Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis-sur-Loire Romulus 1997
A little more than six years ago I spent a very long weekend in Rome. It was fun, and educational too. I have spent a large chunk of my life studying science and medicine, and yet I am interminably drawn towards history and various arts (without being particularly knowledgeable in any of these realms). During the weekend I learnt that it was not only the English and French that seemed to covet Egypt’s antiquities, as Rome was richly decorated with ancient Egyptian artefacts. The difference is that whereas the British and French ‘acquired’ their obelisks during the 19th century, the history of Rome’s many obelisks is somewhat more remarkable. The Flaminio Obelisk, in the Piazza del Popolo, for example, was erected in 10 BC, the Vaticiano Obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square is of a similar age, having arrived in 40 BC, and the Lateranense Obelisk – the tallest in the city, and located in the Piazza di San Giovanni – landed here in 387.
That Rome is blessed with such fabulous historical artefacts should, of course, come as no surprise. What else should we expect from a city founded by Romulus and Remus, two brothers born into what can only be described as difficult circumstances who nevertheless seem to have struck lucky? They were the twin sons of Rhea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa, who despite her status as vestal virgin somehow ended up pregnant. The father of her twins, she told everybody, was the god Mars. Once born the boys were sentenced to death, but as luck would have it a kindly servant set them adrift on the Tiber instead. Thereafter they were found and suckled by a wolf, fed by a woodpecker, and eventually rescued by the shepherd Faustulus. After all that, what else was there for them to do other than found one of the world’s greatest cities? I suppose it was either that, or the Jerry Springer Show.
Someone else who seems to have an interest in Rome’s origins is Jacky Blot, of Domaine de la Taille aux Loups. The first time I can remember tasting his wines, quite a few years ago now, I encountered his Rémus (from various sites across Montlouis-sur-Loire) and Rémus Plus (the same origins, various sites, but only from older vines, in general aged about eighty years) cuvées for the first time. These wines immediately prompted happy memories of Rome, although these thoughts were soon pushed to one side by a quickly developing realisation that my view of Montlouis-sur-Loire was all wrong; this wasn’t an appellation ready to be consigned to the dustbin (along with Muscadet), as I had read during the 1980s, but was in fact a region capable of producing beautifully defined wines of real character. Since that first experience I have continued to follow this domaine, and although I have noted Jacky Blot’s acquisition of various significant Montlouis-sur-Loire vineyards with interest, most notably the Clos de Mosny and Clos Michet, it is still Rémus Plus that keeps me coming back. The most recent vintage of this old-vine cuvée I added to the cellar was 2014.
So that is Rémus, but what of his brother, Romulus? This is a much rarer cuvée than Rémus (or Rémus Plus) which is not too difficult to track down. Whereas the Rémus cuvées are dry, the name Romulus is reserved for Jacky’s top moelleux cuvée, released only in very select vintages. In recent years this means 2011 (an excellent vintage for red and sweet whites from the Anjou and Touraine appellations), 2009 (excellent across the board), 2005 (same) and 2003 (an unusual nevertheless also a very impressive vintage). Prior to that my experience with the wine is less solid, but the wine was made in 1997 and 1990, a fact of which I am certain because I have bought and drunk both over the years. Incidentally, there is also the much rarer Romulus Plus, from specially selected barrels; the only vintage of this wine I am certain exists is 2003. Indeed, on the whole these are not commonly encountered wines. I checked on Cellar Tracker and globally there are just 47 bottles held by its users. And quite a few of those are mine.
The 1997 Romulus from Domaine de la Taille aux Loups is not yet quite twenty years old, but it is clear from this taste, the first in many years, that it remains a real youngster. In the glass it has a burnished bright orange-gold, evolved, and much darker than the bright golden hue these wines have in their youth, but nothing like the dark hue of the botrytis-laden 1990 vintage. The nose is one of very fine contrasts, first showing a bright and bitter orange freshness, but competing for attention there are also some very rich elements indicating a botrytis-driven sweetness, including tinges of praline and the sweetness of marmalade. The palate is pure, loaded with residual sugar, with the flavours of macaroon biscuits, caramel, almond pastry and more of those praline suggestions. As the nose suggested though, there is more to this wine than simple sweetness. There is acidity too, a seam of pithy citrus freshness, giving the wine an intensity and structure, balance and freshness. And there is also a bitter energy to it, always a welcome feature in botrytised wines. The finish is long, with a real pithy bitterness, coated with marzipan sweetness, and a massive sense of energy and a clear potential for the future. This magnificent wine has many decades ahead of it yet. 18.5/20 (29/8/16)