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Domaine Ogereau Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert Clos des Bonnes Blanches 2011

Domaine Ogereau Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert Clos des Bonnes Blanches 2011

One of a handful of domaines at the very top of the tree in the region, today Domaine Ogereau is run by fourth-generation vigneron Vincent Ogereau. Vincent takes advantage of Anjou’s many and varied appellations to make a broad range of white, red, rosé and sweet wines, and he has some particularly interesting plots especially the Côte de la Houssaye, where he has Cabernet Sauvignon planted on a schistous slope near St Lambert du Lattay, as well as Chenin Blanc in the Clos le Grand Beaupréau in Savennières and, perhaps best of all, he has a plot of vines in Bonnes Blanches, one of the most desirable vineyards in the Coteaux du Layon appellation.

For many years Vincent has been the face of Domaine Ogereau, but as is also the case with a number of other leading Anjou domaines there is change brewing. Vincent’s son Emmanuel is currently waiting in the wings, although he hasn’t been kicking his heels hoping for his father to retire. Two generations ago, when a ‘foreigner’ was somebody from the next village down the road (and for all you knew they practiced witchcraft and ate their children), and you sold all your wine either to the local bar, or sending some to bigger towns upriver by barge, it was de rigueur to never leave home, and never think beyond the boundaries of your domaine, or at least your village. But times have changed. Emmanuel Ogereau is typical of the ‘next-generation’ Loire vignerons I have been profiling in my series of recent updates. He is young but also well-educated, with plenty of formative experience under his belt.

Domaine Ogereau Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert Clos des Bonnes Blanches 2011

One notable feature of the latest generation in the Loire Valley that distinguishes them from their elders is their willingness to seek out experience in foreign climes. I am not saying the elder generation never went beyond the confines of the Loire, of course, but it was much less common than today, and much more likely to involve a stage in Alsace or Burgundy than in Australia or South Africa. Emmanuel Ogereau jetted off to New Zealand to work the harvest at Carrick, gaining some experience alongside winemaker Francis Hutt, before touring and visiting other wineries in the region. Having returned home in 2013, Emmanuel spent some time working with his father, first planting a new vineyard of Chenin Blanc on spilite near to Château Pierre-Bise, where Vincent’s friend Claude Papin turns out some of the best wines of the region, before helping with the 2013 harvest. This he has followed up with a year studying wine business and marketing in Dijon; Emmanuel is clearly aware that there is a lot more to being successful than simply making great wine – you have to find a market for it, and sell it too. Ultimately, in 2015, Emmanuel will return to work alongside Vincent for good, and I guess that’s when the real transition from father to son will begin.

Transitions at favourite domaines are just as important as the ‘start-ups’, as the arrival of a new generation can reinvigorate a domaine, not that I sense any such need at Domaine Ogereau. This weekend’s wine, the 2011 Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert Clos des Bonnes Blanches made by Vincent Ogereau tells me as much. This is one of two wines that Vincent makes from the Bonnes Blanches vineyard; Clos des Bonnes Blanches features botrytised fruit and is only made in vintages where the conditions have been right for noble rot, whereas the more commonly encountered Harmonie des Bonnes Blanches is more classic in style, featuring more passerillage, and I think it shows its geological and varietal origins more plainly than the botrytised wine. Indeed, I find this to be true whenever botrytis plays a role in wine in the Loire, in Anjou or Touraine; botrytised wines are delicious, but they often speak to me more of noble rot than of Chenin Blanc, or of the terroir. But that is a discussion for another day I think. The 2011 Clos des Bonnes Blanches has a deeply coloured, burnished-golden hue on inspection, with a richly botrytised nose full of praline, roasted orange segments, desiccated peach fruit and sweet pastry. Despite the wine’s admirable breadth it has a very fine definition on the palate, bright and nuanced, a delineated frame supporting delightful flavour components reminiscent of spiced peaches layered on a rich, golden pastry. The finish, as you would expect, is tremendously long and polished. This is a remarkable testimony to the extensive botrytis of the 2011 vintage, showing that it hit the vineyards of the Coteaux du Layon just as convincingly as in Vouvray. This is top wine, but is for true lovers of noble rot only. 18.5/20 (6/10/14)

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