Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinon 1996
Do you ever feel as though you are merely scratching the surface of something? I certainly do when it comes to the wines of the Loire Valley. Even though I dedicate roughly half of my tasting, travelling and writing time to this region, with four or five or six (depending on how you carve them up and where you choose to draw the region’s upper limit) large subregions and more than seventy appellations it is seemingly guaranteed that I will never manage to produce anything that could remotely be considered comprehensive. There is an upside to this though; at least I will never run out of new domaines, newly ‘discovered’ viticulteurs and newly tasted wines to write about.
Chinon is one of these many appellations that needs some more of my attention, so I’m making an effort to improve things this year, including making at least one of my dedicated Loire trips to this region. A number of my favourite domaines are located on the limestone côte that runs eastwards from the town of Chinon and its famous château through Cravant-les-Coteaux down towards Panzoult. This is where we find Bernard Baudry, Philippe Alliet and Pascal Lambert, and other more distant domaines such as Charles Joguet and Couly-Dutheil also own vineyards on this very favoured slope. They all know the value of Cabernet Franc and limestone combined, just as any of their premier grand cru classé peers in St Emilion do. Even so, while I feel I am making good progress turning over less-frequently disturbed stones in St Emilion, here in Chinon I think I still have a lot of stone-kicking to do. One domaine that has impressed recently and which deserves further exploration, is Serge et Bruno Sourdais.
The domaine dates to the 1840s, and it has been in the same family since then. The current proprietors, Serge and Bruno Sourdais, are respectively the fifth and sixth generations. Bruno began working with his father on the domaine in 1990, but only took full hold of the reins when the elder man retired in 2008. He has some choice parcels of vines on this limestone côte, including vines in Le Chêne Vert, which is perhaps best associated with Charles Joguet (the two domaines share the parcel between them – as far as I know there are no other proprietors), as well as some old vines in a parcel named Les Cornuelles. Both these parcels have their own representation within the domaine’s portfolio but the bulk of the domaine’s production is Le Logis de la Bouchardière, an entry-level wine made in a traditional style, with pure fruit but also fine structure.
This weekend’s choice seems to predate these modern designations though, being now in its twentieth year. The 1996 Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinon has very dark core, still run through with lots of fresh red pigment though, and despite its admirable age no real sign of any advancing maturity here. It has a surprisingly perfumed, aromatic and confidently expressive nose, very pure and correct, with scents of dried blackcurrants, juniper berries and damson skin, touched with delightfully true Cabernet Franc notes of bay leaf and mint. The entire composition is simply beautiful. This great show of typicity translates onto the palate, which has very straight lines and a light texture. It is tense with a firm core of acidity and a savoury fruit character, with plenty of deliciously sappy character, culminating in a long, direct and very clean finish. An absolutely delectable, this is drinking well now, but it will go for years and years yet I think. 17/20 (22/2/16)