Domaine de Bellivière Jasnières Prémices 2009
It has been a few years since Jasnières featured as my number one weekend bottle, when I reported on the 2004 Calligramme from Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière. The fact that this week’s bottle comes from the same hand is no coincidence; it is an indication of my interest in this estate, the wines of which are frequently of very high quality. Jasnières and its neighbours, the Coteaux du Loir and Coteaux du Vendômois, are some of the Loire Valley’s more ‘peripheral’ appellations which, like Cheverny, Châteaumeillant and the Côtes de la Charité are perhaps too easily overlooked, but this should not be taken as an indicator of the quality of the wines. Some can be magnificent.
Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière is surely the best known name in Jasnières and the Coteaux du Loir, which lie on the south-facing slopes looking down to the waters of the Loir. These are not broad or extensive appellations, Jasnières amounting to just 65 hectares, the Coteaux du Loir a little larger, at 80 hectares. Compare this to Vouvray or to Chinon, which boast 2,200 and 2,300 hectares respectively. Of the three Loir appellations, Jasnières is also the most distinctive, being not only the smallest but also the only one of the three to focus purely on Chenin Blanc, whereas its neighbours also allow for red and rosé wines made from Pineau d’Aunis, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. Its name is also, at least at first, something of an enigma. Whereas the coteaux (the slopes) above the Loir and around the town of Vendôme are clearly referenced by two of the appellations, there is no river, town or commune here named Jasnières.
Instead Jasnières seems to be named for the region’s most coveted lieu-dit which lies at the heart of the appellation, more-or-less midway between Ruillé-sur-Loir and Lhomme, its two principal communes. Between the two there runs a strip of vineyard, perhaps 5 kilometres long, but maybe only 300 metres or so wide, the vines gathered together on the south-facing slope. The steepest part, with an incline of up to 15%, is most favoured for planting; the aspect allows the stony-clay soils to warm up with whatever sun they might receive, while deeper roots feel their way through to the Turonian limestone and flint that typify the terroirs of the Paris basin.
The 2004 Calligramme was absolutely top flight, but drinking shouldn’t be just about the most precious cuvées or most expensive bottles (even if these are the ones which pick up the most ‘likes’ on social media). Prémices (which translates literally as first signs) is more entry-level (the name refers to taking a ‘first look’ at the vintage), a young-vines cuvée made from the fruit of a vineyard planted in 2000, the wine first released in 2008. The vineyard is managed using solely organic methods, this being true of the entire domaine, and after harvest by hand the fermentations and élevage take place in barrel, with bottling after about ten months. In the glass the 2009 Domaine de Bellivière Jasnières Prémices shimmers a pale yellow gold. At eight years of age it maintains a beautifully expressive nose, filled with the aromas of golden pear skin and pear juice, with a slightly bitter citrus-peel character which feels very true to the variety, with little hints of blanched almond. It has lovely flesh, bright and characterful, with exotic fruit character, bitter orange pith and apricot skin, underpinned by a gentle acid backbone, wrapped within a supple and savoury body, this feeling of soft generosity bolstered by a demi-sec level of residual sugar. Pithy, classically Chenin, rounded, and fairly long too. Considering it is entry-level for the domaine, this is an impressive wine. 16.5/20 • 93/100 (29/5/17)