Domaine de Bablut Coteaux de l’Aubance 1986
The 1986 Rayne-Vigneau I featured as my Weekend Wine just a few weeks ago prompted me to pull this other sweet wine, born in the same vintage, from the cellar. Whereas I am reasonably familiar with 25-year old Sauternes, having had at least a handful of bottles over the years, despite my passion for the wines of the Loire I don’t mind admitting that I am certainly less familiar with similarly aged Ligérian bottles. This admission is especially true of the undersung (and perhaps under-exploited) vineyards along the course of the Aubance, an appellation which appears in my cellar far less often than the neighbouring Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux or Quarts de Chaume.
I have already written much on these vineyards, and there is some reasonable detail in my review of the 2006 Domaine des Rochelles Coteaux de l’Aubance, tasted and reviewed back in 2008. For that reason I won’t repeat all that detail here, and will only draw your attention to the fact that the latest INAO figures tell me that the area planted to vines in the ten eligible communes amounts to just 191 hectares, a significant increase on the previously published figure of 150 hectares. Nevertheless this is still a very small area for an entire appellation; the area covered by the ten communes with land eligible for the appellation stretch all the way up Loire to the north, and to the boundary with the Coteaux du Layon to the south and south-west, but the vineyard area itself is equivalent to that of only two or perhaps three Bordeaux estates. And this is a complex vineyard, diverse and multifaceted, and exploited by a reasonable number of vignerons, over 50 according to the INAO. Despite that, there are only a handful of names that I have found to be of great significance. Perhaps the most obvious is Vincent Lebreton of Domaine de Montgilet, who gives us a number expressions of his various schistous terroirs, bottled as individual cuvées but also brought together in his entry-level wine, Les Trois Schistes. I have also had good examples from Domaine des Rochelles, Domaine des Deux Moulins and of course from Christophe Daviau, proprietor of Domaine de Bablut. But none have had this much bottle age – only the 1995 Clos des Huttières tasted at Montgilet in 2010 comes close, and I found that wine to be rather tired and displaying undeniable oxidation.
I found no such problem with this week’s wine though. I did wonder whether I might have a problem when I removed the capsule though, as I found a curious appearance to the cork; there were three tiny holes in the top, accompanied by a fine layer of granular cork, presumably excavated from the three burrows. This was not something I have seen before; the work of cork weevils, perhaps? Thankfully the cork was otherwise in good nick; a tight fit still, and subsequent inspection didn’t reveal any burrows right the way through the cork. In the glass, the 1986 Domaine de Bablut Coteaux de l’Aubance has a fine golden hue, with some depth to it although it is not richly coloured. The nose is subtle, showing notes of orange zest and Demerara sugar, rather reminiscent of the 1990 Bellerive Quarts de Chaume although with a less intense character. This is all rather quieter, soft and mellifluous, giving an attractive although hardly intense experience. Onto the palate, and this has a fine substance, showing an appealing flesh at the start and this holds up through the middle. And here there is some delightful high-toned complexity, with the sweetness carrying along notes of oatmeal, and plenty of fine mature-Chenin character, a blend of smoke and cheesy funk, dense crunchy-crystalline sugar-coated fruit, backed up by vibrant, tingling acidity and more than a touch of grip. This acid, which sits at the very core of the wine, has a notable, fine, needle-like presence, supporting some lovely, gently sugar-sweet fruit. And it is very long. This is certainly not the most prodigious of cuvées, and texture-hedonists will be better off elsewhere, but those seeking a mature character, dressed up with gently mellifluous fruit, will find this to be very good I think. 16/20 (23/5/11)