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Bertin-Delatte Echalier 2015

Bertin-Delatte Echalier 2015

My explorations in Anjou have paid dividends over the last twelve months. It is a region blessed with a variety of fantastic terroirs including schist, (newsflash – schist isn’t restricted solely to Savennières, although the way some bang on about it you might think it was), spilite, slate and more, and combined with Chenin Blanc there is clearly great potential here. That this is only just being realised (or perhaps ‘rediscovered’ would be a better way of putting it) probably reflects the fact that the region lost its way a little during the 20th century. Vignerons moved away from the best slopes, which were difficult to cultivate, and viticulture became more mechanised. And then the salesmen arrived, selling the chemicals. Production increased and volumes were reliable, but the shift towards more technological winemaking on more generous soils did nothing for quality.

Happily Anjou is today rising in status once again, its renewed cachet down largely to a gaggle of individual vignerons many of whom make use of the terroir, but not necessarily the appellation. One domaine to which that applies is Bertin-Delatte, which was established in 2008 by Geneviève Delatte and Nicolas Bertin. Both Geneviève and Nicolas started out working for other vignerons including Pierre Chauvin, but they took the leap with the purchase of 1.5 hectares near Rablay-sur-Layon, on the left bank of the Layon. Their principal vineyard, the lieu-dit L’Échalier, is located on the western periphery of the village. In 2012 they built a small house as well as some cellars overlooking their vines, and expanded their domaine slightly, taking control of a few other parcels of vines close to the village. This remains the set-up today.

Bertin-Delatte Echalier 2015

The domaine is run according to organic principles, and the fruit from this very manageable portfolio of vineyards is picked by hand. In the cellars the approach is minimalist (you might even say ‘natural’), with no chaptalisation, no use of cultured yeasts, and no other interventions, save for a light filtration and a sensible addition of a small dose of sulphites before bottling. They make a small range of wines, including the charming Sautillant, a sparkling blend of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc; my latest Weekend Wine, however, is their principal cuvée.

The Vin de France Echalier from Bertin-Delatte, here in the 2015 vintage (a little the recently discussed Méthode Traditionnelle Brut from François Chidaine this is not explicitly declared, although the lot number L.E15 printed on the label, bottom right, tells us all we need to know), is 100% Chenin Blanc. It was vinified exactly as described above, with an élevage lasting one year in barrel and then several months in cuve to bring the wine together. In the glass today it has a pale, straw-gold hue. This is followed by a very correct nose, clean and bright, rich in the scents of pressed apple and confit pear fruit, with a subtle touch of physalis and white pepper. It remains cool and fresh on the palate, where it combines orchard and citrus fruit elements, along with tightly woven threads of knapped-flint minerality, fresh acidity and a lightly bitter Chenin bite. It feels medium-bodied, lightly textured, a little delicate in terms of concentration, this nevertheless shows a confident minerally vein which matches that suggested on the nose, and it has great energy and a bright acid backbone which persists very nicely through the finish. All in all a dry, savoury, bitter, interesting and nicely balanced Chenin, all in all a bit of a charmer. 92/100 (15/7/19)

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