Château Moncontour Vouvray Nectar de Moncontour 2005

There are a number of noteworthy historic châteaux dotted about the Vouvray appellation, not least Château de Jallanges, a 15th-century estate which today operates as a luxury hotel, and Château de Valmer, a 16th-centry property sadly destroyed by fire in 1948, although the outbuildings and magnificent terraced gardens remain. Both are found only with a little exploration, being buried deep in the appellation, the former hidden behind tall trees in Vernou-sur-Brenne, not far from Le Clos de la Meslerie, the latter secluded behind high walls in Chançay.

Much easier to spot, and (I suspect) rather better known, is Château Moncontour. Once the obsession of the author Honoré de Balzac (1799 – 1850), who featured the château in his novel Femme de Trente Ans (published 1842), this property occupies a prominent position on the edge of the plateau in Rochecorbon. Having once been in the possession of French nobility it was confiscated during the Revolution, after which it passed through the hands of the Régnier and then the Koenigswarter families. Viticulture has long been an important part of life on the property (the same is true of Château de Valmer), although it was only during the tenure of the Régnier family that it was first described. Sadly the Koenigswarter family eventually found themselves bankrupt, and the estate then came into the hands of the Feray family, who maintain possession today (one part of a huge landholding within the Vouvray appellation).

For much more detail on the estate, see my profile of Château Moncontour. For now, let’s crack on with the wine.

Château Moncontour Vouvray Nectar de Moncontour 2005

As with many properties in Vouvray, Château Moncontour turns out an array of styles, from sparkling through the usual run of sec, demi-sec and moelleux cuvées. They have long had a low-key presence in the UK market, being found on the shelves of the food and clothing retailer Marks & Spencer, and in France I frequently spot bottles lingering in la grande distribution. To be frank encounters with the wines have rarely (if ever) set my tastebuds alight, although the top sparkling wine, a vintage-dated cuvée which goes by the moniker of Cuvée Prédilection, can be good value.

Nevertheless, persistently open-minded (honest, I am), I never turn down an opportunity to retaste or revisit, and I was thus only to keen to check out this cuvée, not previously encountered, when I spotted it recently. The Nectar de Moncontour is, as you might guess from the name, a top-end moelleux cuvée with a focus on botrytis, and one which appears in only select vintages. The 2005 vintage is a blend of botrytised and passerillé fruit from parcels of vines situated around the château, picked extraordinarily late, on November 22nd and 23rd. The hand-picked berries were pressed and selected juices were then fermented in oak, a slow process with such a rich must. Eventually the fermentation reached about 11.5% alcohol, leaving approximately 185 g/l residual sugar in the wine. It is presented in a rather cute (see, even I can be influenced by packaging) fat-bottomed 50cl flacon.

Despite being well into liquoreux territory the most striking feature of the 2005 Vouvray Nectar de Moncontour from Château Moncontour is its sense of freshness and bright exotic fruits, testament to the inclusion of passerillé as well as botrytised berries in the blend. It starts off with a lightly burnished golden hue in the glass, followed by a nose of creamed citrus fruits, honeyed kumquat and yuzu, with threads of passion fruit sorbet. These bright and rather exotic notes are intertwined with elements which are a little more suggestive of botrytis, with confit pear, apricot jam and beeswax, not to mention some intriguing floral notes which call to mind honeysuckle and vanilla. The palate presents a velvety weight and substance, with a super density and texture through the middle, freshened by layers of citrus and tropical fruits, alongside a little touch of fresh coconut. It even has a bright thread of acidity. Seamless, sweet, lightly peppery, with a long and pointed grip, this is nothing short of delicious. And, as noted, the alcohol is just 11.5%. 94/100 (20/2/23)

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