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Domaine de Bellivière Coteaux du Loir Hommage à Louis Derré 2013

Domaine de Bellivière Coteaux du Loir Hommage à Louis Derré 2013

First this week, an apology. I have always thought of my Weekend Wine slot as being a no-holds-barred exploration of even the most obscure corners of my cellar, and thus the polar opposite of the ‘shopping list’ wine writing that dominates newspaper wine columns (those that haven’t been axed, anyway), which tend to focus on widely available wines which can be plucked from the shelves of the local supermarket. Here I just pull whatever takes my fancy from my cellar, hence the dominance of the Loire Valley (although I have been trying hard to work in more Bordeaux recently). This means the wines I focus on can at times be a little obscure, certainly unusual, and occasionally downright unobtainable.

Nevertheless, I know many readers follow these weekly reports with their hand on their credit card, ready to buy any interesting bottles that might pop up. I know this partly because readers sometimes get in touch to discuss the wine after they have bought and drunk it, but occasionally also to complain because there is only one wine merchant selling the wine, and he is located in Ulan Bator and, sadly, doesn’t deliver beyond line 6 of the city’s trolleybus system. Hence my apology, as this is one of those obscure and largely unobtainable wines. There are in fact at least half a dozen cavistes listing it in France, but I doubt any of them will consider delivering it beyond the international borders of L’Hexagone. Other than a lone outpost in Germany, I am not aware of any other stockists despite a global search. So, sorry everybody.

Domaine de Bellivière Coteaux du Loir Hommage à Louis Derré 2013

Acknowledging this, I still can’t resist writing up this wine, which I secured from one of those obscure cavistes during recent travels, simply because this is, to my mind, quite a rare bottle. I have met and tasted with Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière many times before, over the course of the last ten years, my admiration for the man and his wines building a little more on each encounter. But in all that time, this wine never appeared. I knew of its existence, but began to wonder if it was mere myth. And then, recently, one suddenly appeared right before my eyes. In the basket it went.

I came to this wine with my eyes open, firstly being aware that it is made from Pineau d’Aunis. I have to confess that although I know some who adore the wines of this variety, I have often struggled with them. The limpid colour, texture and acid-fresh structure is not that dissimilar to Pinot Noir (the two varieties are not, perhaps surprisingly, related) which is all well and good, but the aromas can lean too much towards the funky, leafy and peppery for my tastes. So I am not a committed fan. Having said that, I should stress I acknowledge wholeheartedly the cultural and historical relevance this grape has for the Loire Valley, and I support its planting, cultivation and vinification, because I do not want to see the region homogenised with international varieties. Just because I am not in love with it (or should that be ‘yet to fall in love with it’?) I would never wish to see it eradicated, imposing my tastes on others. That is not the role of a critic. I am all for diversity and choice, after all these are the joys of the Loire Valley (and of wine in general).

The second reason for my caution is the vintage, 2013, hardly favourable to the red varieties planted along the banks of the Loire. Having said that, I have encountered (usually to my great surprise) really quite drinkable wines from this vintage, both when tasting during my trips to the Loire Valley and also when judging during the Decanter World Wine Awards. So, I figured, it would be churlish to avoid it based on this. I duly handed over my sous, and carried my treasured bottle home. In the glass the 2013 Domaine de Bellivière Hommage à Louis Derré, named in honour of a neighbour who helped Eric in his search for vineyards, has a pale, fresh and bright hue at its core, although with a dusty-cloudy touch to it, and it has a fading rim. It has an interesting nose as this variety always does; there is more fruit character here than I was expecting, with notes of red cherry and redcurrant, and behind that a more typical Pineau d’Aunis note of old leather and perhaps a touch of liquorice. There are also some greener notes of rosemary and angelica, which probably reflect the difficulties of the vintage, all in a gently high-toned wrapping. The palate is tense, lean, acid-fresh, with all the leafy-peppery character of the variety, plus a slightly oily touch to the texture. It feels cool and restrained although ultimately, despite the grandeur of the label, the overall effect feels quite rustic, a feeling enhanced by a slightly sour-fruit finish. I remain intrigued though, as there are some really positive features here which I haven’t really picked up on with Pineau d’Aunis before. I think I shall have to continue to look out for this cuvée, and see if I can’t find it in a more favourable vintage. 15.5/20 (6/6/16)

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