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Domaine de la Robinière Vouvray Bel-Air Sec 2013

Domaine de la Robinière Vouvray Bel-Air Sec 2013

It is easy to get into a rut with wine. When I started out trying to understand wine through drinking it (the best way, obviously) rather than just following the recommendations of boring newspaper columns that usually featured far too many three-for-two deals, I unwittingly set out on a journey that would take me to almost every wine region in existence (well, not quite, but to many of them). A case or two of wines from Tuscany first, and once gone a case or two from Burgundy. Next up, a case of Loire Valley reds, and then a couple of cases from the Mosel. You get the picture. Before long you develop a broad (albeit superficial) knowledge.

These days, however, I have found my drinking features the Loire Valley much more than any other region, followed in second place by Bordeaux (although with Bordeaux prices the way they are, that might be in jeopardy). And when you get to know a region well, getting past those first one or two cases to the point where you know even the most obscure appellations and know many of the region’s vignerons by name (and they know you), I think you can end up drinking the same wines over and over. You get to know whose wines you like. If it’s Muscadet, it must be Luneau-Papin or Domaine de la Pépière, it its Anjou it must be Pithon-Paillé or Richard Leroy (there are plenty of others, so anybody not mentioned shouldn’t be offended), and so on all the way up to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. That means other vignerons can find it hard to get a look in.

Domaine de la Robinière Vouvray Bel-Air Sec 2013

Over the past couple of years I have tried hard to steer myself out of this rut, the obvious solution being to taste more widely when visiting the Loire Valley, looking at domaines that were until that moment off my radar. That can be harder than it sounds, but it did mean last year I featured lots of new names on Winedoctor, including Thibaud Boudignon, Florent Cosme, Domaine Perrault-Jadaud, Nicolas Reau and perhaps half a dozen others, most of whom I visited in France (although Nicolas I met up with in London). There is another way, though, and that is just to buy a few bottles and see what they are like. I’m not averse to doing this, indeed I have always done so. After all, nobody sends out sample bottles of wines made by Claude Papin, Nicolas Joly, Mark Angeli and the like, and unlike some bloggers I don’t have much interest in just touting the latest samples to have been delivered.

And thus we come to Domaine de la Robinière, run by Vincent and Julien Raimbault, a father-and-son team based in Chançay, one of those Vouvray communes that you come to long after discovering the likes of Domaine Huet and Domaine du Clos Naudin. Vincent and Julien are the fourth and fifth generations respectively to run the domaine, Vincent having arrived in 1980, Julien having joined him in 2009. They have 16 hectares of vines to work with, some looking out onto the Loire, some onto the Brenne. The wine featured here, the 2013 Vouvray Bel-Air Sec is a sélection parcellaire which comes, unless I am mistaken (which is possible) from a lieu dit on the section of the plateau between the Vallée de Cousse and the Vallée de Vaux, on the northwestern side of the Brenne. Compared to vineyards on the première côte, these deuxième côte vineyards have slightly cooler microclimates, the limestone here is older and colder, and this is all reflected in the wine which has a typically pale cool climate hue, tinged with a little green. This feature may also have been exacerbated by the rather difficult 2013 growing season, better known perhaps as ‘the hail vintage’. It has a really cool and reticent nose, with notes of powdered chalk. It has what is for many, I think, a very typical Vouvray character, with chalky green apple, although it leans much more towards the cooking apple rather than the dessert apple end of the spectrum. There is more than a touch of sour to it, and hints of white pepper too. The palate follows the lead of the nose exactly, with very dominant acidity, and with a lip-smacking sour fruit character on the finish. As an aperitif wine, it certainly works by stimulating the juices. The high acidity and greener flavours here reflect the difficulty of the growing season and, to be straight, I can’t help feeling that this would have worked better with a little residual sugar (I know François Pinon, who lives and works just around the corner, would agree with me). Of course, that is easier said than done in a vintage such as this. All in same this is a good effort in a what was a difficult vintage, and I would like to taste more from this domaine in the future. 14.5/20 (20/4/15)

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