François et Julien Pinon Vouvray Brut Réserve 2002
Shakespeare wrote, in As You Like It, of the seven ages of man, from the helplessness of infancy to the senescence of old age. After last week’s vernal Vouvray, which was perhaps at the very earliest of these seven stages, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a similar style from the appellation at a more advanced age. My choice is the 2002 Vouvray Brut Réserve from François Pinon, a wine which seems contentedly middle-aged, Shakespeare’s fifth stage, rather than old (his sixth) to approaching death (his seventh). Indeed, this is a wine which still has much to offer.
I have written so many times of 2002 in Vouvray, this being one of my favourite vintages in this appellation, and it is also much admired by Philippe Foreau (I confess I am not aware of François Pinon’s feelings on the matter) that it seems superfluous to say anything at al. Thus I will summarise it in just two short sentences. The year was marked by a warm summer and a benevolent harvest, and many domaines produced the full gamut of wines, ranging from sparkling and entry-level cuvées through to the very top moelleux. While the wines were rich in texture, sugar, acidity and flavour, the hallmark of the vintage for me has always been energy and balance combined.
All the various styles of the vintage, from sec to moelleux, have given me pleasure over the years, although I have had some particularly memorable experiences with the sparkling wines. I recall encountering the 2002 Vouvray Brut Réserve from Philippe Foreau for the first time, at the domaine, tasted with Philippe, and I was bowled over by its quality. I loaded up on it, but despite having purchased good stocks I popped the cork on my final bottle more than a year or two ago. Even at that stage it was still going strong, as are Philippe’s 2005 and 2007 vintages of this same cuvée, both of which are still available on the market (more so than the 2002). The 2002 Vouvray Brut Réserve from Domaine Huet was also delicious, but likewise those bottles have also long disappeared.
Happily I still have some bottles from François Pinon, who like his Vouvray peers also saw the potential in the vintage for a more esoteric réserve bottling. At seventeen years of age his 2002 Vouvray Brut Réserve remains very convincing, although before this can be ascertained the cork must be removed; it was remarkably reluctant, dark, inelastic and firmly wedged in the neck. Happily, after a fair degree of manhandling, the wine was released, and it displayed a beautifully reassuring colour in the glass, a pale lemon-gold hue with no suggestion of advanced development, and it shows a light presence of carbon dioxide. There follows a classically reserved nose with citrus fruits and a little dried stone fruit to the fore, with a pure and smoky freshness. On the palate it feels immediately vinous, opening out more than the nose is initially willing to do, with the scents of smoked apples, pears and apricots, along with white pepper, chestnut mushroom and truffle. Later there comes a little toasted praline and nut, all wrapped up in an intense, flinty and minerally blanket of reduction, and shielded from decay by its fabulously confident acid backbone. While the bead in the glass is very fine and subtle, indeed it is downright lazy, in the mouth it has more confidence, the mousse persisting nicely here, from the very start until the finish. Overall this is a great example of the 2002 vintage and, while I have perhaps tasted grander sparkling wines with this date on the label, I don’t feel I have encountered one so true to the appellation. This is one wine I shall enjoy following as it approaches its dotage. 94/100 (18/11/19)
Read more in:
- My detailed profile of François Pinon
- My retrospective tasting of older vintages from François Pinon
- My report on the Loire 2002 vintage