François Cazin Cour-Cheverny 2011
The appellations of Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny are not the best known in the Loire, but like all unsung wine regions they deserve exploration, their anonymity often little to do with the quality of the wines and more to do with fashion or, in the case of the Loire, appellation overload (not that difficult to achieve here, the region boasting about eighty different appellations). By this I mean it is not that difficult to be over-faced with such a diverse selection when coming to the region for the first time. Those unfamiliar with the great diversity offered by the Loire Valley are, perhaps understandably, far more likely to go for a name they know - Sancerre, Vouvray or Savennières - than plump for something unheard of such as Cour-Cheverny.
Some would argue that the Loire has too many appellations, and that that they should be cut back, in order to simplify things. I would agree that some appellations (such as the myriad of different Touraine suffixes available) seem superfluous, but on the whole I would resist such change. The large number of appellations is largely a reflection of the huge expanse of this wine region, the many different terroirs involved, and the different varieties that are plented here. I would much prefer to explore and discover, casting the spotlight on this diversity, rather than eradicating it. Ultimately it is diversity, and not the grandeur of the label, or which wine received the highest score from a famous critic, that makes wine interesting.
There is no question of my interest in the Cour-Cheverny appellation, which features the rare Romorantin grape. Having said that, for many years I did wonder about the Cheverny appellation, which seems like more of a mish-mash of unusual blends, including Sauvignon Blanc with Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir with Gamay (not that unusual in the case of the latter; this is, I suppose, the Loire's equivalent of Burgundy's Passe-Tout-Grains). But if you look harder you can find interest and diversity here, including wines that feature large percentages of Menu Pineau (Arbois) which are fascinating, as well as good quality and value. Some of the most appealing wines come from names such as Laura Semeria (Domaine de Montcy), Michel Quenouix (Domaine de Veilloux) and Michel Gendrier (Domaine des Huards). Earlier this year I met up with all three (twice in Laura's case), and tasted through their current ranges. All turn out fine examples of Cheverny and/or Cour-Cheverny; new profiles and tasting reports are on their way.
One name I have known much longer than the three aforementioned vignerons is François Cazin, who similarly turns out an impressive range of both Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny; I am most familiar with the latter, and for me his wines continue to define what is capable in this appellation. His Cuvée Renaissance, with its twist of residual sugar, is perhaps my favourite wine from the appellation, the strident acidity of the Romorantin working very well in a demi-sec style. He also makes a dry wine though, as featured here. The 2011 François Cazin Cour-Cheverny has a pale hue in the glass, which might not incite great interest, but the aromatics certainly do, being loaded with quartzy, matchsticky nuances, a fresh and somewhat reductive edge to the scents of straw, white flowers and citrus fruit pith. The palate is substantial and confident, with bold citrus fruit at the start, immediately resonating with the aromatics, taking on a rather stony-gravelly fruit character through the middle of the wine. It has a broad presence on the midpalate, with a tangible backbone to it, giving the wine real form in the mouth. It is vigorous, dry, with the trademark acidity of the variety giving it some real punch, perhaps showing in quite a challenging style in the finish. This is why a little residual sugar can really lift these wines. Having said that, I really like this one, with all its stony, pithy fruit. Very good. 16/20 (16/6/14)