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La Taille aux Loups Montlouis Pétillant Triple Zero NV

After featuring wines from Slovenia, Champagne, Bordeaux, Chile and Australia during the last few weeks it is time to get Winedoctor back on track with a bottle from the Loire. The ratio of Loire wines presented as a Weekend Wine to those from anywhere else so far this year is 13:23, so a little more than one-third; this isn't a bad showing at all, but I naturally think there is room to push it a little higher in order to feed the hungry desires of all the Loire fanatics out there. So this week's wine, the non-vintage Montlouis Pétillant Triple Zero from Domaine de la Taille aux Loups thus takes our 2009 Loire total up to 14, and in view of all the exciting news emerging about a high quality harvest in the Loire (and elsewhere admittedly) it seems like a very appropriate wine to feature.

Why so appropriate? Well, if I ever want to produce an example of how meticulous care in the vineyard at harvest time can translate into high quality in the finished product, then I look to Jacky Blot of La Taille aux Loups. The harvest is entirely manual, in tries by up to 50 pickers working in small teams. Sometimes an entire bunch will be harvested, but it is more usual for individual berries to be picked, leaving the other fruit to ripen further. In vintages where rot is a problem, bunches are sorted in the vineyard on tables positioned at the end of the rows; from each bunch the rotten and unripe fruit is removed by hand, leaving only the ripe and healthy grapes. This carefully selected, first-harvested fruit is typically destined for the sparkling wines. With so may domaines the fruit earmarked for these cuvées is often of questionable quality, from barely-tended vines, often harvested at less than optimal ripeness (better green and unripe fruit than something ruined by rain and rot is the reasoning these less quality-orientate vignerons work to). Not at Jack Blot's domaine though.

La Taille aux Loups Montlouis Petillant Triple Zero NV

This exacting methodology in vineyard translates into the cellar, and this is where the triple zero practice comes into play. There are three obvious opportunities to bolster the potential of your green and unripe fruit when making a sparkling wine. These are (a) during the initial fermentation, with the legal addition of sugar, a well described process known as chaptalisation (after Jean-Antoine Chaptal, a chemist and French treasurer, who first described the technique). Then (b) with the addition of sugar and yeast for the second fermentation, in bottle, which transforms the embryonic vin clair into a sparkling wine, and (c) with the dosage, the topping up of the bottle with wine (with added sugar) after disgorgement. Blot adds no sugar at any point, making this zero-dosage cuvée a triple-zero, so to speak, hence the name.

I have not long posted a tasting note on Jacky Blot's Triple Zero, and this bottle was from the same batch, acquired really quite recently. Although that first bottle was "entertaining [and] stylish" I had a persistent niggling doubt, which has lingered on in the back of my mind over several weeks, that it hadn't seemed quite as lively and harmonious as I had expected from previous tastings of the wine, or from Blot's reputation. And so when the opportunity arose very recently, I opened a second bottle. Happily, this bottle didn't fail to please. A pale straw-gold in the glass, with a moderately fine bead. There is a little richness on the nose, fleeting nuances of caramel over plump, ripe but fresh and crystalline fruit. It has a ripe, tangible, golden character, nicely offset by nuances of nettle and stone. A good, broad entry onto the palate, very fresh and vivacious, with a lively but tightly packed mousse, and very minerally fruit alongside. Nicely integrated, slightly mineral, sappy and dry but certainly not bone dry despite that triple zero designation. Really very fine, gentle composition, and a gentle, softly-fruited finish. Some length too. This actually seems better integrated and has more harmony than the last bottle, and my score reflects this. Very good indeed. 17/20 (5/10/09)

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