Yesterday was another long day at the Salon. Or rather it was an evening trip to see the cellars at Bouvet-Ladubay that produced a later finish than anticipated.
Each Salon I try to focus on a particular region or style in a little more detail than is usual, to check I understand the appellation, and that I know who is doing good things but also who isn’t. That way I can get a grip of what the wines are all about, but check I have an appropriate grasp of the hierarchy within the appellation, and hopefully spot any up-and-coming talent. Two years ago it was Savennières, a very instructive set of tastings that really helped me to understand the different styles to be found. Last year I forewent such a program of tastings as I was so short of time, having missed out of the Renaissance and Dive Bouteille tastings.
Yesterday it was the turn of Saumur-Champigny. Saumur-Champigny in particular has a potential for high quality and it is an appellation worth getting to know; Cabernet Franc on tuffeau can produce such elegant purity at times. Sadly I think the Saumur appellations are often skipped over, as they fail to fit neatly into either Anjou or Touraine, and so they sit a little outside the four big regions.
So I tasted from about a dozen top names in the appellation, and it was educational to see who makes good wines, and who doesn’t. Some fairly famous names actually make some fairly dull wines. And there is a strange tendency to over-oak, both white Saumur and red Saumur-Champigny, at other domaines. Up to 30 months in oak is not unknown, the wines tasting more of mint and dark chocolate than the perfumed elegance of Cabernet Franc. Sadly, some of these wines seem to come from the next generation coming through as well as the old guard, so things aren’t likely to change any time soon. In short, there are perhaps four domaines making wines worth your money, while the rest are a disappointment. I will write up all my notes, in new profiles if necessary, in the coming months. There’s none of this shying away from publishing low scores here.
In the afternoon, a more varied bag, with Vouvray and Chinon, and a couple of wines from the Auvergne, which seems to be part of the Loire Valley these days.
Then in the evening I headed over to Saumur (so it was a Saumur-fuelled day all in all) for a visit to Bouvet-Ladubay. I figured this would be a little tour of the cellars, a tasting of vins clairs perhaps, or some finished wines, and a little dinner. But that isn’t how the Monmousseau family like to do things. There was a tour of the cellars, which were filled with rope artistes (I can’t thing quite what else to call them) dangling from the ceiling (the Health and Safety Commission would have had a fit), acrobats (like those above) and so on. I came away knowing nothing new about Bouvet-Ladubay, but the wines we drank (the Mademoiselle Ladubay Crémant de Loire Rosé and the Saumur Trésor in particular) were of high quality. It amazes me that they aren’t more widely appreciated; I guess people like what they know, which these days is Champagne, in all its forms.
Today, it’s back to the Salon, feeling a little jaded although nothing a couple of imminently due croissants won’t fix. I’ll be tasting what I call my ‘staples’ today – Huet, Baudry, Pépière and so on. Hopefully, there will be time for Sancerre and similar as well.