NoŽlla Morantin Chez Charles Sauvignon Blanc 2012
During a recent trip to the Loire I called in on NoŽlla Morantin; I have met NoŽlla a couple of times before, both in London last year and earlier this year at the infamous Dive Bouteille, the annual tasting of all wines organic, biodynamic, 'natural' or just downright funky which is held in the semi-freezing subterranean caverns of Ch‚teau de Brťzť. This was the first time I have visited her at the domaine, however, and although the purpose of the brief visit was to find out how the 2013 harvest was going my fact-finding mission was soon transformed into a mini-tasting; I had arrived just at the end of lunch, and so unsurprisingly there were a few bottles open (if only I could time all my visits in this manner). Who was I to refuse a taste of one or two of NoŽlla's wines when offered?
I will be publishing my thoughts on these wines in a few weeks time, along with my notes from my encounter with NoŽlla earlier this year. What I will say now, however, is that every time I have tasted NoŽlla's wines I have been just that little more enamoured with them. They are growing on me, and I am more and more convinced of their merits. One or two have, on occasion, shown an oxidative streak that doesn't hold as great an appeal for me as it does for others, but equally some have shown great vibrancy and purity. With many of her vines (and her current facilities) rented from Catherine Roussel of Clos Roche Blanche I have had a sense that some have looked to NoŽlla to step into Catherine's and Didier's shoes once they retire, which I am sure is coming soon. On the basis of recent tastes, I am coming round to the thought that this is entirely realistic. And this weekend's wine only reinforces this opinion.
The Chez Charles Sauvignon Blanc is named for Charles Buchet; somehow I don't think this was the famed Charles Buchet who so successfully marketed the revolutionary CitroŽn DS to the American public from his newly established office on 5th Avenue in New York in the 1950s (I thought I had better get that one out of the way for all the car nuts reading). No, this particular Charles Buchet was a local vigneron whose family was responsible for planting many of the vines NoŽlla now exploits. The Chez Charles is one of two cuvťes of Sauvignon Blanc in the portfolio, the other being Les Pichiaux which comes from a lieu-dit of that name. In general Chez Charles has always been my favourite of the two and, having already tasted the 2012 Les Pichiaux, in this particular vintage this preference has been maintained.
The 2012 Chez Charles Sauvignon Blanc from NoŽlla Morantin has a fresh lemon-gold hue in the glass, and aromatically it offer a little blast of passion fruit at first, followed up by fresh pear, with a bright, just-picked-from-the-orchard character. It feels ripe, with nothing green or raw here, yet I also sense definition and a taut vigour. There isn't even a hint of oxidation here, by the way. There is great substance and grip on the palate, the wine showing a pithy depth, with fresh acidity giving it a rather taut, firm, very strict definition. This is really unlike any conventional style of Sauvignon Blanc you might know, the fruit aromas feel very ripe and the palate has a lovely dense, fruit pith concentration, but the underlying structure is tense and taut, the texture understated and clean. It is no less distinctive than the Number 2 or Number 5 cuvťes from Clos Roche Blanche, although the style does not really match either. But this distinctiveness alone leaves me convinced of NoŽlla's talents. The wine is long too. I think - in fact I am certain - that this is the best wine I have ever tasted from NoŽlla. Top work. 17/20 (9/12/13)
Disclosure: This bottle was a sample given to me by NoŽlla during my visit.