Denis Jamain Reuilly Blanc Les Pierres Plates 2012
After last weekend’s foray into the wilds of Campania, for a delightful example of Falanghina from the La Guardiense co-operative, this week I am back on home turf with this wine from one of the leading domaines of Reuilly. I’m currently trying to delve more deeply into the wines of France’s central vineyards, primarily to gain a more detailed understanding of the wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, but I am keen not to overlook the region’s other appellations of which Reuilly, alongside Menetou-Salon, is one of the more important.
Reuilly has a history of industry as well as viticulture, for two principal reasons. First there is the Arnon, a river of some size that flows northwards into the Cher, and its flow was ideal for driving the mill wheels of the 19th century. Second was the railway; Reuilly lies rather conveniently on the line that runs between Paris to the north, and Toulouse to the south. As a consequence, over one hundred years ago the town developed a reputation for its textiles as well as its wines. As you would expect the mills eventually went into decline, the technology once ground-breaking but soon overtaken by other methods for weaving the weft. Sadly, to a large extent the vineyards followed suit; many were little more than a few plots grown to make wine for personal consumption, and as the population left to find work elsewhere these vineyards gradually returned to the wild. For this reason by the middle of the 20th century Reuilly neared extinction, bottoming out at a paltry 50 hectares of vines, the entire appellation smaller than some Bordeaux left bank classed growth vineyards. Although the area planted to the vine is now much higher, perhaps 200 hectares, viticulture remains a niche interest. A drive through the countryside around the town reveals a broad landscape of arable agriculture, a sea of wheat and other crops extending as far as the eye can see. You need to know where to look to find the vineyards.
The appellation really bounced back with the creation of the Chai de Reuilly in 1992. Built using public funds, with the assistance of Claude Lafond who donated the land, this was a shared facility for growers to use. About a dozen vignerons operate out of the facility, led by Claude up until the 2010 vintage when he left, having completed the construction of his swish new cellars situated right next-door. As a result Denis Jamain is now the leading vigneron in terms of volume produced; his is also one of the most interesting domaines in the appellation, it having undergone a gradual, piecemeal conversion to organic and biodynamic viticulture over the last few years.
One particular feature of this appellation is very unusual and warrants some mention; alongside Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both common sights in the vineyards of the Loire, Pinot Gris is also permitted, which can be used to make a straightforward rosé (often in combination with Pinot Noir) although the gris style is uniquely and perhaps more traditionally associated with the appellation. It is a style intended for early drinking, and is very popular with the locals, and so it is not something you are likely to encounter by chance. Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir aside, most of the vines are as you might expect Sauvignon Blanc, this variety accounting for about 70% of the vineyard. Hence this weekend’s wine, the 2012 Reuilly from Les Pierres Plates, a vineyard of Sauvignon Blanc (although, to be precise, there is Pinot Noir planted here also) on fractured limestone owned by Denis Jamain. This south-facing site is one of the earliest in the appellation to ripen, and Denis has been managing it biodynamically in recent vintages. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, and although it is not in my opinion the top wine of the appellation it does to some extent define what is for a wine to be from Reuilly. Tasting the wine, this vintage has quite a pure nose, with notes of white peach leaf, fresh and with a light saline suggestion, and there is even a little citrus twist behind it. Later, as this citrus note evolves, there is also a little smoky, flinty edge coming through. The palate has a good energy, with a supple weight through the middle, and a lightly bitter seam of citrus fruits too. It culminates in a fresh and sappy finish, with more than just a little bite to it. This is quite classic in its reserved and slightly minerally style, and overall it is an appealing wine. 16/20 (19/5/14)