignerons going by the name of Les Seches Roches. I also attended a private tasting of 2007 sweet wines from the Layon, some of which were superb, as well as tasting some Chinon and I even made a sighting of the rarely-seen Philippe Alliet (the man, not just the wines). And I have the photographic evidence to prove it!
I should pont out that the flow of information at the Salon is not all one-way though; I managed to confound Philippe Germain, of Château de la Roulerie, with news of several lieux-dits bottlings of Roulerie’s Coteaux du Layon from long-past vintages. Les Cerisiers and Les Aunis he knew, but he was surprised to find in my cellartracker portfolio two vintages of a cuvée called Les Coteaux, which he hadn’t heard of before. Some more research for Philippe, I think.
As it turns out, it’s not just the visitors that make exciting discoveries at the Salon, but sometimes the exhibitors too.