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Domaine Ogereau Anjou-Villages Côte de la Houssaye 2014

Domaine Ogereau Anjou-Villages Côte de la Houssaye 2014

It was in a post-match analysis of a tasting of 2013 Bordeaux, revisited at four years of age, that the subject of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Loire Valley came up. There are no prizes for guessing who threw it into the conversation. My palate bruised and battered by a series of wines mostly bearing lean textures, high acidity, unripe and coarsely grained tannins and overtly green flavours, I lamented the fact that such high prices were asked for such an array of disappointing wines. “I would naturally”, I proposed, “much prefer to drink a ripe Cabernet Sauvignon from the Loire Valley, than any of the rather unpleasant wines on offer here, regardless of their grand labels”.

This caused a few eyebrows to rise, not because I found the wines from Bordeaux disappointing (nobody was in the mood to argue with that), but because it was clearly news to some that Cabernet Sauvignon is planted in the Loire Valley. Shaking his head, one fellow taster opined that it seemed like a good decision, and probably a response to climate change. Of course it is a mistake to ascribe Cabernet Sauvignon’s presence in the region to global warming, as Cabernet Sauvignon has long been associated with Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. An offspring of Cabernet Franc, the variety was first described in Bordeaux by Antoine Feuilhade in Livre de Raison d’Antoine Feuilhade, which he penned in the late-18th century. I don’t have any historical notes on when it might have arrived in the Loire Valley (my texts on Anjou jump from the 18th to the 20th century, so there is a bit of a gap in my library), but it can’t have taken long. Writing in Les Vins de Loire (Parisienne d’Editions Techniques et Commerciales, 1956), Pierre Bréjoux tells us that “[t]he best are, as in Touraine, Cabernet Franc, exceptionally associated with Cabernet Sauvignon”, so the variety was already well established by this time.

Domaine Ogereau Anjou-Villages Côte de la Houssaye 2014

Although Pierre Bréjoux indicates Cabernet Sauvignon was a secondary Loire variety there are today more than 1,200 hectares planted in the region, putting it in fourth place in the local red varietal league table. It comes into its own in Anjou, which it parcels up in a turf-war with Cabernet Franc. To the east, where the terroir is all limestone, the more amenable Cabernet Franc is king, as it quite likes planting its feet in cooler soils. But to the west, where warmer igneous soils proliferate, suddenly Cabernet Sauvignon comes into its own. It needs the right plot, as it won’t ripen just anywhere, but this is where local savoir-faire comes into play. On slopes of dark schist which absorb the sun’s energy by day and release it back to the grapes later, warming them through the night, Cabernet Sauvignon can ripen perfectly. You find a spot like that in the western part of Anjou, and chances are you might find Cabernet Sauvignon planted on it.

The Côte de la Houssaye is a single 1.7-hectare vineyard of 30-year old Cabernet Sauvignon vines near Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay (so Coteaux du Layon territory), the vines themselves looking down onto the Hyrôme, a small tributary of the Layon. They have a favourable south-easterly aspect, exposing them to the sun’s rays and protecting them from westerly breezes, and they dig their roots into a thin (just 30 to 40 centimetres deep), gravelly, stony-schistous, nutritionally poor soil. It is farmed by Vincent and Emmanuel Ogereau, a father-and-son team who are two of the region’s leading vignerons, and the vintage tasted here is the 2014 (part of my occasional exploration of 2014 reds, others including the 2014 Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinon Les Cornuelles and the 2014 Château de Minière Bourgueil Vignes Centenaires de Minière, wines which arrived in my cellar too late for my 2014 Loire Report in 2017. The 2014 Anjou-Villages Côte de la Houssaye from Domaine Ogereau has, in the glass, a dark and claretty core, with a broad cherry-red rim. This is matched by a quite cool and reticent nose, showing a quite reserved character, dark and brooding, albeit with the suggestion of tense and crunchy fruit along with some smoky, perfumed, floral veins. There are nuances of soot here, perhaps reflecting the wine’s tannic base, but it is scented with red rose petals as well as acid-fresh red cherry and black raspberry. The palate is rich but taut and sinewy, laden with a broad tannic substance, along with perfumed fruit, as well as notes of aniseed, with a little nuance of sage and angelica, all wrapped up with ripe and strident tannins in the finish. While this is long and convincing. the 2014 vintage does not have the plush texture of 2009 (tasted last week from magnum, still very primary and on the way up) or 2015 (in my cellar, a wine for another day), and so it is more difficult to approach in its youth. So this will need some time in bottle to tame those tannins, but I have every confidence it will give some super drinking in ten year’s time. By which time, of course, all those wines from the 2013 Bordeaux vintage will be dead and buried. 95/100 (15/2/18)

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