Château Pierre-Bise Savennières Clos de Coulaine 2000
Last week this feature brought some confusion concerning the vintage (or not) of the wine I was drinking, and I was ultimately rescued from this state by the very man who made the wine, François Pinon. What I had regarded as a non-vintage wine in fact turned out to be of the 2006 vintage, as Pinon himself explained (for his words on the wine, see my review of the François Pinon Vouvray But Non Dosé). This week more potential confusion, to some small extent perpetuated by me here. This is a wine which I have visited before on these pages, such as with my tasting of the 2005 vintage (when I discussed the place of Savennières – specifically the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant cru – within the pantheon of French vineyards), and with numerous other vintages noted under my Pierre-Bise profile. And the confusion? Well, this isn’t actually a Pierre-Bise wine.
Even a brief examination of the label shows this wine to be packaged quite differently to other wines in the Pierre-Bise portfolio, such as the Savennières Roches aux Moines, Chaume and Quarts de Chaume cuvées. This is clear despite the slightly mouldy label of this, my last bottle of this wine, as shown in the image below. Closer inspection, however, reveals more detail; the vigneron in question is not simply Claude Papin or Pierre-Bise, but Papin-Chevalier.
This small but important difference reflects the history of Pierre-Bise, and its proprietors Claude and Joëlle Papin, nee Chevalier – hence Papin-Chevalier. Through this union which took place in 1972 Claude acquired 30 hectares of vines brought into the family by Joëlle, and very soon afterwards, in 1974, he took over from his father at Pierre-Bise. Today the Papin family, Claude and Joëlle and their two sons René and Christophe, own a portfolio of vines in numerous communes and appellations across Anjou, including Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu, Chaume and Quarts de Chaume, as well as in Savennières. The vines of the Clos de Coulaine are not, however, included in this diverse assortment of vineyards. They do not originate from Joëlle’s family (as might be assumed from the Papin-Chevalier moniker) but are in fact rented vines, and it is this that drives the distinction between the Clos de Coulaine and the other Pierre-Bise labels.
It was in 1992 that the Papin family began to rent vines in the Clos de Coulaine from the retiring François Roussier. The vineyard is located near the southern end of the appellation, which runs alongside the Loire in a south-west to north-east alignment. There are 4.5 hectares of Chenin Blanc vines here (as well as a similar area planted to Cabernet Franc) planted on deep, silty-sandy soils over sandstone and schist. The wines this site yields are of a fine quality totally in keeping with the rest of the Papin portfolio in my experience, and for that reason – although perhaps also for simplicity’s sake – I hope you will forgive me if I continue to perpetuate my small confusion by referring to this wine as originating from Château Pierre-Bise rather than Papin-Chevalier.
Whatever its origin, in the glass the 2000 Clos de Coulaine Savennières has a rich but clean, mid-golden hue. The nose is delightfully vibrant, precisely fragrant rather than over the top. The fruit has a lightly dried character, sweet but not excessively so, vibrant too, like a little cube of desiccated pineapple. Later, there are gently presented elements of Chenin Blanc, a pillow of soft straw and a light seam of Demerara sugar. Despite this it has a fleshy but very dry quality on the palate, with a lovely purity to it, although with plenty of that dried yet minerally fruit and straw character. There is a rather firm grip at times, backed up by a fine, honeyed and velvety texture, and the acidity is perfectly integrated. My only issue is that there are moments when it seems to drop away in the midpalate, but this really is splitting hairs. Overall it has a lovely, almost marrowy substance and a nice length. Really good wine; I wish I had more! 17/20 (22/3/10)