Château Pierre-Bise, 2014 Update
I regard a meeting with Claude Papin to be an absolute requirement when visiting the Loire Valley, and I confess I have now lost track of how many times I have sat down with Claude to taste through his wines. Quite often we meet up at Domaine de la Bergerie, where I taste not only Claude’s wines but also those of Yves Guégniard and Vincent Ogereau. The three vignerons are great friends, and they enjoy getting together to show their wines in the very convivial atmosphere at Yves Guégniard’s restaurant, La Table de la Bergerie. This friendship is not merely the cordial respect that you might find between any small group of vignerons working within the same appellations, but true friendship; they meet regularly, dine together, even take holidays together (usually to far-flung wine regions, or perhaps a dining weekend to one of France’s top restaurants – all in the name of vinous ‘research’, obviously). It is a privilege to meet with the three friends and taste their wines each year; they are good people, who make very good wines.
This year for various reasons the setting was different – I met up with all three at the Salon des Vins de Loire instead – nevertheless the wines were no less convincing. Indeed, in the case of Claude’s wines, they were more striking than ever. I had the sense, on tasting his latest vintages, that his wines increasingly seem to transcend their origins. When I taste the wines today, I think not so much of Anjou, or of Savennières, but I think of Claude. The wines seem to sit apart from the variety in question, from their terroirs and appellations, with a more ethereal minerality than I see in any of the wines of Claude’s peers. In this they remind me more and more of the wines of François Chidaine and Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau; in both cases the wines seem unique within their respective appellations, trading in the varietal tones and forms usually associated with Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc respectively, in exchange for laser-like mineral seams and dancing fruit profiles reminiscent of the purest orchard fruit, encased in its lightly bitter skin. Claude’s wines seem also to be in this mould.
Looking back five or six years (or thereabouts) I was then of the opinion that the wines of Claude Papin simply couldn’t get any better. I was clearly wrong; the wines have gone from excellent to transcendental. It is only the fact that as a wine region the Loire Valley remains disadvantaged by its complexity (except for easy to understand appellations such as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé) that has kept the prices favourable. Take advantage of this while you can is my advice.Please log in to continue reading: