Domaine Masson-Blondelet Pouilly-Fumé Les Angelots 2012
Some wines bring a moment of intellectual interest, a chance to reflect on their origins, to analyse how one particular wine differs from another, a wine perhaps made from different varieties, or from vines grown on a different terroir. Some wines impress with their energy and vivacity, wines which within a moment of hitting the palate immediately instruct you to sit up and pay attention, because this is not a wine to be casually sipped, but is instead a wine to revel in, a vinous roll in the hay perhaps? Other wines, however, prefer to gently seduce you with their complexity, their exquisite balance, their texture and structure intertwined in perfect symmetry, neither so uncouth as to speak above the other.
It isn't often, however, that you come across a wine that achieves all of these in a single mouthful.
Domaine Masson-Blondelet is one of the leading names in Pouilly-Fumé, an appellation which doesn't seem to get so much attention as Sancerre, despite that fact that there are some hugely dedicated and thoughtful growers living and working here. And that statement isn't simply a veiled reference to Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau; I'm not denying the quality of his (or his father's) wines, as I have found great appeal in recent vintages, it is just that there is more to Pouilly-Fumé than this one domaine, just as there is more to Margaux than Château Margaux, and more to Pomerol than Petrus. There isn't enough love for the other growers of Pouilly-Fumé beyond the Dagueneau family in my opinion, so I'm doing my bit here.
Shining the light on one or two other domaines in the appellation isn't an arduous undertaking when we have the likes of Domaine Masson-Blondelet giving us wines such as the one up for discussion here. Jean-Michel Masson and his family tend about 21 hectares of vines across several different terroirs in the appellation, and they vinify according to these terroirs. This particular wine comes from vines planted on limestone, near Le Bouchot (on the outskirts of Pouilly-sur-Loire) and near Saint-Quentin-sur-Nohain, near the edge of the appellation. Jean-Michel describes the limestone as Portlandian, which surprised me, as I didn't expect such a spine-tingling and exciting wine from this terroir. On review of modern geological maps from the Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières and the Pouilly-Fumé syndicat (the second is, admittedly, probably derived from the first), however, I see that the limestone is in fact calcaire de Villiers, which seems to straddle the Upper Oxfordian and Lower Kimmeridgian. Kimmeridgian limestone, as any advocate of Chavignol in Sancerre and the grand cru vineyards in Chablis knows, has long been associated with top quality wines.
The 2012 Pouilly-Fumé Les Angelots feels tightly coiled when it hits the glass, the nose introverted and reticent, and it takes an hour or so to really open up to release its full aromatic complexity. It also feels a little soft on the palate on first taste, and over the course of this first hour as the nose unfurls the palate corresponds by firming up, showing more frame and structure. In truth the first taste is a little underwhelming, but it proves the point that it is not just aged Bordeaux that needs a little time in a decanter to show its best, and the most informative way is to assess a wine over the course of an evening as here, as opposed to the fleeting encounters many tasting notes are based on. The nose, once it opens up, shows a firm, limestone substance, before it reveals streaks of gooseberry fruit, nuanced with a delightfully and unceasingly smoky, flinty-slatey edge. In the mouth it shows off, the cool tension of the midpalate the base from which it reveals layers of ripe and very correct fruit with a green pear-skin bite, underpinned by tingling yet polished acidity. Energetic, beautifully balanced, cerebral and speaking of its origins, this is a wine of great harmony, supple and perfectly poised. A stunning success and a wine that left me feeling invigorated the entire weekend. 18/20 (1/9/14)