Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinon Le Logis de la
Bouchardière 2018

When will we have our 1989? Our 1947? Our 1921?

It was during the early 1990s that I first visited the Loire Valley. Although by that time I had been drinking Sancerre (especially from the Vacheron family) and Chinon (at the time I was very familiar with the wines of Domaine du Colombier, in Beaumont-en-Véron, mainly because they were carried by a big-name UK supermarket), I would say it was on that trip that I had my first glimpse of the true breadth and depth of delights that the region had to offer. I began buying and drinking a much more diverse selection of the region’s wines. And, while my main buying focus was young wines to drink soon, or to cellar for the future, I also looked back to other recent vintages.

After a while (I can be a bit slow to switch on to even the most obvious at times) I realised that I had in fact just missed out on one of the region’s greatest vintages, one which most Ligérophiles would rank in the top three in the 20th century. The 1989 vintage was particularly great for the region’s sweet wines, with some particularly splendid wines made in Vouvray, but it was also superb for red wines. Happily I was able to back-fill, and I have since populated a number of racks in my cellar with 1989s from Domaine des Roches Neuves, Couly-Dutheil, Domaine Huet, Domaine des Aubuisières, Domaine du Clos Naudin and one or two others. But all the time I wondered; when will the next once-in-a-generation vintage come along? The next vintage of the century? Or rather, when would my 1989 come along?

Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinon Le Logis de la Bouchardière 2018

There have been a few candidates along the way. The 2003 vintage was very favourable for red and sweet wines, more so than in regions further south where, although there were some great wines, the results were more variable. The 2005 vintage was also fine, as were 2009 and 2010, two years which kicked off a long string of strong vintages for red (and sometimes dry white and sweet) wines including 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 (you have to skip 2012 and 2013). The most impressive for red was 2015, by far, although 2016 might be a better ‘all round’ vintage with some superb dry white, demi-sec and moelleux wines coming through (I see it as increasingly strong in Vouvray). I suddenly found myself with a surfeit of buying options; suffice to say my cellar is currently bursting at the seams.

And then along came 2018, a distinctive and really quite remarkable vintage. The volumes (coming after two vintages in which many regions suffered frost damage and a dramatically reduced yield as a result) were excellent. Quality is also excellent across the board, favouring red styles and sweet wines, the whites delightfully rich but the balance tempered by softer acidities in some cases. Ripeness was never going to be an issue, some vignerons bringing in parcels of Cabernet Franc at 16% potential alcohol (which filled vats destined for blending, perhaps in lesser cuvées, obviously). And the red wines (those that I have tasted) are astonishing, inky-dark and exotic (subscribers can check out my recent Bernard Baudry 2019 tasting report to learn more). It is a vintage in which even the most basic, entry-level cuvées of Chinon and Bourgueil are brimming with colour, flavour and texture, while the volume and quality of the sweet wines is possibly without parallel.

This broad spread of quality is exactly why today I cast my Weekend Wine spotlight onto the most basic domaine cuvée, the Logis de Bouchardière Chinon, from Serge et Bruno Sourdais in the 2018 vintage. Bright and shimmering in the glass, the aromatics are just wonderful, all crushed red cherry skins and pressed raspberry, dry and lightly grained, with fragrant notes of rose petals and pink peony on the side. This confident beginning is followed up by a cool and gently grained palate, very accessible, with a little substance to it and a touch of savoury grip, with fresh acidity wrapped around the peppery summer fruits, with barely a lick of tannin which makes this perfect for drinking over the next year or two. All in all this has a lovely style, unfussy and not really deserving of prolonged dissection, and yet it is delicious and instructive, telling us a lot of the potential that lies within this vintage. Hats off to Serge and Bruno, this very basic cuvée is a real success. 92/100

I think we might just have our 1989. I think I had better make a little space in that overcrowded cellar of mine. (12/8/19)

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