Domaine de Bellivière, 2009 Update

I must confess that the first time I tasted the wines of Eric Nicolas, from Domaine de la Bellivière, I didn’t quite understand what I was tasting. This was perhaps surprising, as the white wines – which dominate the portfolio – are made from Chenin Blanc, not really a novel concept in the Loire, and the range of aromas and flavours offered up by Loire Valley Chenin was hardly undiscovered territory for me. But here was something very different, the wines very distant from my Chenin preconceptions. These are not your average apple-and-straw Loire Chenins.

Domaine de Bellivière

It may be true that, to some extent at least, terroir plays a role in this striking difference, but for my part I think it is climate that is more likely to be responsible. We are at the northern reaches of the Loire vineyard here, itself a northerly cool-climate viticultural region. In addition the appellation lies some way upstream, distancing itself from favourable, warmer maritime influences and it thus lies at the mercy of the colder continental weather systems. The microclimate suddenly becomes important in regions such as this; the aspect of a slope (south-facing is obviously best) or the presence of a nearby forest (to protect the vines from cold winds) can determine whether a vineyard succeeds or fails. In the case of the latter influence, forests also foster and maintain humidity, thus encouraging the development of botrytis, another key element in adding richness and character to the wines, just as relevant in these vineyards as it is in any site lying alongside the Layon or Aubance.

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