Château de Montfort Vouvray Demi-Sec 2013

I have been doing a little adventurous and experimental drinking recently. This doesn’t mean I have mean partaking of a glass or two midway through abseiling down a 300-metre rock face, nor have I been pulling corks on bottles in the protection of a shark cage, although I suppose both situations present some interesting new possibilities. It is more that I have been challenging my own beliefs about some of the Loire Valley’s wines, which is a good way to avoid staying in a wine-drinking rut. I have revisited domaines I thought I understood (only to realise I should perhaps reappraise this opinion), and pulled corks on wines from less familiar vintages, 1999 Coteaux du Layon for example, and 1998 Coteaux de l’Aubance.

You might think this week’s wine, from a very familiar appellation but perhaps a rather less familiar domaine, was cut from the same cloth. A blind exploration in Vouvray perhaps? An opportunity to look beyond the long-established big names like Domaine Huet and Philippe Foreau? A chance to explore beyond even the newer generation, guys like Vincent Carême and Peter Hahn, who have done so much to re-energise the appellation? Actually, no. In fact here nothing could be further from the truth; I encountered this wine when judging for the Decanter World Wine Awards, and was enticed by the style, which is very much at the pure, white-flower, white-pebble end of the Vouvray spectrum, and at the time (the tasting was absolutely blind, of course) I wondered if it came from the hands of the Champalou family. It seemed to be very much their style. Once the results were revealed it transpired, of course, that it did not, and I thought I should perhaps revisit the wine. Thus, this week’s wine isn’t a case of blind adventure. This is a case of double-checking an opinion, seeing if my impressions during a brief blind tasting hold up when I have a much longer time to sit down with the wine.

Château de Montfort Vouvray Demi-Sec 2013

This wine gives us a window onto a Vouvray empire not really discussed in any detail on Winedoctor. Château de Montfort is a long-established property currently in the hands of the Feray family, who own several large domaines in the appellation. The best-known is perhaps Château Moncontour, a striking property which sits atop the première côte at Le Petit Coteau, directly west of the town of Vouvray, but they also own Domaine de Vaugondy in Vernou-sur-Brenne as well as Domaine du Petit Coteau, which I believe incorporates vines from the now defunct Domaine Lemaire-Fournier. Château de Montfort is in Noizay, one of the seven communes eligible for the appellation, and the furthest upriver. Noizay is of course the location of the Côte de Venise, owned by Jacky Blot of Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, and there are some up-and-coming names based here including Florent Cosme. Both Jacky and Florent are working with vines located on the première côte though, whereas Château de Montfort is up closer to Chançay, very much on the deuxième côte.

The land here begins to slope down towards the valley of the Brenne, giving the vines a gentle, north-facing aspect. Château de Montfort is a large domaine, with 35 hectares of vines gathered together around the château which is more of a slightly untidy fortified farmhouse than a Renaissance masterpiece. The viticulture is chemically-dependent, the vineyard soil hard, blitzed and bare when I drove past in the summer of 2014. The fruit for the demi-sec cuvée comes from 15 hectares of the vineyard, on soils of clay and limestone, and it is vinified in stainless steel, with fermentation arrested when the desired concentration of residual sugar has been reached (I am not sure how in this case, although the simplest way to achieve this is through the addition of sulphur dioxide, but refrigeration and filtration are other options if the winery is suitably equipped).

It’s not the most romantic vision or story, but tasted blind and reassessed here the end product has merit all the same. The 2013 Vouvray Demi-Sec from Château de Montfort is sealed with screwcap, and the wine once released displays a pale, water-white hue. It has a surprisingly pure and delicate nose, fresh with scents of citrus zest, sweet pear and apple, along with white flowers, perfumed chalk and a hint of gentle sweetness. This all comes through on the palate, providing the wine a supple and rather plump cushion on which sits twirls of vibrant, pithy, lightly bitter citrus zest with the same soft, chalky sweetness suggested by the nose, backed up by a succulent, pebbly, wet-stone character and rather incisive acidity. It is clean, long and full of fresh pithy bite. On reflection, I think I will stick to my opinion formed when tasting blind. While this wine might not have the backstory many in the appellation can give us, and it does not have any worthy organic or artisanal credentials, there is no doubt that this is an attractive demi-sec which remains true to the style of the appellation, offering nice drinking pleasure with an easily accessible distribution. Well done! 16/20 (24/8/15)

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