Château Pierre-Bise Savennières Clos de Coulaine 2005
Of all the top Loire appellations I think I find Savennières the most curious and also the most appealing. Relatively unknown for an appellation that is the source of such high quality wine, it was a delightful moment when I first discovered its wines, courtesy of leading producers such as Florent Baumard, Nicolas Joly, Claude Papin and others. It remains relatively undiscovered, I think, for the simple reason that this isn't Bordeaux or Burgundy, or indeed the Rhône.. Whereas the latter has an increasingly prevalent position as France's third source of high quality wine, from the likes of Condrieu, Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the minds of some consumers the Loire is still regarded, as the Rhône Valley was a few decades ago, as little more than a source of 'country wine'. The points-obsessed, having written off the region as nothing more than a source of rasping Sauvignon Blanc, cheesy Chenin and rather green Cabernet Franc, as well as a melange of insufficiently pigmented and textured wines from other red varieties such Pinot Noir, Cot (or Malbec) and Gamay are very unlikely to go on to discover the region's gems.
And yet there are clearly islands of immense quality dotted up and down this grandest of rivers, one of which was noted by Curnonsky who, in the early 20th century, rated one of the Savennières vineyards, the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, among the top five in France, alongside Le Montrachet, Château Chalon, Yquem and Château Grillet. Savennières the appellation wasn't legally defined until 1952, of course, when the wines were largely in the demi-sec style. It is the modern incarnation of Savennières, which is mostly dry, that makes this particular island of vines so very special. As I have stated before on this site, I believe that this appellation is responsible for the Loire's most profound (and most enjoyable) dry white wine. In anticipation of my return to the Loire in a few weeks, I have decided to open one or two bottles, starting with the Château Pierre-Bise Savennières Clos de Coulaine 2005, a wine I purchased at the domaine on the most recent of my many visits there. The vineyard in question has been rented by Claude Papin for a few years now, and he continues to work it despite the acquisition of some more prestigious plots in the appellation, not least some vines in the Savennières cru Roches aux Moines, purchased in 2004.
The wine has a good rich hue on inspection, and the nose has a similar richness. It carries aromas of dried fruits and straw, and a certain mineral funk that I find very appealing. The palate is beautifully fresh on entry, but immediately displays a broad, textured character with some botrytis influence to the fruit here. This is a wine of dry substance, of grip, of depth, although it remains fresh with good acidity and a rather light-footed presence despite the obvious weight. Very well defined, nicely poised, although in the finish it gives way to more muscle and spice. Great length though. A super wine that is deliciously approachable now but which will surely repay cellaring too. Really very good indeed. I will be looking forward to drinking the remainder of my lot over the coming years. 17+/20 (2/6/08)