Oaked Sauvignon Blanc, Part 1
Last Monday I hosted an Oaked Sauvignon Blanc tasting, along with Richard Bampfield and Jean-Christophe Mau of Château Brown. It was great fun. Jean-Christophe and Richard put forward a selection of white Bordeaux (so Sauvignon-Semillon blends on their side really) with vintages ranging from 1999 (although most wines were no older than 2006) through to 2012. My role was to sort out the Loire side of things.
I wanted to focus on the crème de la crème of the Loire Valley when it comes to oak and Sauvignon Blanc, so I chose domaines where the wine was fermented in oak with subsequent élevage in oak (not wines fermented in steel and then thrown into wood, or treated with chips or staves) and I also wanted domaines using a good proportion of new oak (not just a few old barrels they have had lying around for 20 years). Secondly, I wanted to ensure those domaines historically associated with the style, and who pioneered it (i.e. Henri Bourgeois especially) were involved. And thirdly, because oaked Sauvignon Blanc isn’t about drinking it young (this is where most people go wrong I think – oaked Sauvignon needs time in the cellar to show its best, just as we would expect with wines from Pessac-Léognan, or Burgundy, or anywhere else where white varieties and oak come together) I also wanted to ensure that for every young wine included we had a matching older vintage.
Perhaps most importantly, I just used my knowledge of who is just doing it, and who is doing it well. I therefore came up with a shortlist of eight domaines and wines, as follows (including the vintages I managed to procure):
● La Tour Saint-Martin, Menetou-Salon Cuvée Honorine, 2012 & 2002
● Alain Cailbourdin, Pouilly-Fumé Triptyque, 2012 & 2008
● Masson-Blondelet, Pouilly-Fumé Cullus, 2012 & 2002
● Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly-Fumé Silex, 2012 & 2002
● Lucien Crochet, Sancerre Cul de Beaujeu, 2012 & 2010
● Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre Satellite, 2012 & 2008
● Vincent Pinard, Sancerre Petit Chemarin, 2012 & 2008
● Henri Bourgeois, Sancerre Cuvée Etienne Henri, 2012 & 2002
I will be writing up the tasting, including my notes on these wines as well as those from Bordeaux (which included Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, ‘Y’ d’Yquem, Domaine de Chevalier, Château Brown & others), for subscribers, in the very near future. First I just wanted to quickly reflect on the tasting, but also to give out some thanks to those who helped, especially Bertrand Minchin, Alain Cailbourdin, Pierre-François & Mélanie Masson and Arnaud Bourgeois, who all sent me bottles straight from their cellars. I would also like to thank Charlotte Dagueneau, Alphonse & Emmanuelle Mellot and Clémence Pinard, who all sent their bottles via Charles Sydney. And I would like to thank Charles himself for his help, as well as Jules Campbell of Justerini & Brooks, who brought Lucien Crochet on board. Thanks also to Richard and Jean-Christophe for inviting me to show the Loire off in this manner.
Thanks too also to all those who came to taste the wines, of course.
I think I learnt three things at this tasting, but reflecting on it here, following all these thanks, seems like an afterthought. I will save these reflections for a subsequent post, tomorrow.