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Clos Rougeard Saumur Brézé 2005

This week I am casting the spotlight on Saumur, starting today with a fabulous example of what Chenin Blanc is capable of in this appellation, as evoked by the Foucault brothers of Clos Rougeard, without doubt one of the region's leading domaines. The wine was one of many delightful bottles recently encountered in a Saumur tasting, largely Saumur-Champigny but also with half-a-handful of white and sparkling wines. It was a superb tasting.

Such was the quality of the wines at the tasting that I could have chosen almost any as my Weekend Wine, but I settled on this one, which was certainly one of the most enticing. The Foucaults have about 10 hectares of vines altogether, of which most are planted to Cabernet Franc in the Saumur-Champigny appellation, but there is also a little over 1 hectare in the commune of Brézé planted to Chenin Blanc from which they produce this cuvée.

Clos Rougeard Saumur Brézé 2005

Brézé, in particular its ancient château, is a fascinating destination for a visit. From the outside the building looks like any other early Loire château, fortified and typically Medieval rather than in the later Renaissance style, so more akin to Saumur or Blois rather than the more elegant Azay-le-Rideau or the extravagant Chambord. This reflects its ancient origins which lie in at least the 11th century, possibly earlier than that. But the site is in fact much older than the château alone suggests, for there was human habitation here for many centuries before it was built. Beneath its towering walls there is more than a kilometre of subterranean tunnels, lengthy galleries, hidden rooms and stone closets, even tiny animal pens, all of which ultimately connect not only with the château above, but also with the very deep dry moat around the building.

I suppose when mentioning Brézé's château and wine in the same breath we should really focus on the wine of the Brézé estate itself (there has been a vineyard here since the 15th century) but instead I have chosen to look at another Brézé wine, those of the Foucault brothers. The 2005 Saumur Brézé from Clos Rougeard has a fairly rich hue in the glass, with a tinge of gold. The nose is impressive, with a seam of dried fruit, autumnal but also vibrant and firm, with notes of fennel too. Some of this may be related to the oak which is still apparent on the nose, tight and grainy, just a little honeyed. The palate has a firm and polished substance, but with very solid and upright character, and piles of grip and drying tannin. This is a wine for the future I think; although fascinating to taste now it is without doubt one that will improve and integrate over the coming years; just how long is difficult to predict, but I would try at least five years. Great wine, which is gently reminiscent of white Hermitage as much as Saumur! 17.5-18+/20 (11/1/10)

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