Domaine de la Perruche
Coteaux de Saumur Les Rotissants 1996
After my foray into the sweeter side of Saumur two or three months ago, with the 1996 Château de Beauregard Saumur Moelleux, I thought this week I might pull this bottle from the cellar. From the same vintage, and the same region, this is probably how we more commonly encounter sweet wines from Saumur, using the Coteaux de Saumur appellation.
Although any vineyard eligible for the Saumur appellation is also eligible for Coteaux de Saumur, understandably the vast majority of vineyards are dedicated to the production of dry wines, red or white. Those choosing first to plant Chenin Blanc instead of Cabernet Franc, and second to then tailor both pruning and harvesting to produce sweet wine rather than dry, are rare creatures indeed. Although production varies greatly from one year to the next, depending on whether the vintage has favoured botrytis, you can expect only a few hundred hectolitres of this golden elixir in any one vintage. Indeed, the annual production of Coteaux de Saumur is considerably less than a single village of the Coteaux du Layon.
Despite a favourable terroir, Saumur being dominated by limestone with touches of flint and clay here and there, much in the same manner as Vouvray or Montlouis, and a similar climate, the sweet wines of Saumur never seem to reach the same level of intensity and concentration as these other appellations. They tend to a slightly lighter sweetness, and show a firm acidity and minerality. To my mind this is all good, because the typicity of the Loire Valley comes from the minerality, and this can get a little lost in overly rich, botrytised cuvées. I’m a sucker for a 100% botrytis wine with its golden-walnut tones and caramelised flavours as much as the next guy, but wines with greater freshness and balance, allowing the minerality to show through, speak to me more. Add nearly twenty years of bottle age, for complexity, and I’m in heaven.
Domaine de la Perruche is located on the left bank of the Loire, upriver from the town of Saumur, before you even get to Château de Targé and Domaine Filliatreau, both of which are just a short distance down the road. We are close to the union of the Loire and the Vienne here, near the town of Montsoreau. Domaine de la Perruche has long been the largest domaine in this commune, and it has been – for many generations – handed down within the Rouiller family. At the time this cuvée was bottled it was Alain Rouiller who was in charge.
The 1996 Coteaux de Saumur Les Rotissants from Domaine de la Perruche shows a beautifully polished orange-golden hue in the glass, quite intense, and yet also bright and vibrant. It has a very fine nose of buttered almonds and toasted hazelnuts, backed up by botrytised fruits, including sweetly preserved oranges, grilled apricots and even a little lacing of mango. Behind this come the complexities of age, including scents of golden herbal tea and a twist of tobacco leaf. There is a fairly succulent start to the palate, warming up a little in the middle, showing breadth and still a very confident sweetness. There is certainly no sign this is drying out. Underneath the resident sugar, there is fine grip and a fresh, tingling acidity. There is a great botrytis bitterness too, and complex nuances of black tea and roasted grape pips, the former an element which Philippe Foreau says indicates a deep penetration of botrytis into the grapes. In the finish it shows considerable substance, a crisp Vouvray-like definition, and an impressive length with a firm, peppery energy. This is remarkably good, and there is no need to rush drinking up my other bottles I think. 17.5/20 (25/4/16)