Domaine aux Moines, 2011 Update

In my quest to understand Savennières it is only natural that I should eventually come to the wines of Domaine aux Moines. This estate, home to mother-and-daughter team Monique and Tessa Laroche, has possession of a prime position on the Roche-aux-Moines, and has the largest holding of vines in this Savennières cru of any domaine. Their dominion comprises close to 9 hectares of vineyard, every last square metre of which is located within the boundaries of the Savennières Roche-aux-Moines appellation.

The winemaking here has changed little in recent years, the Laroche family generally fermenting in tank and using only a small amount of oak, or occasionally none at all; it all depends on the vintage in question. The style of wine is very traditional for this, and they tend to show best after a considerable period of bottle age. I must confess that although many of the wines give some pleasure, I have never found them to be particularly inspiring. Attractive, yes. Dry, austere and sometimes pleasingly challenging, yes. But enthralling, in the manner of a wine from Damien Laureau, Yves Guégniard or Claude Papin? Not in my experience. This opinion of Domaine aux Moines was, however, somewhat upset by this most recent tasting, although not quite in the manner I expected.

Domaine aux Moines

I began tasting with Tessa Laroche pouring the wines, and Monique in the background, although the two seem to be able to swap roles quite seamlessly, effortlessly moving from vintage to vintage without fuss. We started with a sequence of eight dry wines, the order of serving very much guided by the vintage. Up first was the 2004, a less convincing vintage said Monique, before subsequently working backwards through to 1992. The 2009 and 2008 vintages were second and third in this line up, and whereas the 2004 had been a fairly solid wine in keeping with what I expect from the domaine, these both seemed immediately more convincing than the more mature vintages I have tasted in the past. The 2009 especially so, with its cool and composed character, honeyed fruit and lemony lift. And the 2008 showed an appealing matchsticky-reductive element, with a considerable structure hidden beneath.

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