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Le Sec de Juchepie Anjou Les Monts 2007

From last week's Pineau d'Aunis, otherwise known as Chenin Noir, to Chenin Blanc this week. As my Bordeaux antidote today I have sailed a little further downstream from where Emile Hérédia is based in Naveil, north of Tours, to the Anjou vineyards of Domaine de Juchepie, home to Eddy Oosterlinck. Belgian by birth, and onetime proprietor of a hardware store of all things, Eddy settled near Faye d'Anjou - one of the communes of the Coteaux du Layon - intent on making wine. It was, I think, an adventure in culture for this man who also loves theatre and music.

Le Sec de Juchepie Anjou Les Monts 2007I was first drawn to Eddy Oosterlinck's wines at a tasting in Angers organised by Marc Angeli of La Ferme de la Sansonnière and the inimitable Nicolas Joly. It was not his handsome handlebar moustache that I first noticed, nor his sweep of silver-grey hair tied back into a ponytail, nor was it Mileine, his always-elegantly attired spouse. No, it was the sweet wines that I noticed; his portfolio of Coteaux du Layon cuvées ascend in concentration, level of botrytis and residual sugar, and when decanted - as is always the case - they make for a fabulously colourful display, ranging from the lightly golden hue of Les Churelles through Les Quarts and La Passion, up to the intense, honeyed, golden orange hue of the botrytis-rich Cuvée Quintessence. Tasting the wines, in a slightly cynical frame of mind (thinking that such wonderful presentation must be masking some deficiency in the wines) I found my immediate prejudice was ill-founded; the wines were in fact really very good indeed. Nevertheless it was the sweet wines that really made their mark, perhaps not that surprising in the context of such a tasting, where the richest and most extravagant cuvées will always stand out the clearest. I have, however, also come to appreciate his dry wines, although I admit that my appreciation of these has built up more slowly over time rather than the rapid wave of emotion I felt when tasting the sweeter wines. There are two such cuvées, Les Monts and Le Clos, both made from botrytis-free fruit (the nobly rotten grapes being destined for the sweeter cuvées, naturally).

As you might expect from his presence at a Joly-Angeli affair, Eddy works biodynamically, his concern being as much the sustainability of his land as well as the quality of his wines. Unlike some proponents of biodynamic viticulture, however, his focus in the cellar is obtaining wine of great quality, so although he is reducing his sulphur use little by little he is certain that he won't be releasing any sulphur-free wines. This makes him rather unpopular with the more feverish natural-wine brigade, but it makes him very popular with me, because - the proof being in the tasting of the pudding - the wines are very good indeed. This, the 2007 Sec de Juchepie Les Monts, has a polished yellow gold hue. The nose is certainly rather awkward at the very start, so this is a wine which needs to breathe for a little to allow these aromas to blow off. What is then revealed, as the wine relaxes and opens up in the glass, is just delightful; there are very pure fruit elements, miles from that early paint-like aroma, starting with sweet and pure pineapple, then bright golden pears. But this is not all merely sweet fruit, there is a much more waxy and savoury feel to it, giving the impression that there is a tannic, lightly oaky density behind it all. Lovely polished feel on the palate, with a fine weight running right through the middle and into the finish. Great grip in the centre of it all, with slightly dried fruit character here over a lovely, grainy texture. Very pure and fresh and grippy, the wine showing fine definition and some really good energy at its core. This is lovely, rather reminiscent of the wines of Richard Leroy, and is undoubtedly the best bottle of this yet. This latter comment may well reflect, rather than any change in the wine itself, a greater appreciation of what it has to offer when sitting and actually drinking it over the course of a couple of evenings - which is what wine is for, of course. 17/20 (11/4/11)

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