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Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Rouge 2015

Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Rouge 2015

This is a very good time for drinkers of Loire Valley reds. A couple of weeks ago I was blind tasting red wines from the Loire Valley for a forthcoming feature in Decanter magazine. The focus was Cabernet Franc (so no Pinot Noir from Sancerre, no Côt such as the recent 2014 Touraine Vinifera Côt from Domaine de la Charmoise and no rarities such as Pineau d’Aunis from the Coteaux du Loir) and indeed it was limited to the three most significant red appellations in Touraine, which are of course Chinon, Bourgueil and neighbouring St Nicolas de Bourgueil. There were no wines from Saumur (not surprising as Decanter published a blind assessment of red Saumur only a year or two ago) so don’t think for one minute today’s Weekend Wine is some sort of clue to which wine came top.

The Loire Valley has recently enjoyed an unprecedented run of four good vintages for Cabernet Franc, starting with 2014. This was a year in which a disappointing season was saved by six weeks of fine autumn weather, and many wines communicate this through their delicious acid vibrancy, and while truly superb for white wines from Anjou and Touraine it is also a very good year for reds. In most cases (although certainly not all) these wines are trumped by the 2015 vintage though, the long, dry and warm summer producing perfectly ripe wines of texture, fruit and harmonious balance. These are great wines which belong in any sensible wine drinker’s cellar.

Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Rouge 2015

Then came the two frosted vintages. After the 2016 frost there came rain, rain and more rain, but the weather from late June onwards was warm and dry, near-drought conditions in fact, the vines surfing through to harvest on the water table built up earlier in the year. Ultimately, the conditions for ripening and picking were perfect, and after such a worrisome first half to the season, the wines turned out to be surprisingly good. This vintage completed an impressive three-vintage run to match the 2009-2010-2011 triumvirate. Some, even some in the wine trade, have not yet clocked how good 2011 was for Loire Valley reds, and I wonder if this is the age-old problem of the vintage’s reputation in Bordeaux influencing opinions of the vintage in other regions?

But the Loire Valley was not finished yet. After another devastating frost in 2017 the growing season was just superb, setting the region up for a fourth great vintage. I was there making visits in June, July and September and the weather was warm and largely dry throughout, with just the occasional shower to keep the vines toddling along. The harvest was early – I saw picking more or less finished in Chinon and Bourgueil by late September, when October would be more the norm – and having made some visits to taste just a few weeks ago I can say the quality is already looking pretty good.

Back now to my Weekend Wine, the 2015 Saumur Rouge from Domaine Guiberteau, a representative from the second year in this fine four-vintage quartet. Regular readers will need no introduction to the wines of Romain Guiberteau, who I first profiled three or four years ago. The family’s vineyards, many of which he has extricated from the control of the local co-operative, are all organic, and his tendency is to ferment in barrel, with minimal intervention. One exception to this rule is the wine featured here, which is vinified in stainless steel. In the glass it has a dark black-tulip core, but a vibrant crimson rim. Initially rather reticent and showing a simple fruit sweetness at first, this soon opens out on the nose to reveal more interesting scents of black cherry stone, liquorice root, smoke and dried black olives. The palate, meanwhile, has the freshness of the appellation with the supple ripeness of the vintage, showing a grained fruit texture rich with the flavours of black cherry skin, plum skin and liquorice which comes with a lightly herbal lift, specifically notes of thyme and mint. Overall, while delicious now, this is a wine of very good potential which will surely develop well over the next three-to-five years. For wines of greater potential, go for one of Romain’s single-vineyard cuvées. 93/100

Yes, this is a very good time indeed for drinkers of Loire Valley reds. (16/7/18)

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