Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinon Les Cornuelles 2014
Travelling back from the 2018 Salon des Vins de Loire was not the finely tuned travel experience I had hoped it might be. As I have mentioned previously, the salon was cut down to just two days this year, no doubt to reduce costs (a saving which I trust was passed on to the exhibitors in the shape of a lower fee). Usually I leave on the afternoon of the final day, taking a train up to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and then a flight home late that evening. This year, with only two days of tasting, to make the most of my time there I booked a seat on an evening train, the plan being to stay overnight in an airport hotel and fly home Wednesday morning.
Things started to go awry on Tuesday, when it started to snow. Us Brits like to poke fun at our railways, and I have certainly experienced long delays in snowy weather on the way to tastings in London in the past, and so it was enlightening to see that the French railways cope no better with snow than the British. Despite apparent bedlam in Angers we departed only five minutes behind schedule, nevertheless that delay gradually worsened as it became apparent that we were in a convoy of trains heading up to Paris, often waiting more than half an hour outside stations for a platform to become available. When we eventually pulled into the airport railway station we were three hours late. The first silver lining in this snowy cloud is that if I had been heading up for an evening flight I have no doubt I would have missed it, so with hindsight my decision to stay overnight was a good one. The second is that supper in my hotel room was accompanied by a glass or two of Vouvray, which only needed ten minutes in the sub-zero temperatures outside on the window ledge to chill to a very drinkable temperature.
Anticipating bedlam in the airport, with many flights delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, the next morning I allowed myself two hours to get through passport control and security checks, and I used up most of that time. As it turned out I need not have bothered, as my 9:40am departure was delayed by an hour. And then another hour. And so on. I could have had a post-salon snooze that lasted all morning, because my flight eventually departed mid-afternoon, more than four hours late. The problem seemed to be that our aircraft was parked at the wrong spot in the airport, and they needed buses – apparently in short supply – to take us to it. Whereas the delay on the railways seemed almost inevitable, the airport’s response to the poor weather felt distinctly lackadaisical, and was made worse by inadequate communication.
After all that wintery fun I was glad to get home and taste a little sunshine, and where better to turn to than Chinon, and a wine from a successful vintage. The Loire Valley has seen an unprecedented run of fine red wine vintages in recent years, starting in 2014, with excellent potential in 2015, 2016 and 2017. While yields might be lower than hoped for due to frost in the latter two vintages, there is certainly no problem with quality, and I have been gradually adding wines to my cellar as they have been released. One of the first I picked up was this wine, from Serge et Bruno Sourdais, who are located up on the desirable limestone côte, right next-door to Jaulin-Plaisantin as it happens. Les Cornuelles comes from a vineyard of the same name which is close to Clos Guillot, although cornuelles is also a name for a soil rich in small stones of flint and which has a reputation for being easy to work. Apart from its barely legible gold-on-brown label one of the most striking features of the 2014 Chinon Les Cornuelles from Serge et Bruno Sourdais is its vibrant crimson-black hue in the glass, one which seems to speak of the ripe potential within the vintage. It has a great nose, filled with primary fruit at the moment, black cherry, damson and blackberry crumble, along with some slightly oaky buttery notes mixed with smoke and little nuances of black olive and thyme. The palate is cool, yet clearly substantial, with a frame of ripe, velvety-firm tannins which persist through the middle, end and finish. It is a firm, grippy but with a ripe flavour profile, with strong acidity in keeping with the slightly cooler and more tense vintage profile. Overall, this is a wine of fabulous fruit, vaguely phenolic, substantial but washed with freshening acidity too. This has impressive potential for the cellar. 95/100 (8/2/18)
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