Domaine Sérol Turbullent NV
The Sérol family have been tending vines on the foothills of the Massif Central for several hundred years, since at least the mid-17th century. By the time Robert Sérol took the reins of Domaine Sérol during the 1960s, however, there were barely 2 hectares of rather elderly vines remaining. It was Robert who began the domaine’s renaissance, so that when he felt retirement calling in 1988 he had 8 hectares of vines to his name. His son Stephane Sérol accelerated the process, so that during the last two decades the domaine has expanded from 8 to 28 hectares, much of this achieved through the continued planting of Gamay. This is, after all, the authorised variety for the Côte Roannaise appellation.
Or is it?
Ask any of the locals which variety they have in their vineyards and they are mostly quite adamant that it is not Gamay, but is in fact Gamay-Saint-Romain. This is a locally grown variant named for the nearby town of Saint-Romain-la-Motte, which is home to a long-established nursery regarded in the region as the original source of this cultivar. Some of the locals seem to regard Gamay-Saint-Romain with a sense of awe, or at the very least a degree of patrimonial pride, rather as some vignerons look to older cultivars of Cabernet Franc as being superior to the cloned cultivars provided by France’s modern-day vine nurseries. Indeed, having spent last week in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux (split fairly evenly between the two, if you’re interested), I heard Cabernet Franc referred to as both Bouchet and Breton, used in both cases to distinguish those vines being discussed from nursery-propagated clones. So too it is with Gamay-Saint-Romain, rather than Gamay, I think
In this monovarietal appellation, the terroir largely (almost exclusively in fact) granite, of varying colours, many of the wines offer a variation on a central theme. To explore new vinous avenues, many vignerons plant Chardonnay or Viognier, making use of the local Vin de Pays d’Urfé classification in order to label and sell their wines. For those who choose to make a sparkling wine, however, the choice of variety is rather more simple. Why plant more ordinary vines when there is all that Gamay-Saint-Romain so close at hand? Stéphane Sérol is one vigneron who has taken this route, adding a fun and quite distinctive wine to his portfolio.
The non-vintage Turbullent from Domaine Sérol is created using the méthode ancestrale, and just in case it isn’t clear it is 100% Gamay-Saint-Romain. The fruit is hand-picked, sorted by hand-and-eye upon arrival in the cellars, allowed to settle, and then fermented without any sugar addition at a cool temperature in cement cuve. The partly fermented wine goes into bottle when it has hit 7% alcohol, and the fermentation continues for a little longer, but only up to about 9% alcohol. The established style is thus low in alcohol, with some unfermented residual sugar, the exact level depending on the vintage, but between 10 and 20 g/l would not be atypical (it has been higher though). On popping the cork here the wine displays an explosive confidence, literally so, as a huge foaming pressure brought the wine surging from the bottle (and all over the wall, kitchen cupboards, ceiling and so on, you get the picture). The colour is remarkable, an electric peachy-pink full of a vigorous bead, and the nose is great fun, being filled with the scents of sherbetty summer fruits, raspberry and strawberry, wet pebble and a touch of sweet vanilla. The palate is cool and deep, with a creamy weight that betrays the presence of some residual sugar here. The palate is flavour-packed, with raspberry, redcurrant, strawberry, medicinal cherry and violet scents, while the mousse is full and ever-present, the sweetness coming through a little in the midpalate and finish, but it is all nicely countered by a streak of pebbly minerality and acidity. A touch leafy in the finish, in a gentle way, but what really dominates is all that delicious fruit. There is admittedly a touch of grease to the texture, and a rather short finish, but this is great fun all the same. Just remember to have a few towels at hand when you pop the cork. 91/100 (10/12/18)
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