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Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc 2014

Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc 2014

This week I will publish most of what 2016 Bordeaux reports remain, including Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, the Haut-Médoc and indeed any other notes I come across. The mopping up at the end is, curiously, often the most interesting report to write, as it takes in everything from wines made under the ‘generic’ Bordeaux appellation (some from grandiose châteaux in Margaux and Pomerol), to good value wines from the Médoc (definitely worth looking at in the 2016 vintage), and even one or two wines made under the Vin de France designation. In a region not exactly known for its rebellious streak, where everybody paints with a restricted palette of red varieties, and an even smaller palette of whites, finding one or two wines that seek to break the mould can be a real joy.

This programme of updates will be an interesting challenge, as I will have to type up my notes and write appropriate introductions while also judging on the Loire panel at the Decanter World Wine Awards each day. I have a feeling I might have one hand tapping away on a Decanter tablet, one hand swirling a glass of Muscadet or Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (probably the two biggest categories) and another tapping away on my own laptop writing tomorrow’s Pessac-Léognan notes. I am not sure I have enough hands to make that image real, but you get the idea.

Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc 2014

Today’s Weekend Wine is much more in the vein of my Decanter judging activities than my Bordeaux reports. As far as I am aware nobody has planted Chenin Blanc in Bordeaux yet, although I have seen Savagnin, Mondeuse Blanche and Gros Manseng, so it’s not all Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Even if they did plant a little Pineau de la Loire, I think they would have to plant it on some top quality right-bank soils, featuring a lot of limestone, in order to achieve anything close to the top white wines of the Loire Valley. Given that only a handful of locals have been brave enough to do this with the authorised varieties, which are usually relegated to more sandy and gravelly soils not deemed suitable for the reds, I won’t be holding my breath.

Fortunately for me (and for many other people too), the most talented vignerons of the Loire do not share this attitude towards white varieties. If they did we would never have wines such as this Saumur Blanc, in the 2014 vintage, from Domaine Guiberteau. Romain Guiberteau has a range of fabulous whites and very good reds, the former featuring a number of exceptional single-vineyard cuvées including wines from Brézé and the Clos des Carmes, but you can’t go far wrong with his straight Saumur Blanc, one of the most striking ‘entry level’ wines I have encountered. In the glass it has a very pale gold hue, and it shows a brilliantly reductive nose, all matchsticky, with a layer of salted pears behind it. There is no let up on the palate, which opens proceedings with a beautiful needle-like precision, very pure, with a flinty matchstick character to match the nose. And then this parts, to reveal flavours of sweet apple and pear fruit, with a touch of Galia melon and citrus zest energy, translating the variety with great definition, backed up by a salty, savoury minerality which feels like it reflects the terroir, together with a fresh acid backbone. These structural elements swirl harmoniously with the fruit, always remaining tense, fresh and correct. It finishes with a supremely long, bitter, energetic and charged length. This is so alive, so pithy, so savoury, so vigorous. This is great for drinking now, if you like that reductive twist, but it has years ahead of it yet. 17.5/20 (24/4/17)

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