Château Pierre-Bise Chaume 1er Cru des Ctx du Layon 2003
This week's wine hails from France's most under-celebrated region, the Loire. I suppose I should come straight out and say that this wine is not only delicious but also great value, and I recommend you track down every bottle in existence. After all, this is not necessarily the rule with my Weekend Wine. But there are other aspects to this wine that make it of interest.
The INAO have fumbled with the Chaume appellation like a butter-fingered goalkeeper in recent years. For a very long time the little hamlet of Chaume has been recognised as superior to those other villages such as Beaulieu and Faye d'Anjou which could append their name to the Coteaux du Layon appellation. INAO regulations stipulated lower yields, specifically 25 hl/ha compared to 30 or 35 hl/ha elsewhere, and this together with botrytis and passerillage in combination produced some fabulously unique wines. In any one producer's portfolio the wines were usually priced somewhere between the other Layon villages and the Layon crus, namely Quarts de Chaume or Bonnezeaux.
In recognition of this the INAO created a new appellation for these wines, Chaume, Premier Cru des Coteaux du Layon. Nothing else really changed, other than the potential for the label to confuse, perhaps. And this is what we have here. Look hard and savour long, however, as these wines exist no more. Not content with upsetting the botrytised apple cart just the once, the new appellation was revoked in mid 2005. But obviously a straightforward return to Coteaux du Layon-Chaume would be far too simple, and subsequently the appellation was renamed simply Chaume. It is all rather silly, and adds to the already confusing seventy-plus appellations already in existence along the Loire, including two more created alongside the new Chaume. Needless to say I will be updating my Loire Wine Guide this week.
So onto the wine, a Château Pierre-Bise Chaume Premier Cru des Coteaux du Layon 2003, obviously bottled at a time when Chaume was still enjoying this exalted status. A very rich colour marks this wine as potentially offering something very special, and indeed the nose would seem to support this notion, with fabulous aromas of botrytis, honey, quince and minerals. It is fabulously rich and almost creamy on entry, then it strides across the midpalate with a very consistent style, before rounding up in a firm, structured finish which needs time in the cellar to round off. Nicely balanced too, by some appropriate acidity. This has just lovely style and great character, and is drinking beautifully now and will do so over the next few years, and I think will produce something very interesting indeed if left in the cellar for a little longer than that. 17+/20 (18/9/06)