Vincent Carême Vouvray Le Peu Morier 2008
Last week I wrote about Domaine Vacheron in Sancerre, and in particular I tried to draw attention towards their approach to the 'regionality' of terroir in Sancerre, not least by highlighting their introduction of several single vineyard cuvées in the 2010 vintage. When I consider the soils, the approach, the winemaking methods, some aspects of Sancerre - especially Domaine Vacheron's Sancerre - begin to look more like a lost village of Burgundy than a wine region that belongs to the Loire.
Of course the concept of terroir, and its significance with regard to wine, is not unique to Burgundy, nor Sancerre, nor indeed any other wine region or appellation you care to name. It applies wherever the vine is planted, to one extent or another. Sure, no wine region in the world is carved up to the same extent as Burgundy, but that doesn't mean that there are no distinctions to be drawn when comparing one vineyard with another (or rather, comparing their respective wines) in other regions. It is probably more that we simply haven't looked property; while wine critics and wine writers obsess over the minutiae of the Côte d'Or, or of Piemonte, other regions go entirely overlooked. The Loire Valley, perhaps the most famous region to be given the cold shoulder in this manner, is a case in point.
Take Vouvray for example. Ask any wine drinker to name an interesting vineyard, and I expect you will receive, at most, four names. And these are, in what I imagine is the most likely order in which they will be suggested; Clos du Bourg, Le Mont, Le Haut Lieu (all in the possession of Domaine Huet, of course) and Clos Baudoin (previously the dominion of Prince Poniatowski, now being revitalised by François Chidaine). And what comes next? Even as a self-confessed Loire geek I struggle. There is the Le Marigny sector, where Bernard Fouquet has vines. And I know there are some nice vineyards around Vernou-sur-Brenne, and up the Vallée de Cousse, where Vincent Carême and François Pinon can be found. But you can see I am already cheating; I'm trying to distract you from the fact I'm not so good on rattling off some Vouvray-vineyard names by throwing in the names of a few well-respected vignerons instead.
This, with regard to Vouvray in particular, is something I need to put right, although I can envisage a long period of study and maybe one or two or maybe more visits to the region being necessary to do so. I am sure there are great vineyard sites on the première côte - the limestone scarp that runs alongside the alluvial plain of the Loire - of which I am unaware, and the same again with the deuxièmes côtes, the valley slopes which run along the tributaries that flow through the Vouvray appellation, including the Brenne and the Cousse. And I am sure there are many domaines here, beyond the usual suspects of Huet, Foreau and the like, which I have not yet discovered. In the meantime, while I think about how I am going to tackle this hole in my knowledge (and where I am going to find the time) this weekend's wine comes from the lieu-dit Le Peu Morier, which lies on the première côte just west of Vernou-sur-Brenne (so here is the fifth vineyard for my Vouvray list). The soils are clay and flint over the obvious limestone, the wine the 2008 Vouvray Le Peu Morier from Vincent Carême. In the glass this has a very rich, concentrated, yellow-gold hue. The striking feature of this wine is the evident concentration, suggested by the wine's hue, but undeniable when it comes to the nose, which is full of desiccated fruit-skin character, with hints of dried apricots, yellow plums and also a little scent of stem ginger. In the mouth this has a beautiful substance, the deep vinous concentration more significant in terms of defining the palate than the evident residual sugar. This is pithy, rich in ripe, golden-yellow orchard fruit, all autumn pears and apricots, with a fine, savoury grip. This is a dense wine of great substance, definitely very demi-sec, and hugely convincing. This is proper Vouvray, from what is evidently a fine terroir, and made with a skilled hand. Delicious. Naturally, I have tucked a six-pack away in the cellar to see how this evolves. In the meantime, I'm off to read up on who or what Morier was, and find out whether he really was peu. 18/20 (26/5/14)