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Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur L'Insolite 2007

Time for an undersung appellation this week, that being white Saumur. These days when we think of this region of the Loire our thoughts do tend to automatically turn to fizz, or if not fizzy then the red wines made from Cabernet Franc. And naturally we are drawn not so much to straight-up Saumur but to the high quality output of Saumur-Champigny, a sub-region of the Saumur vineyard with its own appellation which does not even allow for white wines.

So red wines dominate here, but as I wrote in my recent mini-feature on Saumur the wines of this region were once, before the innovative Antoine Cristal arrived on the scene, mostly white and made from Chenin Blanc. And that is exactly the type of wine I feature here, from Thierry Germain of Domaine des Roches Neuves.

Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur L'Insolite 2007

I've already written of Thierry Germain, a Bordelais by birth who upped and moved to the Loire in 1991, soon to be followed by the rest of his family, in my Domaine des Roches Neuves profile. His father Bernard Germain came and acquired a number of properties one of which, Château de la Roulerie, is now in the hands of Thierry's brother, Philippe. My Roches Neuves profile is now looking rather dated (and I have noticed I repeat myself in it as well), but I will be overhauling it very soon anyway after tasting the Roches Neuves range at the Salon in Angers earlier this year. For the moment though, I will focus on one specific wine in the Roches Neuves portfolio, the white Saumur L'Insolite, which I drank at home this weekend.

The cuvée in question came about in 1996 after Germain had acquired a parcel of 75-year-old Chenin Blanc vines. Sited on clay-limestone soils, with areas of silt and flint, these vines are tended using entirely natural methods (the domaine is certified biodynamic). The fruit is picked by hand for L'Insolite, in several tries, before fermentation in a mix of 400-litre and 228-litre barriques, one-third one-year old and two-thirds two-years old. The wine is subsequently transferred into larger, 1200-litre casks, a process which Germain feels will preserve the minerality in the wine, and after twelve months on its lees the finished wine is finally bottled.

And so to the wine; the 2007 Saumur Blanc L'Insolite from Domaine des Roches Neuves has a fine, rich, straw-gold hue in the glass. The nose is fascinating, starting off with a note of cooked apples, but this instantly fades, still leaving a sweet but fresh apple note, a juxtaposition of green apple skin with sweet, vibrant flesh. Alongside there are plump, golden fruit notes, tinges of minerals and a suggestion of caramel richness. A lovely, sappy, juicy style on the palate right from the start, with a great acid backbone. Thereafter the midpalate just builds and builds to a sweet apple-skin character set in a dry, broad and substantial frame, with a lot of texture over a lightly grippy core. Over a period of a few hours it really firms up, showing a firm and powerful character dressed with hints of lime. The finish is very long, with pure and detached fruit. This is great wine, which can be enjoyed now or left alone in the cellar for a number of years. 17.5+/20 (22/2/10)

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