Xavier Frissant Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2012
I have a personal philosophy that the Loire Valley has as much to offer as many other regions which are more widely obsessed over. Some people might say it has more to offer, but I will be content to argue for equality rather than superiority for the moment at least. So while I have no issue with people chasing the grandest wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne - or indeed the very best from the Napa Valley, or from Coonawarra, or Swartland (I included that last one just to try to sound hip) - I do have an issue with the failure of many who write about wine, or who sell wine, to acknowledge that the Loire also offers wines with the same desirable qualities. Wines that have great elegance, whites of fine minerality and vivacity, reds blessed with silky tannins and the ability to develop a wonderfully perfumed complexity as they age.
For this very reason I have always focused on those Loire domaines that make this style of wine. I do try to be as broad as possible, but it is no accident that the domaines of the Loire that I profiled before so many others - Château Pierre-Bise, Clos Rougeard, Bernard Baudry, Domaine Huet, Philippe Foreau - are those that turn out just these sorts of wines. Wines that can, in many vintages, with some cuvées at least, easily be stacked up against the greats from other regions. In more recent years I have tried to broaden my coverage, looking at less commonly encountered appellations and domaines that have other interesting stories to tell, whether that story be biodynamics or organics, or adherence to a 'natural' winemaking philosophy, or just an unusual and perhaps experimental mindset. At this level I have a number of domaines and vignerons popping into my head; Noëlla Morantin, for example, Sébastien David, Domaine de Bellivière, and Nicolas Joly of course. Sometimes I love the wines, sometimes I don't, but all of these individuals (and many more besides) make fascinating wines that deserve their time in the spotlight.
I am aware, however, that some mainstream wine publications and writers continue to dumb down the Loire, writing of the white wines as 'summer drinking' and of the reds as 'light and easy'. It's not advisable, in all honesty, to open a recent vintage of Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, a wine that is sometimes oxidative in style, sometimes rich in botrytis character (Nicolas likes botrytis in the wine, daughter Virgine is perhaps not so keen) and which is sometimes high in alcohol (15% in some recent vintages) for sipping in the deckchair on a hot summer afternoon as you casually throw snorkers onto the barbecue. Nevertheless, I do accept that this is a role the Loire can fill very well, and I also recognise that it is what many people want from the region. And so, as long as everybody accepts that I'm not selling out, or dumbing down, I'm prepared to throw the spotlight onto a wine that would fit the bill. And indeed it is a wine of good quality that would fit it very well indeed. What is more, with this being the Loire, we can expect to be able to drink it without breaking the bank; as is the case with most Loire wines, it's a relative bargain.
Xavier Frissant is based in Mosnes, on the banks of the Loire, upriver from Amboise. Thus his 22 hectares of vines are located on the edge of the Viticole Solgne, the triangle of land squeezed between the Loire to the north and the Cher to the south. This is Sauvignon country, although there is plenty of Gamay and Cabernet Franc too, as well as Romorantin - as featured in my recent report on the 2010 François Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance - and I just realised, having been reminded by the fact that Xavier has some planted, that the region is also home to Fié Gris, otherwise known as Sauvignon Gris. The wine featured here though is Xavier's Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, from the 2012 vintage (which continues to deliver as far as this variety, from Touraine up through the Central Vineyards, is concerned) and it comes bottled under screwcap. The wine has a very pale hue, and there is some attractive fruit on the nose, which is tense, lightly flinty, smoky, bright and citrus-toned. For a fairly generic appellation, from an unsung domaine, this is a wine of very good quality. The palate is defined and vibrant, with some fine acidity nicely undercutting an attractive citrus fruit texture. It feels lightly pithy, overall it is clean, fresh and very convincing. This is the perfect wine for a summer's day or - as we don't get that many summer days in Scotland (especially not in March) - for drinking with pan-fried salmon, as I did. 16/20 (10/3/14)