Domaine de la Butte, 2012 Update

Would it be crazy to attempt to draw an analogy between the appellation of Bourgueil, in the Loire Valley, and St Emilion in Bordeaux? I have spent a lot of time in Bordeaux this year, three visits in fact, and on each visit I spent some time in St Emilion. Indeed, on the second of my visits, I spent a lot of time in and around St Emilion. It is an appellation best-known for the wines of its limestone plateau and from its slopes of limestone and clay. At the foot of these slopes are the alluvial soils, much more sandy in character; these run down to the palus, the riverside terrain where few are planted. From a varietal point of view, St Emilion is easy to understand, being mostly Merlot seasoned with Cabernet Franc. Occasionally the latter variety dominates, and now and again Cabernet Sauvignon is encountered. That’s St Emilion in a (very brief and patchy) nutshell.

Domaine de la Butte

As I was in the process of writing up some notes on wines from Bourgueil tasted earlier this year (and, I am ashamed to say, I’m including orphaned notes from tastings last year where I think I can get away with it – this update is one such moment) I suddenly experienced a sense of déjà vu. Here we have an appellation with a plateau, adjacent slopes and lower alluvial soils. There is perhaps more gravel here (which in St Emilion is confined to the very western end, at Cheval Blanc and Figeac) but there is a fair amount of limestone and sand as well, neither of which do my analogy any harm. And for the varieties we have Cabernet Franc of course, with up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon permissible in the blend. OK, so there’s no Merlot. Nevertheless, I still think there are some parallels that can be drawn between the two appellations. The fact that both appellations throw up a range of styles, light and easy-drinking, through elegant restraint to wines of considerable force and extraction, only reinforces my belief that this is so.

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