François Pinon Vouvray Sec 1988
It is perhaps inevitable that when it comes to older vintages from the Loire Valley, it is the region’s sweeter styles, from the Coteaux du Layon and its various crus and villages, from the Coteaux de l’Aubance, a region which wise drinkers never overlook, and of course from Vouvray and Montlouis, that tend to dominate discussion. The wines in some cases are near immortal, uniquely complex, and they deserve their place on the world stage alongside the greats from other wine regions.
When it comes to the region’s dry wines, even in red, drinking these into an admirable stage of maturity is certainly more of a niche activity. While it is easy to find older vintages of sweet wines on the market, this is not the case for dry wines, so those of us keen on the region have to show some forethought, buying the wines when they are young and cellaring them ourselves. Sometimes for many years.
Peering into the gloom of my cellar, the 20th-century vintage with the strongest representation is 1989 (unless you count 2000, and we probably should, which beats it hands down). Somewhat further down the pecking order is 1988, a very good year for the Loire Valley, and for Vouvray in particular. It was a relatively small vintage of good ripeness but also firm acidity, which has kept the wines very fresh across the years. It doesn’t receive much attention though, I suspect partly because it was not as strong for the moelleux and liquoreux styles, whereas 1989 and 1990 soon developed reputations as excellent sweet-wine vintages. As a consequence, 1988 has always tended to be overlooked.
This weekend’s wine was one from Francois Pinon which momentarily puts right this chronic case of vintage oversight. The cork, now nudging thirty years of age, was long and clearly of good quality, and it was drawn in one piece without even a crumb falling off, a marked contrast to some other wines – mostly wines at least ten years younger than this one – which I have opened recently. The 1988 Vouvray Sec from François Pinon exhibited a quite wonderful colour, a pale and fresh gold hue, with nothing dark, overly aged or suggestive of oxidation. This is in keeping with my overall impression of the vintage, the wines kept alive by their acidities. The aromatics begin with some low-key dried citrus fruits, with a chalky edge, later opening out to reveal more complex nuances of grilled pear and white pepper, evolved and yet still showing nice purity. It shows an enticing vinous confidence, broad and textural in the mouth, but also acid-fresh, youthful even, with a fine pithy energy. Alongside the grilled pear I get notes of white truffle here, a more interesting facet to its flavour profile. This is confident, certainly dry, lightly minerally, defined, bright and pure, and is an impressive wine from one of the top names of the appellation. 17.5/20 • 95/100 (10/7/17)