François Pinon Vouvray Moelleux 2003
Fresh from the Salon des Vins de Loire (well, not that fresh actually, having come back with a dose of la grippe, and I’m sure I can’t be the only one) my mind is brimming with new thoughts on the wines of the Loire Valley. It was a very educational salon, in which I learnt a lot about the 2014 vintage (obviously, this being a vintage of which I had my first taste only a few weeks ago), but also the 2011 vintage (more successful in some parts than I had previously realised), and I also tasted beyond my ‘normal’ Loire Valley limits. I enjoyed, for example, a retrospective tasting of the Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu appellation which was put on to mark twenty vintages since the appellation’s birth (the decree creating the appellation was signed off on December 29th, 1994, so 1995 was the first vintage). The vintages on show went back to 1996, so this was undoubtedly my most in-depth look ever at this appellation.
I also paid a rare visit to the Haut-Poitou appellation, an oft-overlooked region directly south of the major Tourane appellations, and not far from Poitiers. I was moved to do this after an informal dinner last year when some growers brought along their wines and I realised there were still some corners of the Loire Valley, such as Haut-Poitou but Châteaumeillant was another, that I have never really gotten to grips with. I also wandered up to the Côte Roannaise in the Massif Centrale, discovering some pretty smart Gamays grown on the region’s rich mix of pink and red granite soils. I’m looking forward to ensuring these extra dimensions to the Loire Valley’s grand diversity have their place on Winedoctor as soon as possible.
Most important of all, of course, is the 2014 vintage, and I will start my detailed 2014 Loire Valley report next week. For the moment, though, the take-home message is that 2014 is a really good vintage in the Loire Valley, across all regions, and across almost all styles. This will be a delight for almost every vigneron, as the 2013 vintage in the Loire Valley ranged from catastrophic (although still with some good wines made in the end) in Vouvray to very good but not great in the regions focused on earlier-picked varieties, including Muscadet, Sancerre and the like. No-one else symbolised the 2013 disaster in Vouvray more than François Pinon, who lost almost his entire crop, releasing a single cuvée which I wrote up here after my visit to see him last year. Happily I can report that, in the vineyard at least, 2014 was much kinder to François, and as a consequence there is a gamut of delicious demi-sec cuvées coming our way from this vintage, including a new single-vineyard cuvée. Full details in my forthcoming domaine update.
Alongside his 2014 brut de cuve samples as usual François Pinon poured a few older wines, one of which was the 2003 Vouvray Moelleux. As I have long adored his wines I just happen to have a few bottles of this in the cellar, and so I popped the cork on one as soon as I returned home from the Salon. In the glass this wine still shows a rather youthful mid-gold hue. The aromatics lean towards the gentle and charming rather than being precise or poised, with some sweetly desiccated tropical fruits, including a little note reminiscent of dried pineapple, overlaid with a richer, more toasty note, reminiscent of lemon-honey biscuit. It has a nice sense of purity and, although rather full, gentle and soft, I think for the vintage it has an admirable definition. The palate has a voluminous texture, with a sweet and mellifluous flesh. The acidity feels a little low-key at the start, perhaps not that surprising in this vintage, but it builds through the middle, and there is also some suggestion of backbone coming from a pithy grip within the fruit, especially towards the end. It finishes with a long, fading, dried-fruit character. Very good, and a fine result in this vintage. 17/20 (9/2/15)