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Pierre Ménard Anjou Le Clos des Mailles 2017

Pierre Ménard Anjou Le Clos des Mailles 2017

After two weeks featuring Loire Valley oddities – a 44-year-old demi-sec rosé from Domaine de Bablut, and the only Ligérian appassimento wine I have ever encountered – I thought this week’s Weekend Wine choice should be a little more mainstream.

Indeed, the only thing unusual about today’s choice is that it comes from the same vigneron as last week’s wine, Pierre Ménard. I don’t recall ever featuring the same domaine two weeks running (although do feel free to leaf through the last twenty-three years of updates to prove me wrong), but I thought in this case it was the right choice. First and foremost, because this week’s wine is a thing of sheer beauty. Second, because I would feel regret if anyone perusing this site was left thinking Pierre Ménard was of interest solely for his occasionally kooky experiments. That certainly isn’t the case.

Pierre Ménard is a name you should note simply because his dry whites are among the very best being made in Anjou today (his sweet whites are also superb, although not the domaine’s raison d’être); I think they would happily sit alongside bottles from the region’s most famous names. If there is a certain Anjou domaine (maybe one with a blue and white label) the wines of which you can no longer track down, or afford, Pierre Ménard is undeniably one of the domaines you should turn to next.

Pierre Ménard Anjou Le Clos des Mailles 2017

Pierre Ménard has barely 2.5 hectares of vines (although he acquired a few more rows this year, so this figure could be out of date – it might be 2.6 or even 2.7 hectares now) and he enjoys the cuvée parcellaire approach. Indeed, when I visited to taste with him in February this year (a full report is in the pipeline, honest) there were so many different cuvées lined up the bottles were almost falling over one another. When I asked Pierre about this rapid proliferation his reply was nonchalance personified; he enjoys the approach, and he clearly has no difficulty selling his wines, regardless of how many different micro-cuvées he might create.

Turning specifically towards this week’s wine, the Clos des Mailles is situated on the southern edge of the Corniche Angevine, just as the land falls away, down to the course of the Layon. This places Pierre’s vines on the schistose rocks of the Unite de Saint-Georges, a great seam of schist which runs in a north-westerly direction beneath the Layon. Within this seam of schist there are streaks of other rocky curiosities, the Saint-Georges complexities, one example of which is the thin vein of phthanite which runs diagonally across the Clos des Mailles. The vines are mostly Chenin Blanc, established in three small parcels, one aged close to 30 years, another aged about 11 years, and a third aged over 100 years.

The clos gives rise to two cuvées, the Clos des Mailles (the majority of the harvest) and Pluton (only from the vines on phthanite). Pierre first divided up the harvest in this manner in the 2016 vintage, but he combined them again in 2017. I think he regretted this; “I can taste the Pluton in the 2017 Clos des Mailles”, he told me when I visited him back in 2019. In 2018 he separated them out again, and he has continued this practice in subsequent vintages. The Clos des Mailles cuvée is vinified as you would expect, being picked by hand and then pressed, the juice fermented in mostly used barrels (Pluton, by the way, differs in that it is vinified in stoneware amphorae).

In the glass the 2017 Anjou Clos des Mailles from Pierre Ménard displays a shimmering pale straw hue. The nose is dominated by reductive traits of struck flint, swirled with the scents of sweet orange peel, jasmine and yellow peach. It feels incredibly precise in its definition, with a touch of energetic nervosity. There follows a beautifully pure and focused construct on the palate, still showing those granular, minerally, reductive traits which made themselves known on the nose, wrapped up in a supple and savoury substance, all pushed forward by great minerality and simply fabulous acidity. This build carries through to a long and incisive finish. I am not surprised to find both flavour and grip lingering on the palate, a slowly fading flinty freshness. An absolutely stunning wine which is simply beautiful now, but will surely evolve in a positive fashion with more time in bottle. Chapeau! The alcohol on the label is 13%. 96/100 (27/3/23)

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