Monday was a busy day spent flitting across the vineyards of Touraine with Jim Budd, visiting some notable growers whose wines I already know, as well as some domaines I haven’t visited before. It was great to have this mix of the familiar and the new. I lost count of how many domaines we visited altogether.
One of our first visits was to Clos Roche Blanche, where Catherine Roussel (pictured above, with her 2013 ‘dossier’) was honest about the quality of the vintage. “C’est genial, un très bon millésime, le millésime du siècle!“, she exclaimed. All said tongue-in-cheek I’m afraid, because it was quite clear this has been a difficult vintage, with less than adequate ripeness in the fruit, and the threat of rot forcing picking. It was, she said, a vintage for the “table de tri“, indicating that a lot of sorting was required to make anything decent this year. During our time with Catherine we also tasted from 2012 and 2011, just a trio of wines as we weren’t able to linger, and we learned of Catherine’s plans for the future at Clos Roche Blanche, something all fans of this domaine will want to read. I will add an update for the domaine to the subscriber’s section in the next month.
From Clos Roche Blanche it was a short drive up the road to see Noëlla Morantin (pictured above), not surprising as Noëlla rents her property from Catherine. Here we learnt more about the difficulties of the vintage, and tasted some wines from 2012.
Our focus turned more towards 2013 at Domaine Ricard, with a taste of the freshly picked Sauvignon Blanc juice, yet to get underway with fermentation. Of all the juice I tasted on Monday this was the most convincing, full of expressive citrus fruit and almost tropical aromas, with texture and fresh but nicely enveloped acidity. There’s no reason to believe this won’t make good a Touraine wine. Vincent Ricard (pictured below) was looking more pleased than most, probably because he has 21 hectares of white and only 3 hectares of red, he has largely finished picking the whites, and quality here – at the top end at least – doesn’t seem at all bad.
Speaking in general terms, the Touraine growers are in the middle or drawing close to the end of picking the Sauvignon Blanc, with many expecting to finish in the next few days if not already. The weather isn’t too bad, with blue skies and sunshine for the past two mornings, although clouding over on each day as the hours ticked by. I expect this dry but somewhat cloudy weather will continue for the rest of the week, so not an Indian summer but not leading to a rapid degeneration in quality of fruit on the vine either, which rain would certainly do. Dark clouds continual threaten this peace though, so there is still plenty of anxiety.
The Sauvignon Blancs have come in typically at 11.5% potential, which means chaptalisation is likely at many domaines, as they pump up the wines to 12.5% or thereabouts. A few domaines claimed a little more than 11.5%, with one or two hitting 12% but no more. Yields vary greatly according to the viticultural philosophy of the domaine, but they were very good in places. In terms of tasting the juices, at some domaines they certainly tasted flavoursome and clean, although I note that when this was the case we were often tasting the upper class, old vines juice, and not the juice of younger vines or lesser terroirs. At one domaine where we tasted through a selection of juices, the first Sauvignon showed a touch of grey rot, and the others all showed some rather vegetal Sauvignon character, slight in the older vines juice but worsening as we went down through the portfolio to th every young vines. Another top-flight vigneron confirmed that there was a taste of rot in some of his Sauvignon Blanc juice, and he was treating it with casein to remove it. This is a sure sign of the trials of the vintage, and indicating that even the best, organic, true-to-the-terroir domaines have had major problems this year.
On Tuesday I am heading out to Sancerre, to spend a couple of days here, exploring the vineyards of this appellation as well as Pouilly-Fumé, Menetou-Salon, Reuilly and Quincy.