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Loire 2013: A Quick Start

Yesterday I travelled down to the Loire Valley, from Edinburgh to Tours via London; other than having to hang around Stansted airport for a long time, it was an uneventful journey. Tours is a great airport, very small, and superbly located. Within minutes of landing I was out among the vines, along with Jim Budd. I may well take this route again in future.

We took a whirlwind tour of some of the Vouvray and Montlouis vineyards before we lost the evening light. I know that you cannot extrapolate quality across an appellation, or even across a domaine, but it is still instructive to see the fruit on the vine waiting to be picked.

Chenin Blanc in the Clos du Bourg

Above is Chenin Blanc in the Clos du Bourg, belonging to Domaine Huet; what the picture doesn’t really convey is the small size of the berries as well as the small size of the bunch. This is a second generation bunch, one which developed after the hailstorm swept through in June, and it was typical of what I found in the vineyard. They aren’t going to be of any use in winemaking. It illustrates what a difficult time the appellation has had this year.

Chenin Blanc in Montlouis

Above is Chenin Blanc in Montlouis, probably in the vineyards of François Chidaine, although it is difficult to be sure. These grapes look much more promising. There is a little rot here and there, but it is largely dry, and tastes clean, so no need to lose hope yet. Good weather, as is forecast for the next week, will help.

Château de Chenonceau

There was just time to catch a glimpse of some evening light on the Château de Chenonceau, probably my favourite of all the Loire châteaux – not a very original choice, I know, but the combination of beauty and history wins me over. And what’s not to like about a château built over a river?

Sunset over the Cher

And finally, before heading home to a few bottles (J. Mourat 11:22, Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Côt 2001, Domaine de Noblaie Chinon Pierre de Tuf 2005, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis Rémus 2007, Château du Breuil Coteau du Layon Beaulieu 2007) and a very long and filling repas, a quick view of the sun setting over the Cher.

Today (Monday) I will be visiting Clos Roche Blanche and other Touraine domaines.

Loire 2013

I have been fairly hectic over the past couple of weeks with a number of different projects (both wine and non-wine), and so haven’t been able to return to my series of posts exploring minerality in wine. I am also aware that I had a mini-series on Sauternes running on the blog (I think I was on wine number seven) and then there was my short series of ‘Loire Misunderstood’ posts. I need to get back to all of these themes. Having said that, all these plans will have to go on hold for a week as I am leaving early tomorrow morning for the Loire in order to see how the 2013 harvest is progressing.

I fly out early Sunday morning, but will then spend a few hours kicking my heels in Stansted airport near London before my next flight onto Tours. If all goes well I should be inspecting the vineyards of Vouvray and Montlouis by early evening on Sunday. It will be fascinating (and perhaps also rather sad) to see for myself how they look after the devastating hailstorm the region experienced earlier this year. Hopefully, those vines that escaped the hail will be doing rather well; reports from the region that have so far come my way certainly suggest that might be so, and with good weather forecast for the rest of the week there is still reason to hope in this particular part of the Loire.

François Chidaine

My itinerary is pretty loose, so who knows who I will encounter over the next few days? Maybe François Chidaine (pictured above), maybe other less famous vignerons. I will report day by day, on the state of the vines and the fruit, on harvest activity, and on any other little nuggets of information regarding the 2013 vintage that come my way. Expect a focus on the upper parts of Loire, especially Vouvray, Montlouis, the Viticole Sologne and Cher Valley, Reuilly, Quincy, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

These harvest reports will be free for all to read, on this blog. I won’t be able to make updates for the more in-depth articles behind the paywall over the next few days, but will naturally resume this after my return at the end of the week. Right, that’s it; let’s get my bag packed.

A Fine Fina from Lebrija

I mentioned in my report on the Lebrija Old Oloroso from González Palacios, published at the start of last week, that I also tasted the M. Fina Flor de Lebrija, also from González Palacios, another sample sent by Hyde Park Wines. It’s very good, and deserves writing up.

As I explained in that post, the Lebrija DO is newly created, largely thanks to the efforts of González Palacios. Previously, fruit harvested in this region would have been destined for the bodegas of Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. But the winemakers of Lebrija did not get it all their own way, as they have been prevented from describing their wines as Manzanilla, the wine associated with the latter of these two wine towns. This is what, unofficially of course, the M. in M. Fina stands for.

González Palacios M. Fina

The González Palacios M. Fina is no ordinary Sherry or Manzanilla look-a-like though, as this wine has spent 12 years aging in cask before bottling. Consequently it has a deeply-coloured straw hue. The nose, though, is vibrant, full of flor notes, with scents of oranges, a little nuttiness too, but overall it is fresh and lively. There follows a confident palate, full, fairly rich, certainly very dry in character, with some nice energy to it. This is nutty, honeyed, and integrated, and best of all it shows great harmony and energy. 15.5/20 (September 2013)