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Domaine FL Savennières Roche-aux-Moines 2007

Domaine FL Savennières Roche-aux-Moines 2007

I think it’s time for a little Savennières update. This is an appellation which seems to be attracting more and more attention in recent years, not just from those with a lifelong obsession withe the Loire (ahem…..looks at shoes, shuffles self-consciously) but also from more mainstream wine publications. Part of its appeal, aside from the impressive quality of the wines (well, some of the wines), is that it is defined, of elevated status, and discrete. It feels like the sort of appellation you might be able to get to grips with, without feeling you have bitten off more than you can chew. I personally believe there are sites in the much broader Anjou vineyard that can match Savennières on interest and quality, but I also understand it is easy to be overfaced by a huge region/appellation such as Anjou. Much better, perhaps, to start with something small.

Despite this the bite-size Savennières still has the power to confuse; it was only a few years ago that Jonathan Ray wrote, of the Loire Valley, in his Telegraph wine column, “The Sauvignon Blancs (such as Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy, Sancerre and Savennières) make great aperitifs or partners to first courses”. I would agree with Jonathan’s general sentiment, but of course only four of those wines are made using Sauvignon Blanc. It is, perhaps, an easy slip up to make, although it is a good example of the pitfalls that await generalist wine writers who choose to deal with more obscure wines and appellations.

Domaine FL Savennières Roche-aux-Moines 2007

So, what about a one-paragraph primer on Savennières? Alright, here goes. First, it is made using 100% Chenin Blanc (a few decades ago you could find wines with a little Verdelho unofficially blended in, but those days have gone), and certainly not Sauvignon Blanc. Whereas most of the famous Anjou vineyards (Coteau du Layon, Quarts de Chaume, Anjou & Anjou-Villages, etc.) lie to the south of the Loire, Savennières lies to the north; at this particular spot the river is heading in a southwesterly direction. This, in combination with many little valleys feeding into the river from the northern side, mean the region is rich in south-west, south and south-east facing slopes. The bedrock is predominantly schist (as it is across much of Anjou), here dating to the Upper Ordovician and Lower Devonian (well over 400 million years old), but as with all of the Massif Armoricain there are streaks of other igneous and metamorphic forms, including spilite, quartz and phthanite. More significantly, large parts of the region are covered with sand, carried up these little side-valleys by the wind. The more sand in the vineyard, the lighter the style of wine, the more schist, the more serious. The approach to winemaking also plays a significant role, but that is a topic for another day.

The wine featured here comes from the Roche-aux-Moines section of the Savennières vineyard. Long recognised as a Savennières cru, many seem to have overlooked the fact that in 2011 this cru was one of two regions (the other being the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant) to be recognised with its own appellation. Whether or not the entire Roche-aux-Moines lieu-dit (all 33 hectares of it!) really deserves this accolade is questionable, nevertheless some wines from these vineyards (those of Château Pierre-Bise spring to mind) are certainly worthy. The fruit for the wine featured here came from the vineyards of Château de Chamboureau, which was taken over by Domaine FL at around this time. When I first tasted this wine, about five or six years ago, strangely enough at the Stéphane Derenoncourt tasting during the Bordeaux primeurs (Stéphane was consulting to Domaine FL at the time) it was still wearing a Chamboureau label, but it has since evidently been repackaged as Domaine FL. The Domaine FL Savennières Roche-aux-Moines 2007 has a fairly polished, yellow-gold hue. This is matched by a really appealing, confident nose, showing a fine concentration of desiccated fruits, clean but with depth and suggested concentration. Underneath there is a solid, minerally seam, and despite the modern style there is no significant oak here. The palate has defined substance, a really marrowy presence, with the fruit showing a broad, vinous, lightly pithy-bitter fruit-skin character. The midpalate is cool and restrained despite its evident weight, with fresh lifting acidity. This is nicely counterbalanced by the fruit, laced with its honeyed, oatmealy edges, leading into a tingling, lightly pithy finish. Good length too; a more modern style of Savennières, this is one that cane be enjoyed now, but it should cellar well for years yet. Very good. 17/20 (3/11/14)

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