Domaine des Roches Neuves, 2013 Update

Those already familiar with this domaine will already be aware of Thierry’s story, but to briefly recap, Thierry came to the Loire from Bordeaux where his family had been making wine for several generations. He was the first of the Germains to make the move, but certainly not the last, as he was soon followed both by his father Bernard and his brother Philippe, the latter best known today for his work at Château de la Roulerie. Initially Thierry’s Bordelais blood shone through in the style of wine he chose to make, it being dark, rich and often rather oaky; he picked super-ripe fruit and he wasn’t shy of extending maceration times and utilising techniques to enhance extraction. He would subject the wine to multiple episodes of remontage, pumping over to release colour and tannin from the skins, and he utilised significant quantities of new oak. The wines were good but, in their youth at least, were not necessarily very reminiscent of Saumur-Champigny.

Thierry Germain of Domaine des Roches Neuves, February 2013

But over the years Thierry Germain (pictured above) has changed, the winemaking techniques have been modulated, and the style of wine made here has evolved. The fruit is now picked à point, the macerations more sensitive, the oak much less of a feature. Wines that once weighed in at 14% to 14.5% alcohol are now more likely to be between 12% and 12.5%. The colours are brighter and fresher, and the aromatics feature flowers and fruit, rather than wood. This sea-change has occurred along with a move to more environmentally respectful methods in the vineyard, including full-scale conversion to biodynamics. With these changes I recognised that Domaine des Roches Neuves became one of the more reliable addresses in the appellation. With these most recent tastings, however, I note that the quality of wines has began to pull really away from the rest of the pack, showing a breath-taking, floral, Cabernet Franc purity. The whites are also extremely good. These are now some of the very best wines to be found in the Saumur and Saumur-Champigny appellations. It makes sense to me that this is the first domaine to feature in my current series of Saumur posts.

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