La Ferme de la Sansonnière Anjou Blanc La Lune 2005
The joy of the Loire is that there are so many fabulous wines from even the most famous appellations of the region which remain a niche interest, available to those who have a taste for them at often very favourable prices. I don’t pretend to have a complete understanding as to why it is that the Loire remains so widely disregarded by so many, although perhaps I can proffer some thoughts on the matter. Firstly, although perhaps the most beautiful it is undeniably a disparate wine region, with more than 70 appellations scattered along what is France’s longest river. As a consequence there are not one or two easily identifiable styles to act as markers for what the entire region is about. Whereas wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux and perhaps even the Rhône (and most certainly Champagne) are easily ‘pigeonholed’ according to style, the same is not true for the Loire. I accept there are differences between Pomerol and Pauillac, Vougeot and Volnay, or Cornas and Côte-Rôtie, but I venture there are far greater differences between Chinon, Saumur, the wines of Touraine and red Sancerre, or even between white Sancerre, Vouvray, Muscadet and the Coteau du Loir. This naturally makes the region more difficult to understand.
As a second point, the wines clearly don’t appeal to all palates. This is good, because wine is an individual pleasure which should, if honestly expressed, reflect nuances of our own personalities, our wine education and our previous experiences. My worry is that some bash the Loire, and other regions which tend to produce elegant wines with more emphasis on acidity than power, because they have learnt that gobs of fruit and oodles of extract are what wine is about. More pointedly, it seems that some come to this conclusion despite having minimal experience of the wines of the Loire, and more disappointingly a shocking lack of insight into the undeniable truth that just because they do not find pleasure in a particular wine, this discovery does not automatically endow that same wine with an evil agenda to ruin the palates and lives of others. Peruse some internet forums and you will find comments describing red Sancerre as watery, Chinon as weak and bitter, Muscadet as battery acid. Such sweeping statements only expose the weak knowledge of those stating them with such faux authority, individuals who need to learn that they are not in possession of the perfect and universal palate.
This week’s wine is one that those who summarily disregard the Loire will never have the pleasure of tasting, because having failed to properly explore Vouvray, or Sancerre, or Muscadet, they can not even begin to address the hotch-potch of vineyards that make up Anjou. There are at the time of writing 151 communes entitled to the Anjou appellation and sub-appellations, spread across the Maine-et-Loire, Deux-Sèvres and Viennes départements. It is a diverse region, with a variety of terroirs, including the gravel, white chalk and tuffeau vineyards northwest of Saumur next to those of Bourgueil, the black schist and carboniferous terroirs south of the Loire, around the Layon and Aubance, and even the granite and sand of the Nantais. With a multitude of eligible varieties, and a handsome collection of sub-appellations including Anjou-Gamay, Cabernet d’Anjou, Anjou Pétillant and more, this appellation is perhaps the Loire personified in all its confusing glory. The key, of course, as with Burgundy, is to look out for the handful of top names who produce excellent wines here despite the ‘generic’ feel of the appellation. Mark Angeli at Ferme de la Sansonnière is one such name, a character who has been using his vineyards around Thouarcé, more commonly utilised in the production of Bonnezeaux, to fashion a collection of white cuvées of Anjou, made in what might be described as a very ‘honest’ style which reflects the vintage. A keen advocate of biodynamism and experimental practices – he has some vineyards planted at a staggering 40000 vines per hectare, more than four times the concentration of what is usually regarded as dense planting – the wines never fail to pique my interest. The 2005 vintage of La Lune, his leading cuvée, is no disappointment. It has a fine hue, not at all deep, with a gentle straw-coloured core fading to a wide, clear, watery hue at the rim. The nose begins in a subtle fashion, but slowly develops a forceful character in the glass, with notes of honey, straw and ginger cake, and there is a similar feel to the palate, although here it seems clearly much more exotic. It is ripe and round, full of honey, moist ginger cake, herbs, straw, candied fruits and more, but with a fine, tingling spice which provides a reference point around which the other flavours rotate. Overall it is in a very soft style, with low acidity and a fleshy, resinous mouthfeel reflecting residual sugar, and a little grip, all no doubt reflecting the character of the vintage which was warm. But the flavours are bright, savoury and sappy, and overall this is certainly to be admired. 17/20 (24/9/07)