Domaine Cady Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin Cuvée Volupté Sélection de Grains Nobles 1999
As I write this it is Sunday evening and my head is swimming with different thoughts. At times like these I can struggle to grasp which issue I should tackle first, and it is not unknown for me to find myself with several half-finished tasks on my hands, as I flit from one to another. With kindness it might be called multitasking, but I think where I am concerned it is more like disorganisation, a physical reflection of something that borders upon ‘flight of ideas’. Sadly, very few of these ideas flying through my mind are wine-related, so this isn’t the basis of a sudden burst of vinous creativity. It’s just life.
It is a far cry from last week, in Saumur, when my mind was entirely occupied with the Loire Valley and all it has to offer. I spent long evenings sitting outside, enjoying magnificent sunsets, and also some of the most remarkable sunrises – the entire sky ablaze in soft pinks, peaches and fiery oranges – I have ever seen (I did get some sleep between the two, by the way). Time seemed to stand still for a week, in the evenings at least, although the days were very busy.
I drank some sweet wine during the course of the week. Once that would have been nothing unusual, but I have not been drinking so much sweet wine this year. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist taking a pop at the 1999 Cuvée Volupté from Domaine Cady when I spotted it in Saumur. Yes, perhaps I should have been drinking Coteaux de Saumur if I wanted to keep it really local, but I went to Saumur for fizz, dry white and for red of course, so I think I should be forgiven for looking elsewhere for a hit of botrytised sweetness.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in this vintage, but on first pouring the wine it displayed a reassuring mid-gold hue, bright and fresh, certainly suggestive of botrytis but all the same it was far from the deepest, most intensely pigmented wine I have ever clapped eyes on. Which brings us back to my initial doubts about this wine, and why I wasn’t sure what I was going to find here.
It is hard to find detailed vintage assessments for the Loire Valley – in fact I would go so far as to say it is impossible – which is why I took it upon myself to begin producing detailed Loire Valley vintage reports. They don’t stretch back as far as 1999 though, which was just before Winedoctor was born. It wasn’t a very special vintage, and I tend to think of it as a mirror-image of what Bordeaux achieved that year. Alright, this is a gross simplification, but we all need a little aide memoire from time to time. Whereas in Bordeaux it was a successful (and under-rated) sweet wine vintage, with pleasant but not spectacular dry whites and reds, the Loire Valley produced similarly decent dry wines, white and red, but the sweet wines were much more problematic.
A damp September put the brakes on any hopes of a great vintage, with a dry spell in October allowing picking of fruit for the dry wines. For sweet wines many growers were picking well into November, and the conditions weren’t ideal. It was cold and damp. In Vouvray there was quite a lot of grey rot rather than botrytis, and tasting now the 1999 Vouvrays remain light and in some cases tainted – it’s not a vintage to buy blind that is for sure. I am less familiar with Coteaux du Layon in 1999, although Patrick Baudouin and a few others made some big, impressive wines which suggest the region at least faired a little better than Vouvray.
The Cuvée Volupté is the top cuvée from Domaine Cady, a sélection de grains nobles (i.e. made using 100% botrytised fruit), and this is bottle number 58007 (grains nobles bottlings in Anjou have to be numbered, if I recall correctly) and it shows the lightness of the vintage with its pretty nose of bitter orange, almond biscuits and delicately dried apricots. These are aromas that obviously speak of a botrytis influence but the aromatics seem tense and sinewy rather than sweet and fleshy. We have, I suspect, a wine with botrytis but without as much concentration as we might expect in this cuvée; the conditions just weren’t up to it, as concentration requires dry weather, and a little breeze certainly helps. But it just wasn’t like that in 1999.
Happily the palate has a little fullness, but it is fresh, bright and bitter as the nose suggested, with a gently evolved sweetness. It certainly appeals to me, as it has an evolved character, and it is scrupulously clean, a testament to the hard-working nature of the Cady family. It is always worth drinking off vintages from good domaines such as this. Not simply because this is how you understand a domaine, an appellation or a region, but because these bottles can give real pleasure. The palate here does not have the intensity or texture of a great vintage, but it still fascinates with its savoury, bitter-almond backbone, and it certainly lingers with a bright and vibrant finish. All in all this is a lovely wine, one that lingers in the memory as clearly as a Saumur sunset. Or, indeed, a Saumur sunrise. 16/20 (27/7/15)