Château Gaudrelle Vouvray Moelleux Réserve Spéciale 2017
Situated high up on the plateau behind the première côte of Vouvray sits Château Gaudrelle, for many years in the hands of the Monmousseau family, the same clan that also recently retook control of Bouvet-Ladubay, one of Saumur’s leading sparkling wine houses. Alexandre Monmousseau today retains the name of the Gaudrelle estate, although today he operates out of cellars which sit at the side of the road running alongside the waters of the Loire, in Rochecorbon, in the western edges of the Vouvray appellation. Unfazed by this move, made necessary when the family decided to sell the château, he has continued to produce wines of good quality and interest from his new base.
Alexandre has never been one for resting on his laurels. Not afraid to experiment in either vineyard or cellar, he has been trialling new ways of working. In the vineyard, rather than lopping off the top-growth during summer to encourage the vines to put their energies into their fruit, he increasingly tends his vines using tressage. If you search online for the meaning of tressage you will soon find yourself watching instructional videos on baking plaited loaves, which gives you a clue to the nature this practice. The process of tressage involves wrapping up and braiding the top growth, and a number of leading vignerons – Patrick Baudouin is one example who springs to mind – prefer this to cutting the new growth. Tasting one wine against a traditional version, Alexandre’s tressage wines express a much greater mineral character, so it seems like a worthwhile experiment.
As for his work in the cellars, I’m not sure I have that much to say about Alexandre’s commitment to serenade his fermenting wines by piping music through the rooms, and I think we might learn more about the domaine by further considering his work in the vines. Alexandre is currently in the process of converting his domaine to organic viticulture, something he is undertaking on a parcel-by-parcel basis, the ultimate aim being an entirely organic and suitably certified domaine. With increasingly fastidious work in the vines, and a thoughtful approach in the cellars (with or without the music) Alexandre’s wines are of increasing interest and I feel he is creeping up the Vouvray hierarchy.
For those unfamiliar with the portfolio of wines, Alexandre keeps it simple when it comes to the moelleux style, with just two cuvées (for which we can be grateful; I have been tasting his wines for years, and I am still not sure what distinguishes one sec cuvée from the next). His Réserve Spéciale, featured here, is usually focused on passerillé fruit, in a fairly straightforward entry-level style, while his Réserve Personnelle takes the botrytised fruit. It is not an uncommon system, akin to Philippe Foreau’s Moelleux and Moelleux Réserve cuvées, and it means in Alexandre’s case the Réserve Personnelle is usually significantly more interesting than the Réserve Spéciale. The exception to the rule, however, is the 2017 vintage, when in order to rebuild stocks of his Réserve Spéciale cuvée (which has a highly prized listing in a UK supermarket I am sure Alexandre doesn’t wish to lose), Alexandre sacrificed the production of his Réserve Personnelle cuvée, channelling all his harvest into his Réserve Spéciale. The result is that the 2017 Vouvray Moelleux Réserve Spéciale from Château Gaudrelle is somewhere between the two in style, evidently well-botrytised but still classically styled and fresh. It has a shimmering golden hue in the glass, offering up sweet fruit on the nose, suitably complex, with notes of mango, peach, apricot and lychee, all presented with a delicate touch of botrytised caramelisation around the edges. The palate continues with a theme of purity, with notes of white peach and apricot, lightly caramelised as per the aromatic profile, rich and textural but focused, with a spine of bright acidity providing a frame for the sweetness and fruit. This is a fine effort, composed, consistent, long, poised and elegant too. And amazing value, given that it remains at the usual Réserve Spéciale price. 95/100 (28/10/19)
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