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Pierre Jacques Druet Bourgueil Rosé 2006

After Marc Angeli's Rosé d'un Jour, a wine which he fashions from the unfashionable Grolleau, I now have another Loire rosé to extol, one made with a more widely seen and perhaps more 'conventional' variety, although it is certainly not made in a way that would be described as conventional.

This is the rosé produced by one of the doyens (if not the doyen) of Bourgueil, Pierre Jacques Druet. Rather than Grolleau the grape here is Cabernet Franc, perhaps to be expected considering this is the red variety that dominates both of Touraine's main red appellations, Chinon and Bourgueil, with other varieties - namely Cabernet Sauvignon - playing second fiddle. But that is where the simplicities end. Most producers make a rosé as a sideline, essentially a by-product of their real interest and income-generator, the red wines. The juice comes from two principle sources, the first being young vines that do not produce a must of sufficient quality to be considered worthy of making a red wine. The second source is the saignée - the bleeding-off of juice from the vats containing the red grapes and juice - in order to increase the ratio of grape solids to juice, and therefore gain more concentration of colour and tannin in the resulting red wine. If this is done after only a short period of skin contact what is bled off is lightly coloured, essentially embryonic rosé, which only needs to be transferred to another vat or barrel to finish fermenting.

None of this is good enough for Druet though; his rosé is sourced from mature vines, declared on the label (shown below) as having an average age of 45 years, although Druet told me when I visited him in 2008 that this includes a number of vines which are as much as 100 years old. Considering the huge contribution that such vines could make to Druet's red wines, it is remarkable that he should channel the fruit of such venerable old creatures into a rosé.

Pierre Jacques Druet Bourgueil Rosé 2006

There are more surprises in store in the winery; after a short period of very cold (about 2ºC) skin contact in order to impart the necessary colour, Druet bleeds off the juice in to oak vats and then allows the temperature to rise, but only as high as 12ºC, allowing a rather slow fermentation to kick in. In such cold conditions this will hardly be a run-away affair, and may well take 3 or 4 months to complete. During this time the carbon dioxide generated will lift tiny impurities up to the surface, effectively clarifying the wine as it ferments. It sounds improbable, but Druet is a fervent advocate of the technique, which he learnt from an old colleague in Vouvray when he was just starting out as a young vigneron. Once the fermentation is finished, typically leaving 3-4 g/l residual sugar, a much firmer and drier style than Angeli's, the wine is sterilised, filtered, sulphured and bottled.

And so to the tasting. The 2006 Bourgueil Rosé from Pierre Jacques Druet has a deep salmon pink hue, and is perhaps a little deeper in colour than my last bottle, which on reviewing my notes I see was a year ago. Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised; winter weather doesn't tend to foster many "rosé moments"! It doesn't have such a delicate nose any more; it is now rather firmer, with solid strawberry and cream fruit, although I get the same redcurrant notes that I have previously perceived. The palate is full, quite rich, a little weighty, quite serious in fact. There are plenty of leafy red fruit flavours through the middle, with a nice core of acidity which sits very well within an open envelope of fruit. Solid but still refreshing, "full and fleshy" as I described it last year, culminating in a lingering, grippy bitterness which I find appealing. This is good wine, especially when you remember that, despite all his considered efforts, Druet knocks this out at the domaine for little more than €5. For that sort of money, this is remarkable wine. 16.5/20 (22/6/09)

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