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Champalou Vouvray 2010

Champalou Vouvray 2010

During the last week or so the UK wine scene has gone ga-ga over 2013 Burgundy, largely off the back the annual January flurry of tastings in London. Strangely, I don’t think Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune see quite the same co-ordinated assault to taste young wines that Bordeaux endures every April during the primeurs, which I often think is a little weird. I personally wouldn’t dream of writing a vintage report without travelling to the region, in order to meet and chat with the growers. But then I suppose so much wine writing today isn’t about providing insight and context, those key elements which truly inform the consumer, but is just about the generation of huge reams of tasting note. The critic with the most notes wins the gold medal. Publish your notes first, and you have a double-gold. Double-tiresome, more like.

This weekend I started the research necessary to write my Loire 2014 vintage report, which I expect to publish in the next couple of months. I haven’t tasted (or even seen) a wine yet, but have so far been reviewing the region’s weather reports for the year, and adding in my notes made when talking, emailing or texting with Loire Valley vignerons. And pretty soon the tasting will start, kicking off this week with the annual Loire Benchmark tasting staged by Charles and Philippa Sydney, Loire courtiers, in London. Not that different to all those Burgundy tastings you might say, and you would be right, but then the following week I am off to the Loire to taste again, to visit a handful of selected domaines, and to take advantage of the many fairs and salons where I will be able to chew the cud with the vignerons themselves, from Marc Ollivier in Muscadet all the way up to Jonathon Pabiot in Pouilly-Fumé and with hundreds in-between, so can taste their 2014s, and find out what the year was like from the horse’s mouth.

Champalou Vouvray 2010

I want to try and expand my coverage of Anjou this year, especially the sweeter appellations, rather like I concentrated on Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé last year, and on Saumur-Champigny the year before. But I also must not overlook Vouvray, because all the jungle drums seem to suggest that after two (or maybe three, depending on how you spin it) difficult vintages, 2014 seems to be a better year for the Vouvrillons. Sadly I have to report that rain in October will probably have thwarted any hope of making great sweet wines, but after a disappointing August there was a long period of warm, dry sunny weather through September which gave plenty of ripening opportunity. I’m hoping to hear tales of (and taste of course) some good dry wines, maybe some demi-sec too, and the potential for plenty of fine sparkling wines in the future. Fingers crossed.

I can’t report on a 2014 Vouvray as my weekend wine just yet, so I thought I would take a look back in time a few years to the last really good vintage for the appellation. Vouvray experts will know that some great sweet wines were made in 2011, thanks to the exceptionally warm autumn weather, but earlier there had been a huge mismatch between technical and physiological ripeness, so whereas the sweet wines can be good the dry wines, harvested much earlier, can feel rather clunky and even rather green. So it is to 2010 I go first, a vintage blessed with good wines in all styles. From one of the top domaines Champalou comes their dry cuvée; the Champalou family tend to blend across many vineyards for most of their wines (as does Philippe Foreau, for example, the opposite of the single-vineyard approach taken at Domaine Huet and Domaine des Aubuisières), and the sec tends to feature the limestone terroirs (whereas the demi-sec Les Fondraux tends to come from flint). In the glass the 2010 Champalou Vouvray has a very pale, lemon-gold hue. There follows a simply beautiful nose, floral and mineral at first, hinting at pure, white-fruit nuances, bit then with a little air showing a greater aromatic depth and concentration, a more zesty, citrus-like energy. The palate is just fabulous too, tense, brimming with mineral-streaked juicy citrus fruits, dry and savoury but with an appealing, fruit-rich flesh. A great, rather sappy finish here. A brilliant example of dry Vouvray, elegant and poised, and one which would surely wipe the floor with all those obscure, unobtainable and unaffordable wines from Burgundy that currently seem to be the talk of the town. 17.5/20 (19/1/15)

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