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Domaine des Deux Vallées Savennières 2012

Domaine des Deux Vallées Savennières 2012

Off the top of my head I can’t remember exactly where I was travelling to, or where I had just been. What I do recall is that I was whizzing along on the D54, a useful road which runs up from La Haie Longue near the banks of the Loire up onto the plateau north of the Layon. Stick with it in that direction and it will take you past the vineyards of Chaume and Quarts de Chaume, onto Château Pierre-Bise and then Beaulieu-sur-Layon. There it bifurcates; take a right for Rablay-sur-Layon, on the opposite side of the Layon, and Richard Leroy; or take a left for Faye-d’Anjou and Domaine de Juchepie. So you get the idea; this is a well-travelled road, with vines on either side, tumbling down towards the waters on the Layon to the south, very useful for nipping from one visit to the next.

So, returning to my opening gambit, I was heading east on the D54, and not for the first time in my life I careered past Domaine des Deux Vallées, which sits in a prominent position on the roadside. It was enough to remind me that I had a bottle tucked away somewhere, purchased in a blind-buying moment. I must pull the cork on that bottle soon, I thought to myself.

That was in June. It took until this weekend to get around to doing just that. It could have happened earlier I suppose, but other things just kept getting in the way, not least my third trip back to the Loire Valley this year, in July, no real hardship. Well, at least I had a little time to brush up on the domaine. Domaine des Deux Vallées is home to Philippe and René Socheleau; Philippe and his father purchased Domaine Banchereau (not to be confused with the Branchereau family of Domaine des Forges) in St-Aubin-de-Luigné back in 2001, subsequently selling off the cellars and building new facilities here, on the side of the D54. The domaine has 30 hectares of vines around St-Aubin-de-Luigné, another 8 hectares around Rochefort-sur-Loire, and a precious 2 hectares in Chaume, and therefore majors on the Coteaux du Layon and Chaume appellations, with several cuvées of Anjou Blanc and Rouge, Rosé and Crémant de Loire too. In other words, the usual Anjou range.

Domaine des Deux Vallées Savennières 2012

So where does Savennières fit into the story? Well, it isn’t far from here to Savennières; head for Rochefort-sur-Loire, cross the bridge at Béhuard, and you can be there in less than ten minutes (come to think of it, it might have been Savennières I was heading for on the occasion of my trip in June). And like a number of vignerons here on the south side of the river, including Claude Papin, Jo Pithon, Patrick Baudouin and many others, Philippe Socheleau could not resist the pull of the Savennières vineyards. In 2006, a few years after establishing himself here in Anjou, he acquired a diminutive 0.5-hectare parcel of vines near the Moulin du Gué.

The approach here is ultra-modern, if the 2012 is anything to judge by, producing a very polished style of wine. The fruit is picked by hand and then brought to the cellars on the D54, a 7.5-kilometre journey (I find it interesting to note how far grapes travel, especially now that Jacky Blot and François Chidaine have been banned from vinifying their Vouvray fruit in their Montlouis cellars). After a period of chilling which may last several days the fruit is pressed, the juice allowed to settle and then transferred into oak barrels for the fermentation and élevage, which might last about twelve months. A portion of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation.

In the glass, the 2012 Domaine des Deux Vallées Savennières has a pure, bright, lemon-gold hue. If the raison d’être for Chenin Blanc is to be floral and perfumed, admittedly here lifted by a touch of sweet and honeyed oak, then this wine seems to fit the bill. The aromatics certainly hold some appeal, with suggestions of lightly desiccated golden pears, quite pure in style, with notes of straw and wild flowers alongside. The palate seems similarly very pure, and is really quite slick and polished, the oak eagerly rounding off the sweet golden orchard fruit, and it has only gentle acidity to give it a lift. As a wine viewed in isolation from its origins it is attractive and approachable, albeit feeling slightly loose in terms of concentration, with a long, polished, slightly grippy finish. Viewed in the context of the appellation, however, it is less striking. I have plenty of time for the modern style in Savennières, as I think it a very valid alternative to the rather more austere, high-acid and zero-oak old-school style. But the oak and malolactic fermentation here has polished this wine until it approaches a state of ambiguity. A nicely crafted wine, but it is Savennières for beginners I think. 15.5/20 (28/9/15)

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