Château Pierre-Bise Savennières Roche aux Moines 2005
After taking a look two weeks ago at Claude Papin's 2005 Clos de la Coulaine I thought I would move on to what might be regarded as Claude Papin's most significant wine, his Savennières Roche aux Moines 2005. Or perhaps I should say potentially most significant, as these vines have only been part of the Pierre-Bise portfolio for a few years now.
The two crus of Savennières, Roche aux Moines and La Coulée de Serrant, lie amongst the vineyards of Savennières on the right bank of the Loire as it flows past Béhuard and Rochefort-sur-Loire. The first of these two crus, a rocky outcrop which sits nearly opposite the point where the Layon drains into the Loire accounts for 17 hectares of the appellation. During the 13th Century it bore a fortress and was the site of several battles between the French and English, in which the latter, led by King John, were defeated. It was probably not until the 14th century that the first vineyards were established. With the passing of time viticulture became the more significant activity, and all that remains of the fortress today is a round tower and a few tumble-down ruins. In more recent times there has been a significant shift away from sweeter wines to a much drier style, and since 1980 the appellation has seen a huge expansion.
For many years Papin's greatest expression of the Savennières appellation was the aforementioned Clos de la Coulaine, but in 2004 he acquired two other plots in the Savennières appellation, including one in the cru Roche aux Moines. His first vintage with full responsibility for the vines throughout the entire growing season on the Roche aux Moines plot was not until the 2005 vintage, the wine assessed here. My first impression of the wine, on tasting it during the summer of 2007 when I visited the domaine was that it was breath-taking in its freshness and its purity, and so it is a delight to broach the wine once more, just a few weeks before I return to the Loire.
And so to the wine, Pierre-Bise's Savennières Roche aux Moines from the 2005 vintage. In the glass it has a rich, straw-gold hue. The nose is a little different to how I remember it; previously lifted and pure, here it displays greater richness, with aromas of honey, overt botrytis, minerals, straw and firm, crystalline fruit. It is still pure in character, but with an undeniable force too. The palate is full, weighty, structured, grippy, firm and flavoursome, and again this is showing very differently to the shimmering elegance I recall last year. It has a slightly bitter character despite the richness, reflecting a raw structure and underlying grip. There is a gentle integration of components, with a sappy and light character on the midpalate which is more in keeping with my memories, with more unrefined elements towards the finish. Although showing differently today, there is still a huge amount of raw potential here, and excellent capability for cellaring. This should be fine given another five or ten years, although it may drink well beyond even that. 18.5+/20 (16/6/08)