Jonathan Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé Prédilection 2012
One vigneron I was sorry not to have time to visit when I was knocking around Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire earlier this year was Jonathan Pabiot. I first tasted his wines back in early 2013, little more than three years ago, but I was immediately captivated. They were stunning, flavoursome, minerally and precise. In an appellation where Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau seems at times to be operating in an isolated bubble of excellence (there are certainly other domaines turning out very good wines, but no real challengers to the Dagueneau family’s dominance), I suddenly realised I had found someone working at a similar level. Or so it seemed to me, anyway.
I have been buying and drinking Jonathan’s wines with glee ever since. It is no accident that the last Pouilly-Fumé to crop up as my Weekend Wine was the 2015 Domaine du Côteau des Nues, which is Jonathan Pabiot’s entry-level cuvée under a different label, and sold for a song. Now, though, it is perhaps time to get a little more serious. Enough entry-level-drinking (for the moment, anyway). Here is one of Jonathan’s more upmarket creations, Predilection, in what is a supremely successful vintage for Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre (and Muscadet too, as it happens), 2012.
Prédilection comes from vines planted on Kimmeridgian marl very close to the Pabiot cellars, which are located in Les Loges, a quality hot-spot in the appellation which lies not-quite halfway between Pouilly-sur-Loire and Tracy-sur-Loire. The plot in question is located on a hillside, the incline steep and the soils poor, chalky, so meagre that not even grass will grow here. Jonathan works the ground once each year, otherwise the barren soils need little attention. The vines are 100% Sauvignon Blanc (of course!), and are planted close, at a density of 10,000 vines per hectare. The overarching philosophy in the vineyard is organic, Jonathan having been certified back in 2010, although no mention is made of this on the label. The fruit for this parcel is picked by hand (other parts of the domaine are harvested by machine, and yet they are still top quality). After a fermentation by indigenous yeast in cement vats, the wine rests on its lees in the same vat for 16 months, before eventual bottling.
The quality, therefore, comes purely from the soils and vines, the viticulture and Jonathan’s talent. There is nothing here that can’t be found in many other vineyards in the region, including those – I suppose – of Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau, who is located just up the road in Saint-Andélain. The 2012 Pouilly-Fumé Prédilection from Jonathan Pabiot has a wonderful nose filled with precise and lightly bitter citrus fruits, with oranges to the fore, nuanced with touches of lime, grapefruit, peach, pear and whisps of grey smoke. This all translates beautifully onto the palate, which shows a great combination of fruit substance laced with mineral and stone, and underpinned by a delightfully bitter and confident spine of citrus fruit acidity. This has superb tension, with a full and minerally core becoming more apparent through the middle of the palate, and exquisite balance at every point. With a precisely defined finish, this is one of the top wines I have drunk this year. It has purity, tension and substance; a stunning wine. How sad that I only have another three in the cellar – perhaps I should look out for a few more bottles? After all, I am nearly out of stock of that 2015 Côteau des Nues I have been drinking. 18.5/20 (19/9/16)