Domaine des Rochelles Coteaux de l'Aubance 2006
This week a wine from an appellation often overlooked in favour of more famous names, most notably the Coteaux du Layon or Chaume. The vineyards of the Coteaux de l'Aubance lie along - as the name so obviously suggests - the Aubance, a tiny tributary of the Loire. This stream runs in a northwards direction, until it turns to the northwest heading for the Brissac-Quincé. From here it continues, turning slowly west at Mûrs-Erigné, before draining into the Louet, an arm of the Loire that runs from Angers down to Montjean-sur-Loire. The river's erosion has not created a long string of southerly slopes like those found along the Layon; the topography here is more varied, a series of small slopes and hills with many different aspects. These are in many places planted with Chenin, and with the help of botrytis, encouraged by the mists of the Aubance, there is the potential here for producing some attractive sweet wines, as recognised by the Coteaux de l'Aubance appellation, which was laid out in law in 1950.
There are ten eligible communes along the riverside, the delimited regions reflecting those with favourable exposure and where there is a predilection for the formation of botrytis, typically on schistous Silurian and Ordovicien soils. There are currently about 150 hectares under cultivation (although the appellation boundaries encompass a much larger area), and the fruit is harvested at just over 30 hl/ha, in a similar fashion to that from the Layon. Nevertheless, this tiny region has a very low profile, despite my observation that there are a very small number of good wines produced here. The very best wines that I have had from the appellation come from Domaine des Rochelles, closely followed by those of Domaine de Montgilet. Both are run by branches of the Lebreton family, in the case of this domaine Jean-Yves.
The wine in question is the 2006 vintage of Coteaux de l'Aubance from Domaine des Rochelles, which in the glass has a clear, bright, golden appearance. On the nose it displays a very fresh style, with aromas of lemons and quince, and a lightly honeyed richness nicely countered by a crisp herbal tea character. The palate is simply lovely, showing quite pure definition on entry, with a gentle fatness through the midpalate. Above all it has purity and freshness. This is a well constructed wine, with good depth and a touch of grit towards the endpalate which provides some interest. And it has a good substance, and really quite some length too. Very good indeed. With quality and purity like this it is perhaps a little difficult to understand why this particular appellation has such a low profile. 17+/20 (18/8/08)