Noyer de Cent Vouvray Moelleux 2002
There’s nothing better than chancing across a parcel of mature (or maturing) wine, a collection of bottles where somebody else has done all the hard work – investing in the bottles, cellaring them perhaps for many years – only for them subsequently to come back onto the market for you and I to take advantage of them. Over the past twelve months I have had some very fine experiences with Bordeaux I bought fifteen-or-more years ago, when this sort of thing used to happen with some regularity. The wines, largely from the 1986, 1989 and 1995 vintages, have largely been drinking very well. They include wines from the now defunct Château La Tour Haut Brion (absorbed into Château La Mission Haut-Brion) and Château Canon-la-Gaffelière (both properties I have appointments at during the next five days, by the way – I’m off to Bordeaux later today) and more than a few others.
Well-priced parcels of maturing claret used to crop up on the lists of a number of UK merchants with some regularity, right through to the late 1990s. These weren’t liquidated cellars, with one or two cases of this and that, but were the holdings of investment firms or foreign governments, huge volumes sold off at very good prices. Today such parcels, when it comes Bordeaux at least, are now few and far between, and when they do crop up the bottles no longer seem like the bargains they once did. That might change one day in the future, when all the investment funds that soaked up the super-expensive releases from Bordeaux in recent years suddenly wish to liquidate their stock and see the necessary financial return, but for the moment large-volume well-priced parcels of maturing claret are a thing of the past. Committed bargain hunters should probably spent their time scouring the catalogues from provincial auction houses instead.
In other regions, however, mature bottles (although perhaps not entire parcels) for sale at a good price still crop up, as is the case with the wine featured here. In a manner of speaking the wine in question was first discovered not by me but by Vincent Carême, one of the leading vignerons of the Vouvray appellation. He has two excellent vineyards on the première côte, Le Clos (on the côte directly above Vernou-sur-Brenne, with a fine view over the plain below) and Le Peu Morier (on the côte to the east of La Vallée Chartier). One day earlier this year Vincent was chatting to Jean-Pierre Boistard, the previous proprietor of the latter of these two vineyards, when he happened to mention he still had a pile of bottles from the 2002 vintage in his cellar. This was a very fine vintage for Vouvray, one which Philippe Foreau recently told me was one of his favourites (along with 1996 and 1989 of course). To cut a potentially long story short having tasted the wine, a moelleux, Vincent immediately took all the bottles off Jean-Pierre’s hands, labelled them up, and shortly afterwards they were snapped up by a buyer from The Wine Society in the UK.
The wine, comes from Noyer de Cent, one of two sections of Le Peu Morier, I think (provided I have my geography correct) the one set slightly back from the very edge of the plateau behind the little hamlet of the same name. The wine, the 2002 Noyer de Cent Vouvray Moelleux, has a very fresh pale-golden hue, quite light for a moelleux but it is perhaps typical of the 2002 vintage in that. It has a corresponding freshness to the nose, notes of green pear-skin and lemon-citrus bite, as well as some streaks of Galia melon sweetness too, all encapsulated within a pure, matchsticky frame. The palate is beautifully pure, showing a supple and low-level sweetness for a moelleux, with an interesting lightly bitter grip giving it some backbone. The acidity is vibrant, and the wine communicates brilliantly the great purity of the 2002 vintage, an impression reinforced by the wine’s long, pithy-fruit finish. This is a very appealing wine, slightly old-school in style, but it has interest too. I have had other 2002s showing a more evolved character, but this tense reserve only reassures me. This is not a mature wine that, once delivered, needs to be drunk up the following weekend. It is fine for drinking now, but I suspect with the structure this wine possesses it will go forward in the cellar for many years yet. 16/20 (29/9/14)