A Visit to Domaine de la Noblaie, 2017

“No, no”, called Jérôme. Across the gloom of the cellar, to which my eyes were now well adjusted, I could see him wagging his index finger at me. And was that a hint of a grin on his face? Jérôme Billard, who had been distracted by the arrival of some more visitors, had just noticed that I was in the process of packing up my laptop, notebook and pen, thinking that our tasting was done.

“You can’t go just yet”, he continued, as he picked up yet another bottle, this one a little more dusty than the others. Scratch that; catching better sight of it, this was a lot more dusty than the others. “You still have two more wines to taste, after that you will be finished”, he continued. So Jérôme filled my glass with the first wine, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The purpose of my visit was to check out the 2016 vintage first and foremost, after which we had revisited the reds of 2015, then the reds of 2014. What else would there be to taste? Somehow, I didn’t think Jérôme would be keeping me back for another look at his 2013, no matter how much I admired his efforts in that most difficult of vintages.

Domaine de la Noblaie

But what landed in my glass wasn’t red, but white, an old-gold hue, the nose rich in the scents of dried fruits, the palate tense and vinously textured. It wasn’t half bad, and I had soon drained my glass. Sorry, I mean finished my tasting notes. And then came the next wine, and we were back onto red now. The colour was clearly mature, fading intertwined hues of oxblood and brick, and it had the aromatics to match, all truffles and undergrowth. This was more like it. But what vintages had Jérôme chosen to pour?

Before coming to that, I want first to look at more recent vintages, beginning with 2016, my first opportunity to taste the reds from this year. I also tasted from the preceding two vintages; I had already tasted Jérôme’s wines from the 2015 vintage when I met him earlier in the year at the Salon des Vins de Loire, when they were still being assembled in cuve, so this was my first opportunity to look at this vintage now it has been bottled. And then I took a fresh look at the 2014 vintage, prior to those older wines Jérôme poured.

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