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Pierre Ménard Anjou Le Clos des Mailles 2016

Pierre Ménard Anjou Le Clos des Mailles 2016

A few weeks ago, while reflecting on the joy of the 2017 Essentielle from Domaine des Tilleuls, I mentioned how a palate can too easily become jaded. I think focusing on one or two wine regions, as I do, increases the risk; being so intimately familiar with the wines, vineyards and vignerons it is too easy to think that you have seen it all before, and tasted every wine there is to taste. Every vintage that comes along can be likened, in the style of Alexandre Thienpont, to some other pre-existing vintage. Well done, you’re now official an expert, the joy of wine supplanted by dull familiarity.

Happily, while there are many wines which seem comfortably familiar, there are others which serve to excite and reinvigorate jaded palates. And recently I seem to be on a bit of a roll. Having already mentioned a superb young Vouvray recently encountered, before I can even get around to writing up that wine along comes another thriller in the shape of this new wave Anjou from Pierre Ménard. A young Angevin based in Faye d’Anjou, not too far from Domaine de Juchepie, Pierre began working alongside his parents in their 13 hectares of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. You won’t have encountered his parents wines, by the way, because they always sold their crop to the local cave co-operative.

Pierre Ménard Anjou Le Clos des Mailles 2016

In 2013 Pierre took over a tiny slice of the vineyard for himself, picking the fruit and vinifying it sur place, rather than selling it off. Following organic and biodynamic methods he began to produce a number of cuvées each of very limited production, one or two – such as the 2014 Coteaux du Layon Cosmos – I have already been fortunate enough to encounter. That wine only spurred me on to discover more, which brings us to this weekend’s wine. The Clos des Mailles is located on the banks of the Layon, near the top of a slope running down to the water’s edge. The soils are thin and are laid over a bed of schist (of course) peppered with blue-green veins of phthanites. The vines were largely planted in 1993, some as recently as 2012, which puts them among the younger vines in Pierre’s vineyard, some of which date back to 1920.

A glass of the Pierre Ménard Anjou Le Clos des Mailles 2016 has a pale straw-lemon hue, but what is really striking is the brilliant vibrancy I find on the nose. While there is the richness of honeyed fruit, in particular white currants, peach, perfumed lychees and citrus fruits, what sets this wine apart is its saline and crystalline poise, the fruit merely a backdrop to the wet stone and mineral aromatics. This is what I mean by ‘new wave’ Anjou, wines which eschew the old style which, even when dry, were always touched by botrytis, coming through as a round and polished luxuriance even if there was no major impact on flavour and sweetness. But there is a new movement in Anjou, for picking early before the botrytis has descended upon the fruit, adherents including Emmanuel Ogereau and, in the past year or two, Eric Morgat. Their wines are rare jewels in the Anjou crown. Coming back to Pierre Ménard, this cuvée displays a beautiful intensity and shimmering purity on the palate, a combination of precise crystalline orchard and citrus fruits, which seem to sit in perfect harmony with the streaks of fine-grained mineral energy, intertwined with pristine needle-like acidity. This is a wine which is striking, broad not with mere fat, but with sinew and depth, leading into a long and pithy finish. This is absolutely excellent, and it surely represents the future of Anjou. 95/100 (3/9/18)

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