Domaine de la Sénéchalière La Bohème 2009
As my 2010 Bordeaux reports stretch out across even more days than I originally intended, it is time once again for our weekly prophylactic against the Bordeaux-days ahead. We have here a little moment of realism from the Loire, a region where wines are not generally suitable as investment vehicles, and the vignerons behind them have a rather more hand-to-mouth existence than you find in Bordeaux. It doesn’t matter which commune or region of the Loire you look to; you won’t find anybody here taking out multi-million-euro loans to build new cuveries, gleaming edifices of stone and glass and steel, capped off with a pagoda roof and then stuffed full of laser-welded milk vats.
Not that would necessarily be a bad way to make Muscadet of course. And although it might be a little unconventional I would have thought installing a gigantic vat-elevator, so that the nascent wine could be gently fed from one vat to the next by gravity rather than pump, would only be beneficial. Maybe we could get somebody like Jean-Guillaume Prats to come and consult at one or two of the better-known domaines? Could you imagine the prices Muscadet would soar too when the hedge fund managers and the Asian billionaire investors switched onto this? Imagine the value that the real estate around Clisson and Le Landreau would accrue!
Although perhaps the Nantais already has its fair share of anti-conventionalism. The vignerons here may march to a different tune, or should I say different budget, but they still plough their own furrow. One such character is Marc Pesnot, of Domaine de la Sénéchalière, who has 13 hectares of vines planted up purely with Melon de Bourgogne. The soils are schistous, and many of the vines well over 50 years of age. Marc works organically, and specifically for Marc that means copper, essential oils and plant teas as vineyard treatments. The fruit for La Bohème is hand-picked in tries, destemmed (yes, Melon de Bourgogne, not only picked by hand but 100% destemmed too!), then fermented by indigenous yeasts in steel (over a four-month period in this case) and it then rests on its lees for several months before bottling, which is the only point at which it see a dose of sulphur. There is no acidification, and no fining either. Marc is a punctilious individual, and to his credit much of the detail of his work can be gleaned from the rather informative label, shown below. This should be enough to make any wine geek happy. Is Marc the new Paul Draper, I wonder?
It is fascinating to note that, despite the wealth of information shown above, there is nothing on the label to reveal this wine’s legal standing; it is in fact a vin de table rather than a Muscadet. Marc is more concerned with honest technique and the precision of his work than obtaining the agrément for an appellation I think. Not that this is of any real concern, it is what’s in the bottle, not on the bottle, that really counts. In the glass the wine itself has a pretty good colour for Melon de Bourgogne, showing a moderate and shimmering yellow-gold hue. There are plenty of tartrate crystals, suggesting no cold stabilisation, and happily these are left in the bottle. It has lots of lovely pithy fruit character on the nose, with a crunchy herb edge to it. On the palate it shows a lovely weight, really filling the mouth from the start, before revealing a more deeply grained and interesting structure through the middle, where there is a minerally, crystalline-fruit character backed up by fair acidity, so although the wine has a fairly soft and welcoming feel to it there is no shortage of backbone. This becomes more apparent in the finish, where the tingling, mineral spice makes its presence felt – I really like it when Melon de Bourgogne does this on the palate. A wine which is vibrant and alive, fleshy and broad and yet well-framed, with great structure and presence, all covered with happily bitter herb-citrus flavours. All in all, a lovely wine. 17/20
Tomorrow, more from the Loire with François Chidaine, before I get stuck into Pauillac 2010 on Wednesday. (18/4/11)