Le Rocher des Violettes Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Originel 2014
The perfect antidote to two weeks of Bordeaux 2018 barrel samples? My first choice may well be a glass of beer, I certainly drank a few when in Bordeaux last week (not to mention a surprising 1969 Château Latour, from a vintage which is usually and quite rightly derided, and a quite seductive 2009 Château d’Yquem, plus one or two other bottles). Without a suitable IPA to hand, however, I can’t think of anything better as an alternative than this Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Originel from Xavier Weisskopf, of Le Rocher des Violettes.
While Xavier does not have the same level of fame as other Montlouis protagonists such as François Chidaine or Jacky Blot, his wines are frequently tip-top. This goes not only for his wines made within Montlouis, but also his red wines, which all have the Touraine appellation. His Vieilles Vignes Côt is always worth looking out for, but I will cast the spotlight onto that cuvée at some other time. For the moment let’s take a look at this cuvée, the curiously named Pétillant Originel, a Montlouis-specific variation on the Pétillant Naturel theme.
The Pétillant Originel concept is enshrined in a quality charter, one created by the Montlouis-sur-Loire vignerons themselves over ten years ago, back in 2007. To qualify for the designation, the wine must be made without the addition of yeast, and without the addition of liqueur de tirage (a dose of sugar added at the time of bottling to give the ongoing fermentation a boost) or liqueur d’expédition (sugar added at the moment of disgorgement, often referred to as the dosage). In other words the wine must be made purely with the original grapes, their sugars and the indigenous yeasts, with nothing extraneous added at any time throughout the vinification.
There are numerous other regulations though, including maximum yield of 52 hl/ha (which matches the limit for still wines, and is lower than the value for traditional pétillant), as well as a requirement for hand-picking and gentle whole-bunch pressing. The grapes must have a potential alcohol of at least 11.5% when picked, failure to hit this target being the reason Xavier’s 2013 was ‘merely’ Pétillant and not Pétillant Originel. The wine is bottled when there is still 14 g/l unfermented sugar in order to generate a gentle pressure in the bottle, no more than 3.5 atmospheres, and it must rest a minimum of nine months sur lattes before release.
The 2014 Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Naturel from Le Rocher des Violettes displays an attractive pale straw-gold hue in the glass, with a fine central bead. The nose is simply fabulous, expressive and open, and full of perfumed apples and crushed chalk, touched with a little rose and verbena. This translates onto the palate as a cool and reserved style, with a dry, taut, acid-defined composition, one which carries flavours of apple skins and orange zest, and it is chalky too, with an effusive, broad and quite tangible minerality. It concludes with a substantial finish, with a pile of texture and grip. This wine, supposedly some humble Loire pétillant cuvée, turns out to be one that demands serious attention. A great result here, well done Xavier. 94/100 (8/4/19)
Read more in:
- My detailed profile of Le Rocher des Violettes
- My report on the Loire 2014 vintage
- My guide to Chenin Blanc