Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Sec 2014
Every now and again you have to return to the classics. I like aged Sauvignon Blanc from Pouilly-Fumé, the rarely spotted Chinon Blanc and even the occasional glass of sparkling red from Bourgueil, and all the other fun wines the Loire Valley has for us. But when it comes to some wines, to buy and drink them is just a no-brainer decision. I would put the wines of Philippe Foreau and the Domaine du Clos Naudin in this category, and when you have a vintage like we have in 2014, in which the white wines tend to combine confident fruit and equally riveting acidity, the concept of not checking in on his wines would be unthinkable.
The fruit for all the Foreau wines is picked by hand and pressed using pneumatic equipment, the Foreau family having been the first in the appellation to buy a pneumatic press, back in 1976. Thereafter the juice is run into 300-litre barrels for the fermentations, effected only by indigenous yeasts. There is no chaptalisation, no tangible use of new oak, minimal use of sulphur dioxide and yet no malolactic fermentation either, it being discouraged largely by the low temperatures in the cellars. The wine is then left without any working of the lees, and after only a few months resting here the wine is blended and bottled, usually during April or May the year after the vintage. In other words, it is a classic style of Vouvray made to a classic recipe.
Picking in tries means that the fruit can be channelled into the usual array of cuvées, including sec, demi-sec, moelleux and a moelleux réserve, based on the alcoholic potential as measured at harvest, and for the sweet cuvées the presence or absence of botrytis. The fruit earmarked for the Vouvray Sec is generally that picked at 12º to 13.5º potential, yielding a dry style with minimal residual sugar compared to the sec cuvées at some other Vouvray domaines. A typical figure here would be 3 g/l, certainly less than 5 g/l, whereas you might find 7 to 9 g/l at other address in the appellation. “There is no sec-tendre here”, Philippe told me when I last visited. Did I say it was a classic style, from a classic recipe? Yes, I think I did.
The 2014 Vouvray Sec from Philippe Foreau of Domaine du Clos Naudin lives up to the potential of the vintage. After pulling the cork the wine displays a pale straw hue in the glass, and the aromatics are wonderfully pure, with scents of orange citrus, lemon balm and smoky mineral streaks. It feels very bright and precise, with much promise for the future, but hidden within there are some little hints of exotic fruit ripeness, including mango and honeyed apricot, a reflection of the very benevolent vintage. The palate maintains this very fresh and tense beginning, showing pithy confidence and substantial energy, carrying a polished melange of mirabelle plum, sweet apple and citrus fruits. Following these first impressions it reveals a great textural presence, underpinned by a bright acid freshness, but also a very fine central core of pithy, delightfully bitter Chenin substance. This is hugely impressive, very long in the finish, clearly a wine of some gravitas, with great backbone and presence. As I said, it is a bit of a no-brainer. 17.5/20 • 95/100 (23/10/17)