Les Cailloux du Paradis Quartz 2008
This week I will be continuing my focus on 2011 Bordeaux. Carrying on from my 2011 Pessac-Léognan and 2011 St Estèphe reports posted last week, next up are Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux. I like to provide something as a complete contrast as my Weekend Wine, and with the Loire being my other passion that isn't always that difficult. A stalwart in this respect is Claude Courtois of Les Cailloux du Paradis; he's given me plenty of interesting bottles to consider in the past, including his Romorantin and Racines cuvées. This week another of his better known wines, Quartz.
Claude and his son Etienne have a 13-hectare (well, I should say had - about 5 hectares has been cleaved off to give Etienne's brother Julien Courtois a start) domaine with a range of classic Loire varieties planted, such as the aforementioned Romorantin but also Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côt, Pineau d'Aunis, a host of other rarer breeds including Gascon and - of course - Sauvignon Blanc. It is the latter of this list that is featured in the Quartz cuvée, although as we might deduce from the name of the wine, Claude's focus is more on the terroir than on the variety. Nevertheless the vines do deserve some mention, if only to point out that they are largely mature, and also largely ungrafted (protected from phylloxera by the sandy, flinty soils here), although there is some young-vine fruit going into this cuvée as well, and they are tended biodynamically (with Nature et Progrès certification). The entire domaine has a biodiverse feel to it, a combination of vineyards, woods, fields and flower meadows.
The fruit for the Quartz cuvée is fermented in oak barrels, and sees an élevage of at least 12 months in same. I have read that there is a tendency towards an oxidative or plain oxidised edge to the wines, although I certainly didn't find this too notable in this bottle. Sure, there was a certain sourness to the fruit, and a little bruised apple character clearly indicating a little oxidation here, but I didn't find this distracted from the overall effect. Once out of the bottle this wine really takes an hour or so to open up, and I found it benefited hugely from decanting, not only to coax some of the interesting aromas out of the wine, but also to deal with a light-brown sediment that I assume are stained potassium tartrate crystals.
The nose on the 2008 vintage (it is a Vin de France, so only the lot number - Lt 08-4 - gives us the vintage) is never really that exuberant, but it does move from a somewhat ungiving stance at first to one that expresses - after some time in the decanter - notes of wild fruits, slightly musky yellow plum and there is an undeniable vein of bruised apple behind, a feature I generally find unattractive but it is so subtle here that you really only spot it if you go looking for it. Where the wine holds appeal for me though is on the palate, which has a deliciously savoury character, all mouth-watering with a slightly sour edge to the fruit, good substance and bright acidity. This carries alongside the same musky-sour fruit found on the nose a certain quartzy-minerality which I find gently reminiscent of Quarts de Chaume (some auto-suggestion, perhaps?), vibrant and minerally, a character that persists on the finish. Overall the palate proves very moreish and satisfying, and the end result is distinctive, definitely not dull or varietal, and certainly worth the effort in pulling the cork. 15/20 (16/4/12)