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Château de Minière Bulles Rouge de Minière NV

Château de Minière Bulles Rouge de Minière NV

Fugit inreparabile tempus, wrote Virgil, who I presume must have had the passing of June 2017 in mind when he wrote these words. I have just spent two weeks in the Loire Valley, my second visit to the region this year. Principally I was there to work on my newest project, the house I purchased earlier this year. I am renting it out during the summer, and so I spent 80% of my time decorating, gardening and cleaning. Thankfully I still managed to squeeze in a few visits (did anybody think I wouldn’t?), but then suddenly the two weeks were passed, seemingly as soon as they had begun. As Virgil (never) said, time flies when you’re painting, mopping and cutting the grass.

First, in Chinon, I headed for Bernard Baudry, to meet Matthieu Baudry once again, so we could take a trip along to Le Clos Guillot, and taste the 2016s, 2015s and 2014s. Then, sticking with Chinon (home turf for me now) it was off to Domaine de la Noblaie, to see Jérôme Billard and to taste his latest releases, as well as a selection of older vintages back to 1989. My third visit was in Anjou, to see Emmanuel and Vincent Ogereau down at Domaine Ogereau for a tour of the vineyards, including Bonnes Blanches, Quarts de Chaume and the Côtes de la Houssaye, as well as a tasting (again back to 1989 as it happens), and I also called in on Domaine de la Bergerie for a flying visit. I also made a quick dash to see Marielle Henrion in Azay-le-Rideau, at Château de l’Aulée. And finally, having awarded her 2014 Vignes Centenaires de Minière a gold medal in the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards I thought I should head to Bourgueil to see Kathleen van den Berghe at Château de Minière.

I will write up all of these visits as soon as possible – I promised Kathleen “in the next few months”, which might sound vague but it is tighter than I am accustomed to doing simply because I have so much material, so many notes and new profiles planned for the site. In the meantime I thought I should cast the spotlight on this wine, the Bulles Rouge de Minière, an innovative sparkling red.

Château de Minière Bulles Rouge de Minière NV

Sparkling reds are nothing new to the Loire Valley; a number of the famed sparkling wine houses in Saumur produce just such a cuvée, the most familiar to my palate being the Carmin Dry from Langlois-Chateau. There are, however, a number of features that serve to set this wine apart. First, it comes from organically managed vineyards which are now fully certified, although to be precise at the time the fruit for this cuvée was picked they were in conversion. Second, it is made using the méthode ancestrale, the first fermentation arrested by chilling the wine, before it is allowed to continue in bottle, rather than the méthode traditionnelle broadly favoured in Saumur. Third, whereas a number of red sparkling Saumur cuvées are dressed up with a considerable quantity of sugar (it is no uncommon to find 30 g/l, well into demi-sec territory), this is relatively dry, with a final level of residual sugar of just 12 g/l, very close to that you would find in many traditional brut styles.

The Bulles Rouge de Minière tasted here is a non-vintage Vin de France, although the fruit all originates from the 2013 vintage, which as regular readers will know was a very difficult one for the region. The alcohol is quite low at 10.5%, although I think this is a reflection of the method of fermentation and level of residual sugar more than the vintage. Despite this it has a deep and convincing colour in the glass, almost opaque, certainly deep enough to hide any pétillance, only the pale pink-purple foam at the surface of the wine giving any clue to the wine’s nature. The nose is assertively red in style, with a melange of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, with a fresh cherry-leaf edge, and a lick of darker liquorice. The palate carries these flavours with great fidelity, mixed with fresh acidity and pétillance but also a lick of tannin, which means this wine would probably work very well with food (I’m thinking steak on a barbecue). Most notably the wine feels fairly dry, with none of the soft cushion of sugar seen in more easy-going cuvées, which allows the tannin and acidity to shine through and again emphasises the need to eat something with this particular wine. It even has a little length to it. In short, this is a delicious wine which serves to illustrate the innovation and new ideas Kathleen is bringing to the region, while still holding on to an admirably traditional view of how the reds (with the Bourgueil appellation) should be. I will explore this in more detail in my forthcoming profile (coming in the next few months, obviously). 16/20 • 92/100 (19/6/17)

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