Domaine de la Charmoise Touraine Vinifera Côt 2014
Back in February I spent three days in Paris at Vinovision, a relatively young wine salon launched last year where the focus is on French ‘cool climate’ regions. I attended both the 2017 and 2018 editions, and used them as opportunities to broaden my coverage of the Loire Valley, tasting with vignerons who I wouldn’t otherwise have time to meet up with. With the ongoing contraction of the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers, now just a two-day affair (I am hoping this is temporary, but there are no signs of the third day reappearing in 2019), Vinovision has quickly established itself as an important feature of my annual tasting diary. It is also a good excuse, of course, to spend a few days in Paris, getting fleeced in overly expensive bars. But that’s another story….
When at Vinovision I stopped off to taste with Henry Marionnet, of Domaine de la Charmoise. It was a pointed reminder that for all the attention some Touraine domaines seem to garner from across the wine world – this is a region rich in ‘cult’ names, from the now defunct Clos Roche Blanche to up-and-coming causes célèbres such as Noëlla Morantin and Etienne Courtois – some of the very best wines come from beneath the cult-wine radar. Henry’s Vinifera cuvées, from small parcels of ungrafted Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Côt, were all showing really well, the reds in particular were full of vibrant flavours, dark and crisply defined, with little savoury and herbal nuances wrapped around them. They were, to be frank, delicious. I resolved to buy and drink more of these wines (yes, I am aware that I seem to tell myself that every other week).
The next time I came across a wine from Domaine de la Charmoise I didn’t even know what it was I was tasting. It was a couple of months later, in April, when I was judging at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards. In a line-up of reds, all tasted blind of course, was a Touraine Gamay which shimmered with pure and defined fruit. I have to confess I find top Côte Roannaise and Côtes de Forez Gamay, from volcanic basalt and granite terroirs, more exciting than Touraine Gamay, which is mostly planted on gravelly, clay or alluvial soils (there are some limestone coteaux too, especially along the Cher). Even so, this wine seemed to be as good a Gamay as you could possibly hope for, and the four of us who comprised the Loire Valley panel agreed it was gold medal-worthy. Of course, it was the Touraine Vinifera Gamay from Henry Marionnet, in the 2017 vintage as it happens. It seemed to me that the resolution made at Vinovision had been a wise one, and perhaps it was time to make good on my promise to myself.
And so here I am, putting my money where my mouth is, not with the Gamay as it happens, but with the 2014 Vinifera Côt from Domaine de la Charmoise. This cuvée is made from 1.8 hectares of vines planted on their own roots, rather than grafted onto American rootstock, back in 2000. The vines were propagated from a pre-existing parcel of Côt during the winter of 1998/1999. The tips of canes from the old vines were placed into the soil where they rooted, a pre-phylloxera technique known as provignage which provided the Marionnet family with a huge nursery of newborn vines. The soils are sandy and silty, which no doubt provides some protection from the phylloxera louse which is notoriously sand-averse. The fruit is hand-picked, the bunches sorted, and the vinification kicks off with a little carbonic maceration before continuing with a traditional alcoholic fermentation, with no added yeasts. In the glass the resulting wine has a deep yet vibrant black tulip core, with a dark crimson rim (the picture of the bottle above was taken after I had drained it, obviously). This is followed by a beautifully vibrant aromatic profile, full of rose petals, black cherry, charcoal, soot, black bean and juniper notes. On the palate this wine has a succulent presence, showing a cherry-stone texture, with flavours of rose petals and black tea leaves alongside the currants and black cherry fruit coming through from the nose, all supported by fine-grained tannins and vivacious acidity which give it a joyous and confident presence in the mouth. Overall, a quite brilliant wine, with great persistence in the finish. From now on I will be looking out for other cuvées, and other vintages, from the Marionnet family. 94/100 (25/6/18)
Read more in:
- My detailed profile of Domaine de la Charmoise
- My report on the Loire 2014 vintage
- My guide to Côt and Other Red Loire Varieties