Domaine du Côteau des Nues Pouilly-Fumé 2015
It was only two weeks ago that I made my excuses and apologies for writing about wines which are obscure and impossible to find on the shelves of your local wine merchant. Bearing in mind that my Weekend Wine that week was the 2013 Hommage à Louis Derré from Domaine de Bellivière, a wine I wasn’t sure even existed, I think such platitudes were perhaps appropriate. This week’s wine serves to redress the balance. The only problem is, you’ve never heard of Domaine du Côteau des Nues (have you?), and you’re wondering in which obscure corner of my cellar I located this, perhaps as you contemplate looking at a different site that focuses on the latest bargain-basement supermarket offerings. Well, I implore you, don’t go. Not yet, any way.
Two Fridays ago I drove my youngest son (final year at high school) into the heart of the local university for an entrance exam workshop (I can’t think of any better way to describe it). Two hours later I returned to collect him (note to self – must get myself that chauffeur’s cap), and on the way home I pulled into the car park in front of a Majestic Wine Warehouse. I have a soft spot for Majestic Wine, as do many others in the UK wine world, as the company’s policy of putting their employees through the WSET examinations gave many of them a serious leg-up in the wine trade. In my case (because I never had the good fortune to work there, in case you were wondering) it is because they were the hosts of one of the first ever trade tastings I attended in London, probably more than fifteen years ago now. Their invitation made me think that maybe I could really achieve something with this online wine-writing lark (even if I’m not sure I ever have).
In the years that have passed since that time Majestic Wine have gone of the boil, but over the past year or two I have noticed some real interest return to the range, in the Loire Valley section at least. Listing wines from vignerons such as Bernard Fouquet or Les Vignerons du Pallet can only help. Take an electronic flick through their online wine catalogue, however, and you won’t find any mention of Domaine du Côteau des Nues, as this wine is in fact made by Jonathan Pabiot, the mysterious domaine name one of several he owns and presumably used in order to avoid difficulties with some other importer, merchant or agency. Quite sensibly whoever drew up the list decided to focus on Jonathan’s involvement rather than the obscure non-existent domaine, as Jonathan Pabiot is one of the leading vignerons in the entire Pouilly-Fumé appellation. Indeed, I would rank him second only to Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau.
For the moment Jonathan’s profile remains relatively low, and I suspect there are many reasons for that. This is the Loire Valley, a region overlooked by most drinkers in favour of Champagne, Burgundy, Alsace (witness the recent wine trade exodus to Millésimes Alsace in Colmar last week – what did this fair offer that the Salon des Vins de Loire does not, I wonder?) and other regions. There is more to becoming a cult winemaker in this part of the world than the sheer quality of your wines, you also need an easy hook for the mainstream wine press to hold on to. You need a wild-man messianic hairstyle and a taste for dangerous sports, or possibly a pontifical, pseudo-scientific evangelism and a reputation for sleeping beneath foil-lined blankets to keep the electromagnetic radiation and wi-fi signals out. Jonathan Pabiot has neither leaning (thankfully), and so he remains a secret, known only to wine-trade buyers charged with sourcing Pouilly-Fumé and readers of Winedoctor. His 2015 Pouilly-Fumé has some classic elements of chalk dust, green apple, sage and honeysuckle on the nose, but along with this there are more supple, eagerly expressed notes more suggestive of tropical fruits, including golden-yellow star fruit, peach skin and kumquat citrus. The palate marshalls all these complex aromas forward with aplomb, wrapped up here in a lightly juicy substance cut through with spears of salted-lemon minerality over the peach and citrus fruit. The finish is clean, long and savoury. This wine seems to combine all the charming ripeness of the vintage with the delightfully savoury and structured character of the terroir, and it speaks volumes about Jonathan’s talent. For the quality, it is a veritable bargain. And (UK readers at least), you know where to find it. 17.5/20 (20/6/16)