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Domaine de Bellivière Coteaux du Loir Rouge-Gorge 2004

At this year's Renaissance tasting I was delighted by the range of wines presented by Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir vigneron-supremo Eric Nicolas, as I hope my notes - published last week - testify. The whites were, save for one wine showing a trace of oxidation, pure and unsullied, floral and vibrant, and thus almost any white you see from this domaine in the 2008 vintage is worth a pop. Indeed, if you fancy doing so, or just back-filling with slightly older vintages, Winedoctor sponsor Artisan Wines has just taken delivery of some wines from 2008, 2007 and 2005.

Accepting that the white wines at this domaine can be superb, what about the reds? The only commonly-sighted cuvée is Le Rouge-Gorge (the French name for the red-breasted robin) which I have tasted in several vintages, including 2005 and 2009. Since the 2004 vintage this cuvée has been made from 100% Pineau d'Aunis, it having included a soupçon - just 3% in fact - of Gamay up until 2003. Here we are a little further north than the most significant red appellations of the Loire, Chinon and Bourgueil, and we should perhaps expect this cool climate character to come through in the reds. In the above mentioned 2005 and 2009 vintages (both warm and successful for reds) it does, as it did in the 2007 as well (perhaps less surprising considering that this was a very poor vintage for reds). But please don't take this description of 'cool-climate character' to be disparaging. In these three vintages it comes through in a good way, the wines displaying crispy fruit with that sappy character you find in Loire reds which I liken to sucking a cherry stone - you get the fruit flavours, but without any plump cushion of flesh alongside.

Domaine de Belliviere Coteaux du Loir Rouge-Gorge 2004

Freshness and stony texture; these are desirable features in Loire Valley reds. These indicate wines made from just ripe fruit, not unripe fruit (and therefore not over-ripe fruit which, along with overtly apparent alcohol, I am becoming increasing intolerant of). Some define the region's reds as being herbaceous, but they are simply the wines made from unripe fruit. If you get celery, green pepper, celeriac or most green herb aromas or flavours then the fruit was unripe. Hints of mint and green peppercorn indicate a wine slipping into ripeness for me, and I enjoy these characteristics, the latter especially, adding a savoury and tense element to the wine. When the fruit is truly ripe the terroir elements shine through, especially for Cabernet Franc, which is just as good a translator of terroir as Riesling in my opinion.

Of course as I have already written the Coteaux du Loir Rouge-Gorge from Domaine de Bellivière isn't Cabernet Franc but is Pineau d'Aunis, 2004 being the first Gamay-free vintage. The colour in the glass is certainly hinting at maturity with its dusty hue, but in fact on close inspection it is still dominated by red pigment with not a trace of anything browner or brickier. A moderate depth of colour too, not opaque but not vapidly transparent either. The nose gives the first evidence of this wine's cool-climate origins, beginning with a blast of celeriac and celery seed aromas with the strong, earthy aroma of freshly-pulled root vegetables. Behind this there is the aroma of traditional 'Victory V' sweets, which were predominantly liquorice, although in the mid-1800s I believe they also contained an equal amount of ether (!) and chloroform (!!). A light entry but showing a more middle-weight palate, more substance than I expected, and a structure that is unsurprisingly quite apparent, with rather prominent acidity and a fairly good seam of tannins peeking out from behind the beetroot and celery fruit. A strong and peppery finish, which is rather short. In the end I rather warmed to this wine, I think principally because I admire Nicolas and his ethos, but in all honesty it has too vegetal and earthy a flavour profile and too prominent a seam of acidity for me to buy again. And it is certainly a bottle I could not open for anybody who wasn't a certified Loire-geek. 14.5/20 (3/5/10)

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