Domaine Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1993
Having returned from the Loire only the day before this particular Wine of the Week is published, with lots of new Loire tasting notes for new and updated profiles, it seems only right that I should kick off the second half of 2007 with a wine from one of the appellations that line what must surely be France's greatest river. And so to one of the greatest expressions of Vouvray, which is perhaps the region's most lauded commune, the super-rich Cuvée Constance from Domaine Huet.
The wines of Vouvray vary in style considerably, but thankfully unlike some other regions of France here there is a classification system according to residual sugar which at least gives a clue as to the style. From my Huet profile, typical figures for the levels which range from sec through to moelleux are as follows:
- sec - typically 3 - 5 g/l
- demi-sec - typically 10 - 20 g/l
- moelleux - typically over 30 g/l
- moelleux premier trie - anything goes, but generally 60 - 100 g/l
At the pinnacle of the Huet portfolio, however, is Cuvée Constance, named for the wife of the domaine's founder, Victor. This wine is a selection of botrytised grapes made only in the best years, in relatively small quantities, typically only a few hundred cases; the inaugural vintage was 1989, followed by this vintage, 1993, and then 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005. The fruit may be sourced from any of Huet's three principle vineyards, Clos du Bourg, Le Haut Lieu and Le Mont, and the wine when finished may have in some vintages in excess of 200 g/l of residual sugar, although it may frequently be much less than this (the 2005 vintage, for example, finished up with 136.5 g/l of sugar). But although rather like nectar, it is the depth and intensity rather than the obvious sweetness of these wines that captivates most of all. Even in less auspicious (but nevertheless perfectly adequate) vintages such as 1993 the results can be delightful. Even so, although initially released as a Cuvée Constance, the 1993 was subsequently withdrawn and relabelled as the Le Haut Lieu Moelleux Première Trie. I have both bottles in the cellar, and really should look at the two side-by-side some time.
The 1993 Cuvée Constance has a remarkably rich colour for any wine from Vouvray, belying the intensity of this nectar. The nose is remarkable, marked by aromas of rich golden syrup, with a whispering seam of botrytis which has a curiously dry suggestion, as does the nutty, caramel nuances that follow on. This is deep, complex and multi-facetted. The palate has an impressive, broad character, with plenty of substance, rich but yet not opulently sweet as indeed the nose suggested; rather it is impressively layered and textured. This has a fine presence on the palate, built on depth and quality rather than a flattering layer of sugar, and I like the wine all the more for it. It is complex, with hidden depths that cry out to be explored. Although not the greatest Cuvée Constance by a mile, and certainly not the greatest vintage, this is a pleasure all the same. Great length too. Fine, drinking now, although there is no particular hurry. 18/20 (23/7/07)