Bouvet-Ladubay Saumur Brut Taille Princesse Rosé de Gérard Depardieu 2011
In recent years, the number of bottles of Champagne I buy has plummeted to zero, whereas my taste for the sparkling wines from the Loire Valley has developed in quite the opposite manner. There are many reasons for me drifting away from Champagne and towards the Loire Valley, including personal taste and perceptions regarding value, but primarily it is because I think there is a lot of good quality sparkling wine made in the Loire Valley which seems to be perennially overlooked. It is easy to find reviews and reports on the latest releases from Pol Roger, or Bollinger, or Krug, who all work hard to ensure their wines are placed before the wine-writing fraternity, in the context of tastings, press trips or even fish ‘n’ chip suppers. But who writes about the latest releases or indeed maturing wines from any number of domaines in Vouvray, Montlouis, Saumur or beyond?
I have myself on occasion been a little remiss when it comes to writing about the sparkling wines of the Loire Valley, passing over such wines in favour of more ‘serious’ still wines. Over the next few months I hope to right this wrong, to some small extent, and rather than starting here with an obvious favourite (a wine from a handful of domaines in Vouvray or Montlouis, I suppose) I thought I would kick off with this upmarket cuvée from Saumur. Bouvet-Ladubay have long filled two niches when it comes to sparkling wine; on the one hand cuvées such as Saphir and Trésor offer a combination of good quality and a very keen price, while on the other hand the likes of the Brut Zero and Cuvée du Millénaire Instinct offer much greater precision and finesse at a somewhat higher price (although still half what you would pay for a pretty ordinary non-vintage Champagne).
At the top end of the range are the Taille Princesse cuvées, the product of a collaboration with Gérard Depardieu. This celebrity association is sure to raise eyebrows with some, but let’s not forget the Champenois are prone to a sprinkling of bling on their bottles from time to time as well. Bottles of Piper-Heidsieck ‘dressed’ by Jean-Paul Gaultier, anyone? And besides, this is more than mere endorsement, as Gérard, proprietor of the Terra Vitis-certified Château de Tigné, is intimately involved in the making of the wine. If I recall correctly the first release (the 2008 vintage) was an assemblage of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, pressed at the Bouvet-Ladubay cellars and fermented in oak barriques prior to blending by Gérard and the Bouvet-Ladubay team. The finished wine incorporated a small percentage of Pinot Noir from Château de Tigné to bring a subtle, rosé shade to the wine. From the 2009 vintage, however, the blend changed; whereas it still incorporated Gerard’s Pinot Noir, the wine was subsequently a blend of this variety and Cabernet Franc. This blueprint has been carried through to the 2011 vintage, a wine I have tasted half a dozen times before, and I have in general been impressed by its precise definition.
Now five years of age, and having lain in my cellar for at least a couple of years, the 2011 Saumur Brut Taille Princesse de Gérard Depardieu Rosé from Bouvet-Ladubay seems to be moving along at a fair lick. Once quite bright and pure, with filigree aromas and flavours, and a similarly delicate hue, this bottle now feels rather more advanced. There is plenty of pressure behind the cork, and this is backed up by a plentiful but fine bead in the glass. The hue is deeper than expected though, with more of a bronzed onion-skin colour. The aromatics now show a suggestion of candied fruit, redcurrant and cherry, with interesting nuances of baked peach and apricot confit. The palate shows a similar style, with a glossy, glycerol-tinged texture to it, thankfully cut through with a lively mousse and fresh, sappy acidity. There is a lot of creamed fruit-purée substance on the palate, giving it a broad and textural style. This is certainly an interesting wine. It no longer shows the delicacy of fruit or the precise definition on the palate that I saw in bottles I drank one or two years ago, it having veered into a rather soft and candied style. I wonder whether the use of Cabernet Franc for the base wine here, rather than the more usual Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay, has had some adverse influence upon its ability to age? 15/20 (31/10/16)