La Ferme de la Sansonnière La Lune 2009
Key to the understanding of wine is an awareness that wine changes, and develops. Reporting on embryonic wines, whether they be the sometimes angular and awkward barrel samples of the Bordeaux primeurs tastings, or the latest Burgundy vintage to hit the shelves, is of course essential. But we must also acknowledge that these early snapshots are potentially flawed, and certainly transient. Some wines - and this is a particular problem with Bordeaux - are simply not finished. And even if the wines are more complete, as is arguably the case with the Burgundy 2011 vintage, tastings of which take place this week in London, there is no doubt that the wine still has a long road to travel, and it will change, blossoming or fading, along the way.
For this reason, looking at wines in or approaching maturity is just as important for the jobbing wine obsessive as these very early assessments. Even if the wines form only a small representative sample of a vintage, they can guide as to how the vintage is developing. And retasting specific wines is also essential; understanding how they change over time can not only guide drinking decisions, but perhaps more importantly can inform assessments of subsequent nascent vintages from the domaine in question.
The wines of Mark Angeli (and I note his son Martial now also receives a name-check on the label) are wines which particularly deserve repeated assessment, for several reasons. First, I have on occasion found it quite difficult to marry my impressions of the wines in their youth, when they often seem as pure as spring water, bearing only the scents of a summer meadow, with how some vintages have seemed after a few years in bottle, which is rather more rich and sturdy. Second, Mark Angeli's 'natural' low-sulphur philosophy may well divert the wine away from its expected course of development. Certainly I have tasted some vintages which have taken on a sheen of oxidation after a few years in bottle, an unexpected characteristic when reflecting on how the wine tasted in its youth. This has been a notable feature of Angeli's wines; I recall a few years ago Jim Budd publishing pictures of one of Angeli's wines, dark brown with oxidation (the wines have seen differing levels of protection from sulphur dioxide over the years). When a wine develops in this unwelcome fashion, it is worth knowing and writing about.
For this reason, a short while ago I picked up a few bottles of Angeli's wines, from the 2008 and 2009 vintages, with the express purpose of reassessing after a few years in bottle (i.e. now), and also to facilitate a return to the wines in the future. And the first from Angeli's estate La Ferme de la Sansonnière to feel the wrath of the corkscrew is the 2009 La Lune, not Anjou but Vin de France, I can only imagine because Mark is now settled outside the appellation regulations because if this wine was submitted and refused the agrément for the Anjou appellation then there is something seriously wrong with the tasting panel's palates. It has a pale gold hue in the glass; nothing remarkable here, but that is certainly not true of the nose. The aromatics are simply captivating; imagine flower petals, lightly dusted with mineral crystals. These aromas waft in and entrance, but then are slowly replaced by richer, more honeyed tones, with nuances of saffron and apricot. It feels fresh, vibrant and open, although what comes on the palate is still unexpected, the fruit crystalline and very confident, with an energy and vigour which is surprising. There is such purity and harmony here, such delightful tone to it, and yet there is also a soft and mellifluously textured side, the middle of the wine gentle and caressing, features that only come in once the crystalline structure of the fruit has made its full impact. There is not a hint of oxidation, a relevant point considering past experiences, and the sulphur dioxide concentration is declared as 36 mg/l, which may of course have some bearing on that. To sum up, this is an amazing wine, and is surely one of the most remarkable examples of Anjou - or it would be, if it were Anjou - I have ever tasted. 18/20 (7/1/13)