Domaine de Rocheville Saumur-Champigny Le Page 2014
In my Loire Valley wine guide, now undergoing a long-needed expansion, I have recently touched upon the region’s great diversity of grape varieties. Naturally I have begun with the ‘big three’ white varieties, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and (coming soon!) Melon de Bourgogne, and once I have that trio done-and-dusted I am looking forward to getting to grips with some of the more curious varieties, starting with Romorantin and Menu Pineau before moving onto the real rarities. It’s a project I have found fascinating and personally rewarding, and I have especially enjoyed the hunt through French literature in years gone by for some of the earliest references to these varieties.
The Loire Valley is rich not only in grape varieties though. There is a broad diversity of styles made here, using different viticultural philosophies, from a mix of terroirs including a huge array of igneous and metamorphic rocks as well as a variety of limestones. Even the climate varies considerably, from the salty breezes of Muscadet up to the more continental weather patterns at the heart of France where we find Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, and much further upstream also the vineyards of the Côte Roannaise and Côtes du Forez. Thinking about it, the Loire Valley is even diverse in its diversity!
This great diversity is one of the joys of the Loire Valley, but it can also add to my frustration. It is impossible to get around all the domaines where I want to taste in the course of a single visit to the region. This is perhaps true of most wine regions, but here in the Loire Valley it is difficult to get around even half or a quarter. Even with the best part of a week in the region, tasting at forty or fifty different domaines (taking in a dozen or more wines at some domaines) I still feel I have only just scratched the surface. This is the wonder and the curse of the Loire Valley, all rolled into one. To try and counter this I have visited the Loire Valley not once this year, not twice, but three times so far, on my subsequent visits focusing particularly on Saumur and then Sancerre, visiting old ‘friends’ such as Clos Rougeard, but also looking for new discoveries such as Pierre Morin. Making new discoveries is what it’s all about for me; it’s great tasting with Nady Foucault, but meeting vignerons such as Antoine Sanzay or Romain Guiberteau for the first time is no less special. These guys are, after all, the future of Saumur and Saumur-Champigny. This week’s wine comes from a more recent discovery than these two; Domaine de Rocheville.
The domaine is a relatively new one, having been established by Philippe Porché during the course of the past decade. He bought vineyards behind Château de Targé in 2005 (although like many in the region he has not been able to resist the lure of Brézé, so he has vines there too), and then more recently constructed a modern winemaking facility. Philippe’s range of wines is cuvée-orientated rather than terroir-orientated (except, as it happens, for that parcel in Brézé) and are named for various Medieval ranks of nobility, so there is Le Page (as here), Le Prince, Le Roi and La Dame, among others. Le Page is, as you might imagine, entry-level and for earlier drinking, whereas Le Prince and Le Roi are more serious wines intended for the cellar.
In the glass, the 2014 Saumur-Champigny Le Page from Domaine de Rocheville displays a remarkably vibrant and youthful hue, fresh and translucent. It screams freshness and purity of fruit, exactly what entry-level Saumur-Champigny should major on. Indeed, it has a beautifully smoky nose, a glassful of cherry stones and cherry skins, all cool, constrained and pebbly. The palate follows the lead of the nose, with a fresh character, cool and brimming with sharp cherry fruit backed up by gentle and precise tannins, and some vibrant acidity too. This feels very fresh and correct, a lovely unfussy entry-level wine from a very benevolent vintage, one that will tick all the right boxes for Saumur classicist; it is a wine for traditionalists rather then fans of texture, extraction and new oak. This will drink well now and during the next few years. A good wine, and a domaine I will be exploring in more detail soon. 16/20 (21/9/15)