Couly-Dutheil Chinon Clos de l'Echo 2010
Over the last few months my interest in Chinon has been reignited with a series of bottles, many from very recent vintages, specifically 2009 and 2010, but also looking as far back as 2003. Many of these bottles have featured as my weekend wine. It's time to call a halt to this mini-series now, simply because I've worked my way though all the different domaines, vintages and cuvées that I have stacked up in the cellar. Today's wine is the last.
Perhaps Couly-Dutheil is not an obvious domaine on which to finish. As I have written before, Loire obsessives tend to focus on the likes of Bernard Baudry and Philippe Alliet, two of a small handful of domaines turning out top-class wines. Couly-Dutheil, meanwhile, perhaps as a result of the very broad range of wines produced here, has a somewhat more mainstream appeal. It is the sort of domaine that drinkers who do not focus on the Loire, and who wouldn't know their Baudry from their Breton, are aware of. I do wonder if this doesn't mean serious Loire geeks sometimes overlook it; familiarity can breed contempt. When looking at the top end of the range (there's no denying there are some fairly weedy wines at the bottom) though, particularly from the best sites which are the Clos de l'Echo and the Clos de l'Olive, the wines can be very exciting.
I have far more experience with the wines of the Clos de l'Echo than with any other wine from the Couly-Dutheil range, no surprise perhaps as this is, along with the likes of the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant and trio of Domaine Huet vineyards, one of the Loire's best known lieux-dits. The site had been planted with vines until phylloxera struck, after which it lay wild for several decades. This was the situation when Baptiste Dutheil acquired the upper section of the vineyard in 1925. He cleared and replanted his land, but it was not until René Couly added the lower section to the portfolio in 1951 that the vineyard we know today came together. Remarkably, the site was not even recognised in the 1937 decree in which the appellation was described, and it was only included retrospectively. Today it is a monopole in the possession of Couly-Dutheil. The terroir, as I have discussed in relation to previous bottles, is a remarkably homogenous mix of clay and limestone, mirroring the limestone côte to the east of the city.
In the glass, the 2010 Clos de l'Echo from Couly-Dutheil has a very pure, dark and glossy appearance. The nose feels richly imbued with character, showing an expressive and open, slightly exotic black-fruit character. There are black cherries to the fore, with nuances of charcoal, and with other black fruits hiding behind it all, in particular a tense blackberry fruit, a somewhat unusual characteristic for Chinon. There is also a spicy black pepper element which lends a dry and savoury note. This is ripe and concentrated and yet savoury, broad and polished, and loaded with tannin. These tannins feel ripe and firm but have a silky edge, and although they show more muscle and substance on the finish, they still show a ripe and velvety weight. A wine of remarkable quality, long and delightful, with great potential. 18/20 (28/10/13)