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Bruno Sergent Ti' Blanc 2007

It is rare that a wine holds my attention so firmly, perhaps even rarer that a wine should achieve that over the course of a week, as I return to it day after day, each time finding something a little more entrancing that the previous visit. Bruno Sergent's Ti' Blanc, however, is one such wine, a wine which - as I discussed in my sombre note on André-Michel Brégeon's 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine - has the power to confuse as well as entrance.

There's plenty to discuss here, but first up a warning. This wine, which I purchased from a merchant in Ambazac near Limoges in central France (and they have since sold out), is impossible to find, so if you view my wine of the week as a shopping-list recommendation - which is not something I've ever intended it to be - then perhaps you should stop reading now, because I can almost guarantee you won't be able to buy this wine. If, however, you might use this note as a spring-board to exploring the wines of the Loire, natural wines or those of Bruno Sergent, or indeed any wine made using the same variety as that employed here, then read on!

So perhaps we should start with the variety in question; Grolleau Gris. Looking back over my drinking history I don't think I have ever tasted a wine made from Grolleau Gris before, although it is possible that it may have sneaked into a blend somewhere along the way. It is not a variety I am familiar with; Grolleau, yes, all Loire fans know of Grolleau (or Groslot, one of many synonyms), an important variety especially for Rosé de Loire and similar wines. It is a variety I have discussed previously when expounding the virtues of the world's greatest rosé (look, even I can be prone to exaggeration now and again), Marc Angeli's Rosé d'un Jour. Grolleau Gris is of course related, and as it turns out the traditional Grolleau (which is dark-skinned and which we might be better off calling Grolleau Noir) and Grolleau Gris (gris is literally 'grey', so this is a pale-skinned version) are all clones of the same Vitis vinifera variety, which is believed to be a descendent of Gouais. There are five Noir clones and three Gris clones, the latter trio being numbered 1118, 1135 and 1136. An obvious parallel is the extended Pinot family, which includes Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier and of course the many-cloned Pinot Noir, which I discuss in more detail in my guide to the grapes of Burgundy.

Bruno Sergent Ti' Blanc 2007

Bruno Sergent has 1.3 hectares of Grolleau Gris which, if I understand correctly, is rented from that other doyen of Loire natural winemaking, Olivier Cousin. The vines have not seen fertiliser, pesticide or herbicide for more than fifteen years, but they are not officially certified as biodynamic, I think because the very small vineyard does not generate sufficient income to make that process worthwhile. The fruit is pressed using an ancient vertical press, then fermented in old barriques using natural methods, with no added yeasts or chaptalisation. He bottles it as a vin de table named Ti' Blanc, ti' being a diminutive of petit, thus this is rather modestly declared a petit blanc (although, on tasting it, I think it is anything but petit). It is from the 2007 vintage, although that is not declared on the label, and registers 12.5%. And how does it confuse? Well, this is a wine that was certainly better after considerable exposure to oxygen; I enjoyed this much more on day two than I did on day one (and indeed it drank well for several days).

Returning to it on day two, the slightly concerning notes of nut and earth I had seen on day one were still there, but they were low level and intertwined with some brighter, complex elements. There are aromas here of toasty, candied, citrus-fruit pith, mixed with a rich roasted almond, and then coming in there are even more subtle tones, of baked oranges and dried earth. But there is none of the tell-tale acetaldehyde that might suggest oxidation. In fact there's more than a hint of skin contact to it and this suggestion comes across on inspection - it has the rich, lightly hazy, almost partridge-eye hue of a skin contact white - and on the lightly grippy palate as well. Having said that, I don't know for sure if there is a prolonged period of skin contact here, but I know near-neighbour Olivier Cousin ferments with the skins, sometimes without pressing. The palate is firm, fresh, lively and full of tangy, orange and lemon fruit. The bolder characteristics on the nose, especially that note of roasted nut come through as well, although it is contrasted very well with the bright and tangy flavours and fresh acidity. The texture is supple and full, the overall impression polished but vigorous, and the finish lingering. Overall this is a good wine, certainly full of interest, but also remarkably challenging in its composition of flavour and structure. 15.5/20 (15/8/11)

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