Château Gaudrelle Vouvray Réserve Personnelle 1990
Cast your mind back twenty or maybe thirty years and you might be forgiven for thinking there were only four domaines in the entire Vouvray appellation.
Those four domaines are still well known. There was Domaine Huet, of course, at that time run by Noël Pinguet, who had not long taken over from his father-in-law, Gaston Huet. There was Domaine du Clos Naudin, where Philippe Foreau had not long taken over from his father, André Foreau. And, having arrived on the scene with the 1989 and 1990 vintages, there were the newcomers, Bernard Fouquet of Domaine des Aubuisières (the domaine since sold to Charles Lesaffre) and the Champalou family.
The rest of the Vouvray appellation were regularly accused of sleeping on the job. To some extent this was true, as there were (and there still are) a lot of substandard wines made in the appellation. It was the recognition of this that drove influential figures such as Vincent Carême to revitalise his family’s domaine, and to then set about lifting the entire appellation through mentorship of young up-and-coming vignerons. This was contemporaneous (more or less) with a similar revival in Montlouis-sur-Loire led by Jacky Blot and François Chidaine.
And yet it is surely stating the obvious to point out that beyond these four domaines it is simply not possible to write off an entire appellation as was commonplace at the time. Even then there were, in the background, a number of domaines alongside those mentioned above that were also turning out wines of good quality. Maybe not at the same level as those from the première côtes, but being fair not everybody can be a first growth. You don’t write off the wines of Château Haut-Batailley simply because they are not Château Latour. I might go so far to suggest, and may the Wine Writing Gods strike me down for suggesting this, that the judgement perhaps reflected a touch of superficiality when dealing with an appellation that wasn’t Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne?
I am not saying I am innocent of using the occasional lazy trope myself, by the way. So let’s set the record straight. Who else was working to a good level at this time? A few names spring immediately to mind, the first of which is the late François Pinon, whose wines have a strong presence on this site. He was far from the only one, however, and another name I would suggest is Alexandre Monmousseau of Château Gaudrelle.
Château Gaudrelle came into the Monmousseau family’s possession in 1931, and was subsequently passed down through the generations, eventually coming to Alexandre in the mid-1980s. At the time he was bottling the 1990 vintage, featured here, he was still working in the original château and cellars on the plateau above the town of Vouvray. Much later, in 2009, other family members with an interest in the property elected to sell the residence, and Alexandre was forced to relocate, finding new cellars situated at the foot of the premières côtes in Rochecorbon. He continued here until very recent times, when he sold the domaine to his long-standing associate, Eric Pasquier. The Monmousseau era was over (another branch of the family continues at Bouvet-Ladubay in Saumur, of course) but Alexandre had piloted the domaine through 35 vintages, producing a worthwhile range of wines in all the styles of the appellation.
The Réserve Personnelle cuvée is the more serious of Alexandre’s two moelleux cuvées, built more upon botrytis than the Réserve Spéciale, which utilises more passerillé fruit; this approach is of course not unique, this also being the distinguishing feature between Philippe Foreau’s Moelleux and Moelleux Réserve cuvées. The 1990 Vouvray Réserve Personnelle from Château Gaudrelle has a rich orange-gold hue in the glass, with a little tinge of red, which certainly hints at its botrytis intensity. The nose is typical of the botrytised cuvées of the 1990 vintage, melding baked peach and apricot with noble rot notes of black tea leaves, liquorice, charred toast and caramelised tarte tatin. The palate feels medium-bodied with a sweet and silky texture, a little fresher than the appearance perhaps suggested, no bad thing, and thus it feels composed, subtle and approachable. This texture comes combined with integrated acidity, the overarching style evolved yet approachable, with lively persistence. Long, dark, complete and classic, this is a delicious example of the vintage still showing well at over thirty years. 94/100 (12/12/22)
Read more in:
- My detailed profile of Château Gaudrelle
- Another recent tasting of the Loire 1990 vintage, featuring mostly Vouvray
- My guide to Chenin Blanc