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Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil Les Marsaules 2014

Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil Les Marsaules 2014

New discoveries can come along when we least expect them. The wines of the Gauthier family, of Domaine du Bel Air in Bourgueil, have crossed my palate from time to time, not least a year or two ago when I had a fleeting encounter with the sweetly oaked 2009 Clos Nouveau. I have to confess I was not entirely convinced, the barrels perhaps a little too thoroughly toasted for my liking, although I could sense the intent and the commitment within the wine.

Then, sometime last year, when visiting Château Lafleur in Pomerol, the team told me they were heading to the Loire Valley for some tastings. This shouldn’t have surprised me; when the Guinaudeau family replanted the parcels directly in front of the château, it was with Cabernet Franc sourced from the Loire Valley (sadly these plantings were later deemed substandard, this realisation a driving force behind the development of the Cabernet Franc nursery at Château Grand Village). And the Sauvignon Blanc they have planted for Les Champs Libres, at Château Grand Village, all come from select sources in Sancerre. And who were they thinking of visiting during their time in the region? Why, the Gauthier family at Domaine du Bel Air, of course.

Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil Les Marsaules 2014

That same week I found myself in Vouvray, visiting Vincent Carême for a tasting of every vintage he has made since starting up in the 1999 vintage, as well as a selection of his most recent releases. Afterwards I joined Vincent and his team, as well as Florent Cosme who was there helping out, for lunch and a blind tasting of various wines. There was Gamay from the Massif Central, I seem to recall an aged Chenin Blanc from South Africa, and there was a very convincing textural and savoury red wine which Vincent produced. It turned out to be the domaine cuvée from the Gauthier family. At this point I realised, despite my previous overly oaky encounter, that this was a domaine I should endeavour to understand in greater detail.

While a visit to the domaine remains in the future (but is hopefully on the cards), I thought I should check out some more cuvées, other than the Clos Nouveau, from Domaine du Bel Air. That brought me to this wine, the 2014 Bourgueil Les Marsaules. The lieu-dit of Les Marsaules has sandy soils overlying a chalky bedrock, and the Gauthier vines, aged sixty years on average, are tended using organic methods. The bunches are destemmed, sorted and then after a cold maceration they are fermented by indigenous yeasts, the extraction aided by regular pigeage and remontage. Afterwards it rests in third- or fourth-fill barrels for up to 24 months, before bottling. In the glass it has a great colour, with a black tulip core surrounded by a bright cherry red rim. There follows a quite wonderfully expressive nose, filled with smoky currants, rose petals and violets, verbena and more. And it has a superb palate, very convincing, with notes of black rose, tar, tobacco and black olive, wrapped in a silky substance. This comes with a plush midpalate, polished, with tightly integrated tannins and cool acidity, leading into a wonderfully perfumed and long finish. An excellent wine, good for drinking now, although it will surely improve over the next five or ten years in the cellar. 94/100 (6/5/19)

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