Château de Plaisance Crémant de Loire Chenin Brut Nature 2019

It should come as no surprise that I prefer to fill my flutes with sparkling wines from the Loire Valley rather than those from Champagne. Indeed, when making that statement I am more worried about the reaction of the wine police to my use of flutes, than I am to my (hardly newsworthy or controversial) declaration of a preference for les vins Ligérians. The truth is, however, that I only used the word flutes because I enjoyed its alliterative relationship with fill. In fact I drink all my sparkling wines from tankards made from old animal horns, as if I were a biodynamic farmer from Game of Thrones. Honest.

The Loire Valley is a region in which the value-conscious are spoilt for choice, there being sparkling wines in the Vouvray, Saumur and Crémant de Loire appellations (and others, of course) to suit every pocket. Now while I have no problem frequently filling (there I go again) my tankard with these wines, I am always on the look out for something a little more special, a cut above the rest. In other words, finding good value here can be easy; finding a wine which stands apart from the crowd can be more of a challenge (but who doesn’t like a challenge?).

There are a few obvious contenders of course, wines that I snap up on sight. The first that comes to mind is the ever-popular Triple Zero from Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, a wine with that rare combination of tip-top quality and a very affordable price sticker. Another is an old favourite of mine, the Brut Réserve from Philippe Foreau, a wine I have often bought by the case. Recent price rises and restricted availability might temper that attitude a little, but I am certainly still in the market.

It is understandably exciting when another obvious contender comes along. Enter Château de Plaisance.

Château de Plaisance Crémant de Loire Chenin Brut Nature 2019

Up until a few years Château de Plaisance was entirely absent from these pages. The ancien proprietor Guy Rochais was an interesting and outspoken character, but I never encountered him pouring his wines, and by the end of his career he was selling everything he picked in bulk to the négoce. The estate was in decline, having suffered from a lack of investment, and the vineyards were blighted by missing vines. Considering the vineyard included prime slices of the Chaume and Quarts de Chaume appellations it was in a sorry state, in need of a new injection of enthusiasm and capital; the former came in the shape of Vanessa Cherruau, while the latter was provided by her benefactor, Emmanuel Lemaire, through his business LMR Projects.

Suddenly Château de Plaisance is a player to be reckoned with once more, and it is with her various cuvées of Anjou Blanc, very much in the ‘New Anjou’ style, that Vanessa is making her mark. I will be providing a tasting report later in the week featuring her latest releases to complement my already-published profile. In the meantime, however, I turn the spotlight onto the first release of her Crémant de Loire, a cuvée which I can certainly see occupying a regular position on my racks alongside those from Domaine de la Taille aux Loups and Philippe Foreau.

The 2019 Crémant de Loire Chenin Brut Nature from Château de Plaisance is made without added sugar at any stage (no chaptalisation, none for the prise de mousse, and no dosage) akin to the Triple Zero methodology. The fermentation began in a mix of stainless steel cuves and barrels and once the concentration of fermentable sugars had fallen to 21 g/l it was bottled, the only addition at this stage being some yeast (if I remember rightly this was also the practice of Jean-Bernard Berthomé at Domaine Huet, and Marc Olivier at Domaine de la Pépière – I have in the past referred to the style, tongue slightly in cheek, as pétillant naturel plus). An early example tasted at the estate a year ago had rested sur lattes for 18 months, this bottle has seen 24 months sur lattes before disgorgement in March 2022. There is plenty of youthful pressure behind the cork and yet a fine and sparse bead in the glass. The extra time on the lees and in bottle has done this some favours, because this now shows a beautifully aromatic nose of sour orange and crushed minerals, with traces of marzipan, toasted almond and quince paste. The palate wraps up this delightfully savoury expression with notes of toast, all set in an acid-fresh palate, with a broad mousse which exceeds my expectations. With its dry, savoury, lightly toasted stance through the finish, this is an excellent, savoury and mouth-watering crémant. The alcohol on the label is 13%. 93/100

This is a great result and a fabulous addition to the Loire’s sparkling wine pantheon, and yet another feather in Vanessa Cherruau’s cap. And, if you don’t have any animal horn tankards to hand, I can confirm it also tastes rather good from a standard flute. At least that’s what my friend tells me. Honest. (21/8/23)

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