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Champalou Vouvray Cuvée Moelleuse 1996

At some point during the latter half of 2009 I took a moment to review the proportion of Loire wines featuring as my Weekend Wine - just to make sure there was enough, of course. I forget exactly when it was, although I suspect it was late summer, following a period when the Loire didn't feature for seven weeks running, having been ousted by the likes of Sociando-Mallet, Valdivieso, Bollinger and - shocking, I know - two commercial Australians from Jacob's Creek and Griffith Park. The inclusion of the latter two wines resulted in a deluge of emails, all protesting at the new direction the site appeared to be taking. Not so! I merely thought the two wines made a nice focus for contrasting branded, 'created' wines and the sort of wines I more commonly feature, wines from small independent vignerons such as Druet or Angeli. Plus they were both worthwhile wines, the Jacob's Creek Steingarten Riesling a good wine in its own right, the Griffith Park wine good within its price bracket and an appropriate context (it's a party wine, really). The fact the latter wine was being heavily marketed in the UK only served to illustrate how these wines differ from those made at small, family-owned domaines.

So now the year is over, how did the Loire fare after a full twelve months? Not too bad as it turns out; in 49 weeks (the missing three weeks is a consequence of my regular summer-time hiatus, when I always take a break from Winedoctor) the Loire featured 19 times (38%), just short of two-fifths. I think that fits quite nicely with wanting to maintain a focus on this region, but also maintaining a context which takes in wines from many other regions too. In second place came Bordeaux with six wines (12%), followed by a very broad selection taking in most regions of France as well as wines from Rioja, Portugal, Germany, South Africa, Australia and Chile.

So for 2010 I will kick off in the right frame of mind, and today add yet another wine from the Loire - making this year's total so far 50% Loire, 50% Champagne. Champalou is certainly one of the region's small, family-owned domaines that I have alluded to above. Established in 1985 by Didier and Catherine Champalou, there are now 22 hectares of vines yielding a well-established portfolio of cuvées, including the dry and elegant Le Portail, the richer Cuvée des Fondraux and the wine featured here, the Cuvée Moelleuse. This is one of the Champalou's sweeter cuvées, produced only in the most favourable years, the other sweet cuvée being the even more exalted Trie de Vendanges (sometimes referred to as Cuvée Catherine or Cuvée CC). In this vintage the Cuvée Moelleuse is a wine I have been in raptures over before now, and I have found to my delight that the sweetness works very well with blue cheese, especially a post-festive Stilton. It is now three years since my last taste of the Champalou Vouvray Cuvée Moelleuse 1996, and there has certainly been development during that time, evident first of all in the colour, which as a slightly deeper, golden tinge than the pale hue it has displayed on previous tastings. The nose too has a new dimension, honeyed and crystalline, with a quartz-like crispness, quince, straw and herbal tea - these are very welcome developments, and this wine now shows much more what I would expect from such a cuvée. Lovely gentle sweetness on the palate, broad and crystalline, buoyed up by firm acidity which will keep this wine going for years I would think. Notes of orange, marrowy flesh, but well framed and structured, and overall very fine. Grippy finish too. Still very much on the way up. 17.5+/20 (25/1/10)

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