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Bouvet-Ladubay Saumur Saphir 2010

It's getting towards that time of year when even the most ardent despisers of all things mousseux somehow end up with a glass of fizz in their hands. For some perhaps only Krug (or similar) will do, of course, but for those of us who must reserve such treats for very special occasions, where can we turn to satisfy our fizzy cravings? Or, for the Richard Nixons among you, what are you going to pour for your guests while you're tucking into the Clos d'Ambonnay?

The answer these days is increasingly Prosecco, which for some of my friends seems to have become something of a regular Friday-night tipple. That's a development I welcome, but regular readers will surely know that I'm much more likely to look to the Loire instead, a region which is rich in sparkling styles, from the diversity and flexibility of Crémant de Loire, to the grand vinosity of Vouvray, as well as all the unusual and eclectic styles that come under the Vin Mousseux de Qualité banner, everything from sparkling reds to Muscadet-lookalikes with bubbles. It's a fascinating region to explore from this point of view (and many other points of view also!).

Bouvet-Ladubay Saumur Saphir 2010

This weekend saw this wine, from Bouvet-Ladubay, one of Saumur's leading sparkling wine houses, bite the dust. The Saphir cuvée is one of their top selections along with Trésor, and it is a reliable port of call for those who prefer their Loire Valley fizz to mirror its origins; I know some out there are not so keen on the more polished styles such as those from Langlois-Chateau. The soils around Saumur feature a lot of limestone and this comes through in the character of wines such as this; when the fruit character within the wine feels more like the stone of the fruit than the flesh, so much so that sometimes it feels more like sucking a pebble than anything more fruity, you know you've found a good one.

The 2010 Saumur Saphir from Bouvet-Ladubay has a pale straw-gold hue in the glass, with a very strong central bead (although that is a reflection of the glass, which has an etched 'bubble generator', as much as the wine), but there are plenty of bubbles throughout the body of the wine. It has a pleasant exuberance on the nose, although it takes an hour or so to really open up, showing all stony and bright, but with a soft fruit edge to what is predominantly a chalk and fruit pith character. It is gentle and full on the palate, increasingly supple with air, slightly fleshy and forward in the end, and a harmonious texture contrasted against a stony, lean bite to the structure. The fruit eventually relaxes to show some appealing red apple flavours, with a faint twist of citrus to it as well. Overall this is attractive and very typical of the Loire, and bound to please those who are looking for the chalky bite this region offers, and not a Champagne look-a-like. Good. Bottle number 089111B. 15.5/20 (3/12/12)

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