Philippe Alliet Chinon Coteau de Noiré 2009
It is far too long since I made any mention of Philippe Alliet on Winedoctor, despite having made several recent tastings of his wines, including a look at the 2011 vintage at this year's Salon des Vins de Loire. Those notes are yet to be tidied up and published; in the meantime, some pan-fried fillet on Saturday evening - after a long day of typing up this week's instalments of my Bordeaux 2012 report - called for something red, structured, preferably with a bit of tannic bite, and yet perhaps not Bordeaux. And so I went exploring in the cellar. Well, 'exploring' is the word I use; perhaps 'stare somewhat aimlessly at the bottles until something jumps out at you' might be more appropriate. Whatever term you use, within a minute or two my hands landed on two bottles; a rather young Cornas, from 2006, and an even younger Chinon, from 2009. It should be pretty clear which one won.
Philippe Alliet is not as far removed from Bordeaux as Chinon can be; he makes no secret of the fact that Bordeaux is his inspiration. He visits the region regularly, and sources old barrels there too. The style of wine therefore should come as no surprise; these are concentrated wines, with oak influence. They are not necessarily to everybody's taste; if you hold the view that Chinon should be a light red for early drinking, which is a description too often applied in my opinion, then the wines of this domaine will probably not find favour with you. They are dark, although not the ridiculous black hue that you can find in some wines. There is oak influence, although again not the overly rich, buttery, chocolate- and toffee-tinged character you find in some wines that are, quite simply, over-oaked. So to my palate they remain Chinon, albeit at the more oaky, structured, ageworthy end of the spectrum, full of cherry fruit and rich texture in youth. In maturity....well, I need to pull some of my older wines to make comment on that. For now, that's stick with this cuvée, and this vintage.
The Coteau de Noiré lies east of Chinon, upstream, between Chinon and Cravant-les-Coteaux, although still within sight of the town's famous château. The topography here has some similarities with that in Vouvray (if that helps - maybe it doesn't!) in that there is an east-west slop of limestone, very favourable for the vine as the soils are poor and the south-facing aspect gives excellent exposure to the sun. The flat land below is alluvial, the palus that borders the river, although here it is a tributary of the Loire, the Vienne, that is responsible rather than the Loire itself. This flatter, richer land lends itself to arable crops or pasture more than the vine, although there are plenty of vineyards to be found here, especially as one moves east, towards Cravant-les-Coteaux and Briançon, where Philippe Alliet is based. I think the appearance of the vine is associated with more gravel in the soil - cravant is an old French word for gravel - but in all honesty I need to explore the region further. The Coteau de Noiré lies up on the limestone slopes - the coteaux - which look down onto the gravelly plain and the D21 below. After phylloxera these slopes were not the first to recover - it was of course much easier to replant on the plain - and the fact that the Coteau de Noiré has been replanted is down to Philippe and Claude Alliet.
The 2009 Coteau de Noiré from Philippe Alliet really needs, at this youthful stage in its life, a couple of hours in the decanter in which to open up. It has a remarkable appearance, showing no sign of age, but with a matt, cherry-red hue around a darker core. It is very introverted at first, reticent and ungiving, but after an hour or two it eventually opens out, revealing tempting aromas of cherries, vanilla, tar and nuances of perfumed tobacco. Despite its slow showing, the aromatics are ultimately enticing. There is purity here, and a haunting tinge of smoke. The palate is dry, restrained, showing plenty of structure and grip, in keeping with the vintage and the style. This wine is clearly hunkering down as it develops, nevertheless this tasting fills me with confidence. The style is ripe but restrained, certainly not over-ripe, with a chalky tannic backbone, leading into a dry and sappy finish. There is a sense of white stone to it, tinged with violets. And it has a fine, long, elegant, lightly tannic finish. A superb showing; I'm glad I have a few more of these to revisit as they mature. 18/20 (22/4/13)