Philippe Alliet Chinon L'Huisserie 2008
I wrote somewhere recently that I am a sucker for a great vintage. In fact, it was as an opener to my 2013 Loire report, which I began last week and continued with my 2013 Muscadet and 2013 Anjou & Saumur reports (although to be honest there wasn't much on Saumur in that latter instalment), and which I will continue this week with 2013 Touraine and 2013 Central Vineyards. Well, that's the plan, anyway.
Certainly this is even more true when we come to the red wines of the Loire Valley. In white and rosé, I think it is true to say that even with a later-ripening variety such as Chenin Blanc, as opposed to the earlier ripening Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne, it is still possible to make good quality, interesting dry wines in a lesser vintage if you pull out all the stops. They may not have the substance or depth of flavour that comes with greater ripeness of fruit, and of course they will do nothing to please those on the hunt for demi-sec or moelleux styles, but they still bring pleasure. With the region's red wines, however, I find that there is a greater spread of quality depending on the vintage, and on many other factors too, not least the individual who makes the wine.
It is often said of Burgundy (and probably other regions to, but Burgundy sticks in my head) that you should follow the vigneron and not the vintage. Nobody rejects the wines of Roumier or Rousseau simply because they do not come from the most exalted vintage, and I think this is a lesson worth applying to the Loire also. In the past year, for example, I have tasted quite a few wines from Sébastien David in St Nicolas de Bourgueil, wines that enticed, held my interest and delivered plenty of pleasure, even in wishy-washy vintages such as 2012. The same should be true of the top names of Chinon of course, and so to complement last year's Chinon reports looking predominantly at 2009, such as the 2009 L'Huisserie no less, and 2010, such as the 2010 Clos de l'Echo from Couly-Dutheil, I've decided to take a look at the first of these wines in another vintage, one which would not be described by most Loire commentators as a great one. Not for the reds, at any rate (it was a fine vintage for Muscadet, and absolutely tip-top when it comes to demi-sec Vouvray).
And so this week's wine is the 2008 Chinon L'Huisserie from Philippe Alliet. The lieu-dit L'Huisserie lies close to the western end of the limestone slope, not too far from Chinon, close to Le Clos Guillot and Coteau de Noiré, and was planted by Alliet in 2000. In the glass the wine shows a good colour, dark but still primary, matt without overt age. The aromatics are enticing, and much purer than I expected from this vintage, with scents of cherry-stone fruit laced with smoke, together with some highly polished old oak. There is tense fruit, reflecting the cooler climate and less favourable warm vintage, certainly, giving it a dark and savoury character, but it does not display any hint of green. There follows a surprisingly soft and supple texture at the start on the palate, and this is maintained through the middle, although there is some grip underneath and in the finish. It possesses red cherry fruit mirroring that found on the nose, nicely defined, with well-coated but taut acidity. It is a little short in the finish, admittedly, but it is delicious all the same. I have another bottle or two of this tucked away, but having tasted it (and especially having seen how it stands up to the 2009) I wish I had picked up more of this. 16.5/20 (3/3/14)