Domaine de Bablut Coteaux de l’Aubance Unique 2015
It would hardly be a revelation for me to say I have a penchant for the sweeter wines of the Loire Valley. What might come as more of a surprise, however, is the declaration that some of my favourite wines come not from the leading lights of Vouvray and Montlouis, or from the famed appellations and domaines that are dotted along the banks of the Layon, the two corners of the Loire Valley best known for demi-sec and moelleux styles, but from the much less widely appreciated Coteaux de l’Aubance appellation.
If Vouvray and the Coteaux du Layon (and its crus) are the Liverpool FC and Everton FC of the region (I don’t think I am particularly suited to football analogies, but I thought I should give this one a go), then the Coteaux de l’Aubance appellation must be the region’s Tranmere Rovers FC. A little overlooked, perhaps under-rated, seemingly playing at a different level, and yet its ardent supporters know that every now and again they can expect moments of brilliance. And in the Coteaux de l’Aubance there are a handful of extraordinarily reliable names that I would come to again and again for such moments, with Jean-Hubert Lebreton at Domaine des Rochelles and Vincent Lebreton at Domaine de Montgilet being two leading contenders.
And also, let us not forget, Christophe Daviau at Domaine de Bablut.
There are several reasons the Coteaux de l’Aubance finds itself playing in Division Two rather than the Premier League, none of which relate to the quality of the wines. Firstly it is a relatively young wine region, with some families planting their first vines here as recently as the early 20th century. A good number of them had moved east from the banks of the Layon, seeking out new soils after their vineyards had been devastated by phylloxera. Reflecting this, although vines have been planted here for centuries, the first written mention of the Coteaux de l’Aubance dates only to 1922. Secondly, it remains a small region, with barely 160 hectares established, a minion compared to the Coteaux du Layon which has several thousand hectares to its name. Thirdly, its wines tend not to travel too far, as historically many vignerons looked to sell their wares locally rather than exporting them, while buyers from foreign lands would seek out the wines they already knew in the Coteaux du Layon.
Christophe Daviau produces a broad portfolio of wines at Domaine de Bablut including several cuvées of Coteaux de l’Aubance. The top cuvée is Noble, made as the name suggests from richly botrytised berries, followed by Grandpierre, which is built around a more balanced blend of botrytised and fresh fruit. This latter cuvée is my favourite among them, as it allows the bitterness, sweetness, minerality and acidity to shine through in a balanced fashion, not something you always find in heavily botrytised cuvées, as impressive as they are. Next comes Sélection, a lighter cuvée. In vintages where Christophe finds he has insufficient volume to carve up his harvest in this fashion, however, he blends everything together to produce his Unique cuvée. The 2015 vintage is one of the most recent examples.
The 2015 Coteaux de l’Aubance Unique from Domaine de Bablut is typically made using botrytised grapes, but includes at least 20% ripe non-botrytised grapes to maintain a sense of freshness. Tasting the 2015 suggests to me there was a rather light botrytis attack this year, or that the botrytis came, but the concentration didn’t. The wine displays a modest bronze-gold hue, and its aromatics are defined by scents of sour orchard fruits, especially apples and sweet pears, cut with fragrant notes of lemongrass and a touch of oatmeal biscuit. It doesn’t suggest great botrytis-derived complexity, which we should be able to detect given that the wine has now been in bottle a few years. The palate feels modestly textured, and is drier than you might expect, and I find the firm backbone of acidity through the middle to be a dominant feature. This gives the delicately sweet and biscuity fruits a rather tangy character, leading into a cleansed finish. Overall this is a rather fresher style of Coteaux de l’Aubance, one that is probably more suited to apéro-style drinking than with your favourite dessert. It should evolve more complex interest over the next few years, but is not one to be committed to the cellar for decades. 89/100 (1/11/21)
Read more in:
- My guide to the Coteaux de l’Aubance appellation
- My profile of Domaine de Bablut
- My guide to the world’s greatest variety, Chenin Blanc