Sébastien Bobinet Saumur-Champigny Amatéüs Bobi 2008
I like to explore the stories behind the wines I drink, and more often than not these stories come out in the write-up of my Weekend Wine. This has always been my philosophy when making my weekly choice; the wine should be interesting in some way, and to me that is perhaps more important than absolute quality. There might have been recent developments in the appellation in question, or it may be a new cuvée. Or it might just be a wine of domaine that is new to me, and thus one worth exploring in a little more detail. Whatever the point of interest is, what's important to grasp is that it's not really meant to be a simple 'wine recommendation' slot. I believe there's a lot more pleasure to be had from wine with increased understanding of what wine is and what it represents, and following unqualified recommendations, like those that accompany wine columns in print or are touted in weekly 'wine recommendation' slots on the web, rarely engender that understanding. If you enjoy wine as much as I do, and because you're reading this then there's a good chance you do, I suspect you also want more than a wine shopping list; you want some understanding of the wine, the winemaker, the grapes and the terroir. Or some knowledge of the vintage, the appellation or the region. Through this understanding comes the knowledge base which informs future purchases and further explorations. That's the real joy of wine.
Having said that, this week's wine should satisfy those that want a recommendation, as well as those who are hungry for information on the new, unusual or interesting. This wine was one I acquired a few months ago as part of a concerted effort to try and step outside my comfort zone in the Loire, by tasting and drinking wines from less familiar domaines instead of my sure-fire favourites. In Saumur that comfort zone might include Villeneuve, Clos Rougeard (well, it would be if the prices weren't shooting skywards) and Hureau, for example, but not Sébastien Bobinet, a name which is new to me. Bobinet is a local guy who began making wine under his own name after he inherited his grandfather's vines in 2003. Prior to that he had worked with the Foucault brothers of the aforementioned Clos Rougeard as well as Olivier Cousin in Anjou, so he comes with a very credible curriculum vitae, with an obvious 'natural' tinge to it. It thus comes as no surprise to learn that he soon began working his vines organically, using a horse for ploughing, and adopting a non-interventionist approach in the cellars.
Early on, Sébastien met with Xavier Amat, a wine-knowledgeable restaurateur who had sold his Paris restaurant and settled in Saumur. The first vintage was in barrel, and with Xavier's help - he had plenty of contacts in the restaurant and wine trades - the wine was sold. The two struck up a strong friendship, and the Amatéüs Bobi cuvée was born, named in Xavier Amat's honour. This is old-vine Cabernet Franc, picked by hand, destemmed and fermented in tank, prior to seeing out 16 months in old oak barrels. In the glass the 2008 Sébastien Bobinet Saumur-Champigny Amatéüs Bobi, has a pure, dark and rich hue, not opaque but certainly concentrated, shimmering and bright despite the intensity of pigment. The nose is just captivating, loaded with bright and pure fruit character. Underneath there is a real blended, compote feel to it, a melange of summer fruits, but on top some pure and brightly defined fruit character shines out, with a freshness, definition and intensity of aroma that makes my jaw drop. In particular I find black cherry and raspberry, with a fruit stone character. With more time it shows a more smoky, minerally seam to it, but the fruit holds onto that freshness and purity throughout. The palate is just delicious too, concentrated, full of cherry fruit, crisp and yet textured, the fruit flavours rich and clear, the midpalate showing tangible fruit solids, but there is nothing here to suggest fatness, this is just purely balanced fruit, minerality and appropriate substance. Despite this on the finish it shows a beautiful black cherry swirled with cream character, the intensity and concentration backed up by a seam of grippy tannins, but with that fine, sappy, mouth-filling substance still here. All in all a brilliant wine, just stunning in its form, flavour, purity and freshness. 17.5/20
What a wine! The last time I had such a spine-tingling moment of excitement was with the André Perret Condrieu Chéry 2001, four years ago. The deeper you get into wine, the less often moments of true eye-opening, breath-taking discovery such as this come along I have found. It is the purity and haunting precision of the fruit aromas on the nose that I find so striking. In short this wine is thrilling; it is not necessarily the greatest wine ever tasted, as it misses the silky elegance on the palate that screams quality, and which can be found in the wines of Clos Rougeard or Antoine Sanzay, for example. But, thanks to those hauntingly pure and defined fruit aromas, I believe this wine is likely to be one of the most memorable of 2012. (9/7/12)