Marc Pesnot Labouriou 2009
Another distinctive wine this week, from a less-than producer. Although last week's examination of red Sancerre brought to light the intriguing story of how this appellation evolved from a predominantly red appellation into one that is largely white, eventually giving us an archetypal style for Sauvignon Blanc (while Pinot Noir fell by the wayside for many producers, for many years), the wine itself - the 2004 Réserve de Marcigoué from François Crochet - was fairly mainstream in comparison to this week's choice. We have to look back another week to the 2007 Ti' Blanc, a vin de table Grolleau Gris from Bruno Sergent, to find something on the same level of esotericism as today's wine.
The wine in question here is the 2009 Labouriou, a vin de table from Marc Pesnot. Although not quite as famous as, say, Marc Ollivier or Pierre Luneau-Papin, Marc is nevertheless rightly regarded by those in the know as one of the more significant producers of Muscadet (and similarly styled wines made from Melon de Bourgogne) which are, for one reason or another, often designated vin de table rather than appellation contrôlée; one such wine of his I featured not that long ago was the 2009 La Bohème from Domaine de la Sénéchalière (Marc's domaine), with its geekily informative label. Just like Marc Ollivier of Domaine de la Pépière, Marc Pesnot also dabbles with a few red varieties, but whereas the former restricts himself to immediately familiar types including the Cabernets, Gamay and Cot, Pesnot utilises the little-known Abouriou variety in the production of his Labouriou cuvée.
Abouriou appears to be native to south-west France, having first been documented growing there in the 19th century, and today it still finds its way into wines in the Côtes du Marmandais and Buzet appellations. It is usually blended with other varieties, perhaps because it has a reputation for providing good colour, tannin and flavour but not much acidity. As a consequence finding mono-varietal cuvées employing Abouriou is not that easy, although they do exist, sometimes under one of the variety's many synonyms, which include Early Burgundy (the name by which it is known in California), Gamay du Rhône and Gamay Beaujolais (although I note some resources ascribe the latter pseudonym to an early-ripening clone of Pinot Noir). Indeed, California seems to provide some happy hunting in this respect, as a number of producers seem to be persevering with Abouriou there. Happily so to are more than a handful of vignerons in France, including the Loire, and Marc Pesnot is one of them.
Nevertheless, the 2009 Labouriou from Marc Pesnot is not a straightforward wine on which to report; rather like my recent experience with Bruno Sergent's Ti' Blanc 2007, this is a wine that raised concerns at first, only to subsequently come good. It was the first pour that caused some worry; the colour was fabulous, with a gloriously dark and yet still vibrant hue, but as I poured the wine was frothing up in the glass. Some wines bottled before the fermentation has completely finished - I suppose the Loire's pet' nat' and méthode ancestrale wines are the ultimate examples - can of course show a firm pétillance in the glass (they're meant to!). And some bottled with a prickle of carbon dioxide can also show some small bubbles which usually collect on the inside of the glass; the most recent wine I drank from Joh. Jos. Prüm, for example, did this, even though it was ten years old. Nevertheless here the force of the fizz was such I wondered whether this low-sulphur cuvée had experienced a little refermentation in the bottle. Happily that didn't turn out to be the case, although it took a day before I could be sure. A good swirl soon rid the wine of its carbon dioxode, nevertheless on the first day it seemed to be all over the place, aromatically and on the palate, though, although by the end of the evening it was showing some appealing wild plum elements. The second day this was much more together. By now it was showing an impressive plum and sour-cherry fruit profile, with a vibrant blast of violets, all wrapped up in a stony frame. The palate shows all the freshness of violets and pebbles, with an exciting lift to the wine thanks to its stony-fruit edge and bright acidity. By this stage there was a lovely clarity of flavour, with a firm substance, and a chalky edge to the finish nicely offset by just the lightest hint of fruit sweetness. But what persists here most of all is the minerally, perfumed bitterness. I shouldn't draw parallels, but overall I found it reminiscent of a good quality Morgon, from Jean Foillard perhaps. Perhaps there is good reason for the Early Burgundy and Gamay Beaujolais monikers! 16/20 (29/8/11)