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Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux Réserve 1989

Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux Réserve 1989

Sometimes an occasion calls for a certain wine. It might be something as simple as what you are planning on eating; as a committed Loire-o-phile (this isn’t news to anybody, right?) oysters, for example, demand a glass of Muscadet, whereas Crottin de Chavignol calls for a glass of Sancerre. Although I suppose I cannot claim true Level 5 Loire-geek status unless I demand a wine from Chavignol itself rather than Bué or Sury-en-Vaux. I guess I will just have to keep trying on that one.

Alternatively, it might be something about the occasion itself. A year or two ago I took a holiday in Chinon, and I travelled from England to France by overnight ferry. What was I going to drink with dinner as the great hulk ploughed gracelessly through the choppy waters of the North Sea? Why, Chinon of course! I popped the cork on a mature bottle I had held in my cellar for close to ten years before it had found its way into my luggage. Pouring it with care into two Riedel glasses, similarly smuggled on board, all was set for the perfect sea-going dinner. The only problem was the wine was rancidly corked, and I hadn’t had the foresight to smuggle a replacement on board.

Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux Réserve 1989

Perhaps, on reflection, choosing wine for occasions isn’t such a smart idea; at least it doesn’t seem to work that well for me. One time that it did work, though, was a couple of years ago when I opened a 1990 Vouvray Moelleux from Philippe Foreau of Domaine du Clos Naudin, shortly after returning from Vouvray, a tasting trip that included a foray into the depths of Philippe’s cellars. We had spent more than three hours tasting some superb sparkling wine, sec and demi-sec cuvées both young and with bottle age, and a mix of brilliant moelleux cuvées including some with excellent maturity.

Philippe Foreau makes his Moelleux and Moelleux Réserve cuvées only in suitably benevolent years, the Moelleux made almost exclusively from passerillé fruit, perhaps with the incidental inclusion of 2-3% botrytised grapes, while the Moelleux Réserve is made using only fruit concentrated by noble rot. As a consequence the residual sugar in the latter can be easily double that of the former, but more importantly the two wines have very distinct styles. As for the 1989 vintage this was, as all Level 5 Loire-geeks know, a superb one, and I am happy to still have some of Philippe’s 1989 Vouvray Moelleux Réserve in the cellar.

Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux Réserve 1989

In the glass the 1989 Vouvray Moelleux Réserve from Domaine du Clos Naudin has a shimmering orange-gold hue, a long way from the usual pale straw or lemon-gold hue you would see in most youthful sec and demi-sec cuvées. Aromatically it is striking, with scents of preserved oranges, minerals, chalk dust, verbena and truffle, showing a lovely citrus vivacity, wrapped within a grey-smoke purity. It maintains this wonderful confidence on the palate where it shows concentrated yet energetic character, rich and yet vivacious, full of intense acid freshness. The flavours and textural weight dance around one another, the midpalate brimming with notes of preserved oranges, truffles, white pepper and vanilla macaroons, this intense flavour profile and evident sweetness wrapped in a sorbet-like purity and energy, tied off with great acidity. These various textures and flavours come together to suggest on occasion iced mango and ginger with the faintest touch of caramel, harmonious and precise, with no flattening out or dulling of the impact as the palate progresses, the wine staying upright and lifted, dancing along right to the finish. It is as you might expect very long, with an almost bitter-pithy vibrancy, but it is that midpalate drive and vivacity that really defines the style. This is a superb, light-footed yet substantial wine that lingers forever. While brilliant now, this clearly has a very long future ahead of it yet. 19.5/20 • 99/100

Thinking back to the 1990 Vouvray Moelleux mentioned above, the wine recaptured the spirit of that tasting with Philippe Foreau very nicely. The 1989 Moelleux Réserve opened three years later for no reason other than sheer pleasure achieved, quite unintentionally, much the same, as my mind readily wandered back to explore and reinvigorate half-forgotten memories of that tasting. But when all is said and done there was no need for any special occasion to warrant this wine being opened. With a bottle such as this, it is the wine itself that is the occasion. (15/5/17)

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