Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Brut Réserve 2005
This year has been marked by a proliferation of sparkling wines among my Weekend Wine reviews, and quite rightly so. It is a style that I tend to drink a lot of (strangely, there is never any shortage of willing volunteers seeking to help me reach the bottom of the bottle) but which I am often remiss in writing up. Over the past twelve months, though, I have done my best to right that wrong, with a look at some of my favourite sparkling wines, from Vincent Carême, Yves Guégniard and Philippe Foreau, among others.
Vouvray, and in particular the Domaine du Clos Naudin, has admittedly taken an unfair share of the limelight, but this merely reflects my own preferences when it comes to sparkling wine. And my final Weekend Wine of 2018 does nothing to redress the balance, as I round out the year with a look at a maturing vintage of Philippe Foreau’s top cuvée. Well, why not? It is New Year’s Eve after all, and even bearing in mind the two delightfully mature Champagnes I featured in my 1998 at Twenty Years tasting, published only last week, I can’t think of anything else I would rather be drinking when the bells ring out at midnight.
Philippe (assisted in recent years by his son Vincent) makes a small number of sparkling cuvées, as is often the case in Vouvray largely utilising the fruit from younger vines (although if I recall correctly Philippe places more value on terroir than vine age), and he channels about one-third (perhaps up to a half in difficult vintages) of their annual production into these cuvées. Of the three cuvées I have encountered, the non-vintage cuvée and the Brut and Brut Réserve, all have their part to play, but I consistently find myself gravitating towards the latter. Always a single-vintage cuvée, this tends to rest sur lattes for six or more years before disgorgement, in contrast to the four years for the straight Brut. Looking back over other recent vintages, the 2002 was nothing short of brilliant (from a great vintage, it has to be said), but I am sorry to say I drank my last bottle a few years ago. Happily, with Philippe holding back the bottles for many years before release, the currently available vintages have not moved on too far. It is 2005 and 2007 you are likely to encounter in the market now. I thought I glimpsed a 2008 for sale recently, although it disappeared as swiftly as it appeared, so much so that I am now beginning to wonder whether or not I may have dreamt it.
The 2005 Vouvray Brut Réserve from Philippe Foreau is a great wine, although it needs a little time in the glass to show its true worth. Not too long though, just ten or fifteen minutes, although the transformation is remarkable. Once the cork is popped it starts off with a very restrained note of sour and bruised apple character, one which doesn’t inspire much confidence. But it isn’t long before this metamorphoses into something delightful. In the glass it has no particularly striking appearance, a pale straw hue, with a relaxed, fine but plentiful bead. The nose, once it gets going, presents a focused and very pure style, leaving behind that initial note of bruised fruit, instead shifting towards lightly honeyed dessert apples and fresh, mineral-dusted pears. The palate remains fabulously incisive, but it feels exciting rather than simply sour, and it reveals some fascinating complexities along the way. There are nuanced flavours of ginger, liquorice, black bean and coconut here, all draped over some sweetly caramelised fruit notes, while the whole palate is kept absolutely fresh by that acidity, and the deliciously tingling mousse. All in all a super wine, with a long, tense finish. Perfect for drinking now, I am sure this will be great anytime over the next five-to-ten years. 95/100 (31/12/18)
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