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François Pinon Vouvray Première Trie 2003

François Pinon Vouvray Première Trie 2003

I spent much of last week in London, at the Decanter World Wine Awards, with one day off (for good behaviour perhaps?) at the annual Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé tasting. It was a busy week but one of its joys, aside from tasting a huge range of wines from the two regions that interest me most (even if I don’t know the identity of any of the wines from the Loire….yet), was the chance to meet up with friends, both old and new. One such old friend is a merchant who specialises in Bordeaux, and after putting the world to rights on the matter of Bordeaux 2014 – obviously the hot topic among the Bordeaux merchants at the moment – conversation soon turned towards Loire 2014.

The 2014 vintage was a very good one for the Loire Valley, rather more convincing than the same vintage in Bordeaux in fact. In both regions it is a vintage rich in wines with ripe fruit flavours framed in a refreshing, acid-defined style, which isn’t ideal for Bordeaux (although far from terrible either) but it is absolutely spot on for the Loire. Indeed, what more could we ask of these wines? The 2014 Muscadets are delicious (and this came through strong in the Decanter tastings), showing depth and richness but also fresh acidity and minerality, and the Sauvignon Blancs of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and the like are no less convincing. And from what I have tasted from the heartland appellations that focus on Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, these wines also have much promise. I have already tasted some sec and demi-sec Vouvray that delights, and the entry-level cuvées I have tasted from Chinon and Bourgueil (unlike the Bordelais, the vignerons of the Loire have no appetite for pouring barrel samples of their grands vins long before their time) also hold much promise.

François Pinon Vouvray Première Trie 2003

Having put all this to my merchant friend he fixed me his gaze, his eyes burning with enthusiasm, and then came the killer question. What about the sweet wines? And suddenly I was brought back down to earth, as I was reminded that to many – especially serious merchants who spend their weekends bathing in the greatest wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy – the Loire is nothing more than two tiny sweet wine regions, one centred around Vouvray the other around the slopes of the Layon, which provide an occasional alternative to Sauternes or Barsac. I had to reply in the negative; although there will be some good sweet wines from 2014, these will be hard-won victories produced in small volumes, and I suspect their impact will pale somewhat when tasted against the delightful 2010 and 2011 vintages, both of which yielded some delicious sweet wines. The 2014 vintage, while a very exciting one for those of us who drink Savennières, Cour-Cheverny and Menetou-Salon is not going to be replacing the dwindling stocks of 1989 Vouvray and 1990 Quarts de Chaume that can be found in the well-stocked cellars of London, no doubt nestled against all the old Latour and Bonnes Mares.

On my return to drizzly Scotland my thoughts turned to other vintages where the sweet wines did well, one of which was 2003. It is a vintage where the wines do not always possess that defined, very desirable acid cut, nevertheless they are wines that are packed with flavour and even if not electric in their acid profile they still, on the whole, have freshness. After my return from this year’s Salon des Vins de Loire I cracked open a bottle of the 2003 Vouvray Moelleux from François Pinon, and continuing the theme I though I should probably open his 2003 Vouvray Première Trie. This is a wine which I just happen to have very large stocks of, and this bottle showed true to form, with a very rich but bright golden hue in the glass. The nose is reminiscent of candied fruits, very pure and crystalline, this being a 100% passerillage cuvée. It suggests sweetness and concentration, with little hints of macaroons and beeswax complexity too. It has a wonderfully vibrant character on the palate, with fine fruit exuberance, little touches of mango exoticism, and certainly flavours of yellow peach, all luxuriously textured and sweetly polished. It has great spirit and vigour, but a somewhat lower level of acidity, giving it a very succulent, fleshy, creamy, fruit-syrup edge. Still a very good wine in my opinion, but perhaps not one for the acid lovers. 18/20 (4/5/15)

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