Domaine Ogereau Crémant de Loire Brut de Schistes NV
This week I return once again to the sparkling wines of the Loire Valley, something of a theme in recent months (a theme born out of a feeling of guilt that, while I drink these wines very frequently, I realised that I rarely wrote about them). And to make a change from my many forays into Vouvray, the source of what are perhaps the region’s greatest sparkling wines (no doubt one or two vignerons in Saumur may wish to disagree with that statement) this week I am checking out a wine with the Crémant de Loire appellation. It’s a hard job, but I guess somebody has to do it….
The Loire Valley has a long history of sparkling wine production, the vignerons around Saumur being early adopters of the méthode traditionnelle. This, combined with the cool climate and the ideal terrain, the region being dominated by limestone, is why today Saumur is France’s second-largest appellation for sparkling wine (no prizes for guessing the first). Despite this long heritage, the complementary Crémant de Loire appellation is a relatively recent creation, having been born in 1975, which incidentally makes it the same age as Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and Drew Barrymore. And, for the purposes of balance, Ant and Dec (this might not mean very much to readers outside the UK, sorry).
The superiority of the Crémant de Loire appellation compared to some of the Loire Valley alternatives such as Saumur stems from the fact that the rules are relaxed with regard to variety, but stricter when it comes to winemaking. So while most local sparkling wines are built largely around Chenin Blanc, Crémant de Loire allows for a larger percentage of Chardonnay to be included, not to mention Menu Pineau (also known as Arbois) and a slew of red varieties including Grolleau Gris and Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’Aunis and Pinot Noir. Unlike Saumur, Sauvignon Blanc is banned, not a bad thing, even if Vinsans Ricard is a good wine. The fruit has to be transported in small crates, must be gently pressed, and the finished wine must spend twelve months sur lattes before release.
Of course, no appellation can guarantee quality, and I don’t subscribe to the belief that they even ensure typicity. As with perhaps any other style of wine the way to find quality is to first follow the domaine, and until a few years ago Domaine Ogereau would not have even been on my radar in this regard. While rightly renowned for their sweet wines which now include a tip-top example of Quarts de Chaume, the superlative 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Anjou-Villages Côtes de La Houssaye, and an increasingly interesting range of dry whites under the Anjou appellation, the Ogereau family only ventured into the world of sparkling wines in very recent times.
The Crémant de Loire Brut de Schistes from Domaine Ogereau featured here is their first-ever release, officially non-vintage but in fact made entirely from 2014 fruit. It is a blend of 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Chardonnay and, as the name suggests, it comes from schistous soils, around Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay. Having first rested sur lattes for about fifteen months, this bottle has been slumbering in my cellar since I bought it in 2017. It maintains its very fresh poise, showing a very pale straw hue in the glass, with a bone-white frothing bead which settles down into multiple streams of tiny bubbles. The nose is subtle, with notes of peach stone and floral orange-blossom scents, with a little white pebble freshness. As for the palate, this has evolved a little now, and it shows a sweet vein of fruit at its core, surrounded by blossom and elderflower notes, along with crushed chalk, all set against a citrus vivacity and a very dry, seemingly low-dosage base. It culminates with a long and incisive finish formed around a firm spindle of acidity. This is certainly a delight, and a very sound first submission by the Ogereau family to the region’s sparkling wine pantheon. 93/100 (13/5/19)
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