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Denis Jamain Reuilly Rosé Les Châtillons 2020

Denis Jamain Reuilly Rosé Les Châtillons 2020

During a series of harvest visits made many years ago, I called in on a couple of domaines in Reuilly. There is no better way to build an understanding of a vintage than to visit at this unique time of year, and I was learning something new about the millésime du jour – which, for those in need of facts, was 2013 – every day.

My first port of call in the appellation was to the cellars of the late Claude Lafond, the biggest and perhaps best-known domaine in the appellation. He was busy with the harvest but he still found time to invite me to taste the juice of his first wine of the vintage, his barely-fermented rosé. I recall it as being simply delicious; a swirling cloud of peachiness in the glass, with a sweetness on the palate from all those still-unfermented sugars. Was is it Pinot Noir, I wondered, or perhaps Gamay? The first is the almost ubiquitous red variety of the Central Vineyards, the second its occasional blending partner in appellations such as Coteaux du Giennois. These are facts too easily forgotten in a wine region where many people assume everything red and rosé must be Pinot Noir, and Pinot Noir alone.

I was reminded of this when Claude answered my question. “It’s neither – it’s Pinot Gris”.

Denis Jamain Reuilly Rosé Les Châtillons 2020

That Pinot Gris has a place in Reuilly might seem strange at first, but it reflects the manner in which this appellation (and many others) evolved. Prior to the creation of the appellation all the wines of Reuilly were hochepot blends of numerous varieties. At the moment of inception of the appellation during the 1930s the permitted varieties for white wines in Reuilly included not just Sauvignon Blanc but also Chasselas, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Pinot Blanc, and it was not until 1941 that the latter quartet were thrown out.

Reds and rosés weren’t even included in the appellation at this stage, although among the vignerons who were active at this time there were a number producing at least a rosé. The varieties used were mostly Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinot Beurot, a local synonym for Pinot Gris. When reds and rosés were finally admitted to the appellation, in 1961, the two Pinots made the cut but Gamay, despite being dominant in the vineyard, was thrown out.

As a consequence rosés from Reuilly (a phrase which sounds to me like it should be an Edith Piaf song) are today made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris but the leading domaines tend to use exclusively the latter. Working in the shared Chai de Reuilly, which sits alongside Lafond’s more recently constructed cellars, Denis Jamain is one such grower. His 100% Pinot Gris rosé comes from vines planted on the flinty, gravelly clay soils of Les Châtillons, perhaps a good use for this particular terroir. The appellation is rich in Kimmeridgian limestone but these terroirs are perhaps more likely to be planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

The freshly picked fruit sees a light maceration of the skins – just three hours in the case of the 2020 vintage – to achieve a delicate extraction of colour, followed by fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel to generate a fresh and lively rosé. The 2020 Reuilly Rosé Les Châtillons from Denis Jamain displays a beautifully peachy hue in the glass, a world away from the soft or occasionally electric pinks of most rosés. Aromatically the profile seems to follow the colour, with scents of peach, tangerine and apricot, dusted with crushed chalk and notes of rose petal. In short, it is delightful, and the palate shows the same character. It reflects the warmth of the vintage, with a polished texture, dry yet ripe and pithy, and packed with peach-stone flavour. It has rather modest acidity, but a lower serving temperature would help to emphasise the freshness here. All in all this is a fine and distinctive rosé and a great example of a wine made with one of the Loire Valley’s less commonly encountered varieties. The alcohol is 13%. 92/100 (11/7/22)

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