A Visit to Damien Laureau, October 2020

I am not sure of exactly when I first met Damien Laureau, but I can be certain of two things. First, it was quite a few years ago now, at a time when Damien was fresh-faced and beardless. Secondly, I recall I was immediately impressed by the wines, quickly coming to the realisation that all the good words I had heard about Damien (pictured below) were probably true. His wines, tasted at a time when I was making a deep dive into Savennières, were among the best I tasted. Quite possibly the very best. And that included all the usual suspects renowned for their organic, biodynamic and in some cases mystical methods of viticulture.

During the many years that have since passed I have followed Damien Laureau he has remained at the top of his game, and his wines have been consistently strong. A taste of his 2015 Savennières Roche-aux-Moines, for example, should be on the bucket list of every fan of the Loire Valley. Indeed, it should be on every wine drinker’s bucket list, full stop. But Savennières is a changing environment, and today Damien is just one of a number of vignerons who are making the very best of this Anjou terroir. Around him a number of his peers have upped their game, and the likes of Eric Morgat, Thibaud Boudignon and Tessa Laroche are now making equally exciting wines.

Damien Laureau

The Savennières appellation thus continues to evolve, both in terms of style and quality. This shortlist of leading vignerons increasingly favour a modern, nervy and reductive character, free of the scent and substance of oak, of notable botrytis influence (which comes through in the dry wines of Anjou, not just the sweet), of malolactic notes and thankfully of excessive alcohol, the same style that is rightly attracting plaudits in the generic Anjou appellation as well as in South Africa. It is thus clearly time for a reassessment of Savennières, something that is difficult in The Time of Covid, although that did not prevent me calling in on Damien a few months ago. I was keen to taste some of his latest cuvées, but also to increase my understanding of his vineyards and the appellation in general. The first thing we did, then, was hop into the front seat of his van and head out for a tour of his vines.

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