Philippe Alliet, 2012 Update

Philippe Alliet (pictured below) has been absent from the annual Salon des Vins de Loire for a couple of years, so it was great to see him, his wife Claude and also his son – who possesses more than a passing resemblance to his father – at the 2012 Salon. I have long been a fan of the wines of this eponymous domaine, established by Philippe in 1985 when he gathered together a number of disparate plots of vines once exploited by Claude’s grandfather. More than two decades on from this quiet beginning Philippe Alliet today turns out some of the best wines in the appellation; that is not to say they are absolutely typical of the appellation, as they are not, but then it is often the case that the most superior wines in an appellation are not entirely typical. Yquem, Ausone, Beaucastel, Rayas, and closer to home François Cotat and the late Didier Dagueneau are names associated with superior but also distinctive and perhaps atypical wines. Having said that, the problem many have with Philippe Alliet is not so much that the wines are different from a personally-held Chinon ‘ideal’, but that they are so similar to wines from another region so dear to Alliet’s heart: Bordeaux.

Philippe Alliet

I understand this concern. Alliet makes plain the affiliation he feels with the vineyards of the Gironde. When he started out he was a regular traveller to Bordeaux, where he sourced his barrels, and I believe this is still the case today. And practices in the cellar tend to mirror those for modern Bordeaux. The fruit will see four or more weeks of maceration around the fermentation, and the new wine is run off into barrels – perhaps 80% new, the rest only one vintage old – where they then go through the malolactic fermentation. They remain in barrel for as long as 18 months before bottling. Little wonder that – for Chinon – the wines have an unusual richness, depth, texture and concentration. No, these wines are not typical. But that does not mean they cannot be brilliant. They are certainly not for everyone, but these are still wines that everybody (yes, everybody – get in line!) should try at least once, if only to find out for yourself whether they are too far outside your personal concept of what Chinon should be to be worth buying and drinking.

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