Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières 2005
Last year I thought to myself that I might attend one of the gazillions of Burgundy tastings that the UK wine trade cram into the first few weeks of January. Burgundy is a region I love, in particular the awe-inspiring vista from almost any point along the foot of the Côte d’Or is hard to beat – and the wines it gives us aren’t half-bad either, of course. As for the vintage being shown this year, 2009, this is already being reported in very favourable terms. One such report comes from Tim Atkin, who has one of the few remaining true wine columns, in which he – wait for it – actually writes about wine (as opposed to offering a shopping list of cheap-and-cheerfuls, which is my rather jaded view of what most ‘wine columns’ offer today). He writes in the January 21st edition of Off Licence News (yes, it is a trade publication, but it still counts) that this is “a vintage for wine drinkers rather than wine nerds“, by which he means the wines are both attractive and accessible. Sounds good!
All the same, in the end, I didn’t attend a tasting. Not a single one.
Much as I would have liked to, the truth is a more relevant opportunity came along, that being Charles and Philippa Sydney’s annual Loire tasting. For those unfamiliar with the name, Charles Sydney is a Loire courtier, a role which involves helping local winemakers to place their wines with retailers, sometimes working with them to create unique cuvées, such as those that form his La Grille portfolio of classic Loire appellations. The tasting is annual, but I have often found it difficult to attend; in previous years it has frequently clashed with my birthday, which makes the nine hours of travelling undertaken to attend suddenly seem rather unattractive. Who wants to spend most of their birthday on a train? And last year it clashed with a trip to Rome – travel back from there would have been even more unattractive! This year though, Charles and Philippa moved the tasting to January, and all of a sudden my thoughts turned from Burgundy back to the Loire.
After all, there are plenty of bodies already well-seated on the Burgundy bandwagon. Last year alone saw a plethora of new and revised books on the region published, from Jasper Morris, Remington Norman, Allen Meadows and others. But where are the corresponding tomes relating to the Loire? And for those wanting a regular fix of reviews and recommendations, there is of course Burghound from the aforementioned Allen Meadows. Where is the publication that regularly reviews wines from the Loire Valley? And vintage reports from Burgundy aren’t that hard to come by. But please, pray tell, who is providing us with this level of information where the Loire is concerned? And don’t say Bordeaux and Burgundy are the only regions where the expense of the wines mean consumers demand guidance; the prices of the top bottles from Savennières, Vouvray and Sancerre, while still favourable compared to the likes of those from Montrachet and Pomerol, aren’t exactly bargain-basement either.
The truth is, information on the Loire remains difficult to come by, and so in a continued effort to right this wrong I will be focusing on the Loire more than ever this year. Yes, I do still intend to cast my net wide, with trips to Tuscany and the Rhône lined up for the coming months, as well as Bordeaux of course, but I will be adding as many new Loire features as possible, including updated guides like my Muscadet update, new profiles and new features. The tasting which I attended last week, in preference to all those Burgundy bashes, will give me good kick-start in this respect, as it afforded me a very attractive overarching view of two recent vintages, 2009 and 2010, both of which I will feature in coming weeks alongside new, detailed vintage reports. These reports will I hope be a very useful feature, unique to Winedoctor. I use the word unique because I don’t believe anyone else is producing Loire summaries to the same extent, despite this being one of France’s major viticultural regions. These summaries will provide background details on climate and the growing season and, like all my reviews and profiles, will be backed up by tasting notes on the wines.
If it’s not clear exactly what I am describing, you do not have long to wait. This week, in anticipation of my 2009 and 2010 reports, I will be publishing on the 2005 vintage, accompanied the following day by my most up-to-date tasting notes on the wines. Why start with 2005? Quite simply, I couldn’t resist kicking off with what is a great vintage – perhaps one of the greatest ever – for the region. And the tasting which I put together to back up this report, featuring wines from my own cellar, has given me this week’s featured wine. This is the 2005 Bourgueil Les Perrières from Catherine & Pierre Breton, which has long been a favourite of mine from this vintage, one of those rare wines that, once you have tasted it, you hunt down until you find some. Having first encountered it in the summer of 2008, it wasn’t until later that year that I found it listed by a French merchant, who very kindly delivered some bottles to the UK for me. This was the first of those six bottles. On inspection, this wine still has a very dark and concentrated red-black hue. And the nose is superb, thankfully; I am always a little bit apprehensive coming back to wines on which I have previously heaped praise, but this one fulfils all my expectations. There is fabulous fruit intensity here, raspberry, blackberry and even tinges of blueberry, cut through with elements of smoke, charcoal and a little nutty toffee. Right now – despite its silky showing on previous tastings – it tastes as though its origins were rather warmer than the Loire, but that is 2005 for you. It has some big, meaty substance, power and structure. There is an elegance to it as well though, a crisp layer of fruit, rose petals encrusted with sugar and fruit juices, underpinned by a great grip, bite and finish. There is clearly still great potential here. 18/20 (24/1/11)