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Château de Minière Bourgueil Vignes Centenaires 2014

Château de Minière Bourgueil Vignes Centenaires 2014

“This joy of discovery is real, and it is one of our rewards”, wrote the late Henry Taube (1915 – 2005). A leader in the field of inorganic chemistry, I imagine Henry Taube was more interested in the mechanisms of electron transfer reactions rather than in the next glass of wine, but the sentiment is perhaps the same. And while it is easy to swoon at the mere mention of familiar names from the greatest wine regions, such as Château Latour or Petrus, or at the sight of a hallowed vintage such as 1961 or 1947, I find greater joy in the first taste of a new vintage, even more so the first meeting with a wine from a domaine never-before encountered. For me, this is what keeps wine alive in my mind and in my heart.

Last year was one of discovery for me in many ways. Having been wedded to compact discs and then digital downloads for the past three decades I rediscovered all my old vinyl in the attic, and once I acquired the necessary turntable I have also rediscovered that what they say is true; vinyl really does sound better than digital. I also discovered how quiet the house can be when all your offspring have left for university, to study interior design (the next Dorothy Draper), business management (the next Alan Sugar) and chemistry (the next Henry Taube, maybe). And I also discovered that, when I imagined it would be hard work living in Scotland but running a second home near Chinon from afar, for once I was right. I could go on, but maybe I should focus on the wine discoveries.

Châtau de Minière Bourgueil Vignes Centenaires 2014

I met quite a few Loire Valley vignerons I haven’t met before during the course of 2017, all new faces from Muscadet, Quincy, Bourgueil, Quarts de Chaume, Touraine, Saumur and beyond, and tasted a lot of new wines. One particularly good discovery (which can perhaps be judged by whether I buy the wines to drink, rather then just reporting on them on Winedoctor) was Château de Minière. Although I think I might have tasted earlier vintages in previous incarnations of the Decanter World Wine Awards, the 2014 Bourgueil Vignes Centenaires de Minière stood out for its apparent quality when I tasted it blind in last year’s competition. It wasn’t long before I visited to meet proprietor Kathleen Mareels-Van den Berghe and to see this impressive château and reconstituted vineyard for myself.

The Vignes Centenaires de Minière cuvée comes, as the name suggests, from vines aged on average one hundred years, although being precise I believe the vines in question range from over 90 to more than 110 years old. In September last year, as the harvest kicked off, I took a walk up through some of the Minière vineyards including Les Bézards, one of the appellation’s most prized terroirs, which if memory serves me correctly is where many of these very old vines are located. The vines are tended using organic methods, and I would not be surprised if the estate is turned over to biodynamics in the future, although that isn’t a decision Kathleen has settled on at the moment. The fruit is vinified in a mix of new and old barrels, with an élevage lasting up to two years. In the glass it has a very fine hue, dark and concentrated, black tulip with a thin crimson rim. The nose displays many different facets, a smoky praline intensity along with the complex floral perfume of Cabernet Franc. Apart from these very pure aromatics it is the focus, elegance and substance of the palate that impresses, with supple fruit wound tightly around a taut central seam of acidity as well as dry but tightly grained tannins, perfumed cherry skin fruit, rose petals and violets, all wrapped up in a very tense, reserved structure. This is a wine with truly elegant poise, and a long and savoury character. I am impressed by its refined style now, as well as its promise for the future. Who knows, maybe even Nobel Laureates in chemistry, their heads swimming with electron-transfer mechanisms, could discover some joy here? 95/100 (15/1/18)

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