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Château Moncontour Vouvray Brut Cuvée Prédilection 2011

Château Moncontour Vouvray Brut Cuvée Prédilection 2011

Cruising along the route départmentale that runs alongside the Loire towards Vouvray, it is impossible not to take note of Château Moncontour at Le Petit Coteau, just downstream of Vouvray itself. Sitting atop the limestone ridge that borders the flood plain, it towers above the road and indeed the entire river valley, its walls glinting a sparkling white at even the barest hint of sunshine. As if that weren’t enough, a formal landscaped garden, consisting of geometric patterns in gravel and grass, and a huge Hollywood-esque sign should catch the eye of even the most inattentive traveller. One has to wonder why such an imposing property, situated right on the première côte, does not have more of a presence in the minds of Vouvray drinkers.

Historically, the appellation of Vouvray has been dominated by a handful of famous names, including Domaine Huet, Domaine du Clos Naudin, Domaine des Aubuisières and one or two others, and there was very little change in the landscape of this appellation until the recent arrival of the young revolutionaries of Vernou-sur-Brenne, led by Vincent ‘Che’ Carême (I’ve made that middle bit up, by the way). Prior to this, with no new names appearing on the scene for many years, Vouvray was accused by many of being asleep, of resting on its laurels. That this was so was put acutely into focus by the rise of Montlouis, which until that point seemed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs and the dodo. Now, of course, it is one of the Loire Valley’s most exciting appellations, threatening to eclipse its more famous neighbour across the river.

Château Moncontour Vouvray Brut Cuvée Prédilection 2011

The Feray family estates, which include Château Moncontour but also Château de Montfort (if the name rings a bell, it may be because of the 2013 Château de Montfort Vouvray Demi-Sec so recently featured on these pages), have long been prominent attendees at the Vouvray sleepover. This view of the wines may well depend on my perspective though. From my point of view, the Moncontour wines, although true to the variety, and true to the appellation, both very positive attributes, rarely seem to excite. Taking into account the position on the première côte and what other domaines such as Domaine Huet and Domaine du Clos Naudin achieve with similarly positioned vineyards, it has always seemed to me to be a domaine where the true potential of the terroir has not yet been tapped. This perhaps reflects the size of the Feray family’s holdings, which comes to about 190 hectares (some part of this is in the Chinon and Touraine appellations, but most is in Vouvray) which means they are working with very large volumes of wine. Perhaps it also reflects the very conventional chemically-dependent approach to viticulture that is the norm for the Feray vineyards (the only exception being one of their four Vouvray domaines, Le Petit Coteau, which was organic when purchased a few years ago, and it remains that way today).

Having meted out some criticism it has to be said that there is one wine that, since I first encountered it a couple of years ago, has consistently turned my head. Credit where credit is due, the wine in question is the Château Moncontour Vouvray Brut Cuvée Prédilection, in the 2011 vintage. This is a real crowd-pleaser of a wine. In the glass it shows only a lemon-gold hue, and a full and fine bead. The nose is wonderfully flinty though, full of minerally gun smoke, but with the tantalising suggestion of sweet fruit beyond. And these hopes are realised on the palate which has that great flinty character seen on the nose, like a mouthful of flint pebbles coated in lemon sherbet, and yet wrapped all around this there is exuberant fruit, reminiscent of the sweetest juices of a yellow peach, still warm from the sun, and mango too. It is fun to drink, that is for sure. As it evolves in the glass, the fruit settles down, playing alongside the citric acidity after a while, a partnership of equals that keeps the wine feeling long, fairly dry, and always very fresh. To be honest, I would rather be praising a more serious première côte cuvée to rival those from the Clos du Bourg, Les Perruches or Les Girardières, but kudos to the Moncontour team for this wine. Beyond the big names of Vouvray these bulles will take some beating. 16.5/20 (16/11/15)

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