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Arnaud Lambert Crémant de Loire ‘1948’ NV

Arnaud Lambert Crémant de Loire ‘1948’ NV

In an appellation with an ancient history which is ruled by long-established domaines, Domaine de Saint-Just is a relative youngster. Today home to Arnaud Lambert, It was established from scratch by his father Yves Lambert as recently as 1996, when he was aged 47. Up until then Yves had been carving out a lucrative career in banking, but with time he found himself looking for a change in direction; he headed back to his home town, Saumur, and his journey in wine began. He was joined by Arnaud in 2005, and they began working organically in the 2009 vintage. At about this time they also took on the responsibility for running the vineyards of Château de Brézé.

Yves died a couple of years later, in 2011, his life cut short by cancer, leaving the domaine in the hands of Arnaud. Under his direction the domaine has gone from strength to strength, with a further expansion of the vineyards, including new acquisitions in Montsoreau on the banks of the Loire, as well as embracing biodynamics, a conversion begun in 2018. Most impressive is the approach taken in the development of the portfolio; Arnaud specialises in single-vineyard cuvées, with an impressively broad portfolio as a consequence.

Arnaud Lambert Crémant de Loire '1948' NV

Alongside this extensive range of singe-vineyard cuvées of Saumur and Saumur-Champigny, Arnaud also produces a couple of different sparkling wines under the Crémant de Loire appellation. The top cuvée is undoubtedly 1948, which comes from old vines planted, as the name suggests, in 1948. These old vines, which are entirely Chenin Blanc, are established on a parcel of thin clay soils, just 30 centimetres deep, over limestone. After picking by hand the fruit is vinified in used barrels where the new wine rests for about six months before it goes into bottle for the prise de mousse. The bottles rest sur lattes – see my report on the 2012 François Pinon Vouvray Brut for more detail on what this means – for three years before release. When it is eventually disgorged it receives zero dosage.

The Crémant de Loire ‘1948’ from Arnaud Lambert is not vintage dated, although I happen to know that this particular bottle is based on the 2016 vintage, and it has been waiting in my cellar for a little less than a year. In the glass it has a polished and quite intriguing hue, showing pale and quite clear around the rim, but with a gentle straw-coloured hue to its heart. The nose is reminiscent of lightly dried citrus fruits, elegantly firm, the bright fruit cut with grained flint minerals. While it may say Crémant de Loire on the label, it does feel more reminiscent of an incisive Saumurois style, which is hardly surprising given Arnaud’s history and location. This feeling is reinforced by the character of the palate, which presents an incisive blend of orange citrus fruits and flint minerals, with a big and broad texture to the middle supported by a tightly foaming mousse. There is no shortage of acidity either, here intertwined with that fine mineral core in the finish. A very strong, tight, mineral and acid-framed style which would be best left in the cellar for a few more years; I suspect it will develop really well in bottle. 93/100 (13/9/21)

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