Domaine de Terrebrune Bonnezeaux 2014
In the ongoing publication of my extensive guide to the wines of the Loire Valley (last year Muscadet and other Nantais wines, this year the Central Vineyards) I am getting to grips with some of the region’s less frequently encountered appellations. I would hazard a guess that most wine drinkers (yes, even me) have a notion of what a glass of Sancerre, Vouvray or Chinon holds in store. But what about Cour-Cheverny, Pouilly-sur-Loire or Touraine-Noble-Joué? These are unfamiliar names (don’t be fooled by the apparent familiarity of Pouilly-sur-Loire – it’s not the same as Pouilly-Fumé), made from some of the Loire Valley’s les familiar varieties. While I have long been a buyer and drinker of Cour-Cheverny, I won’t pretend that my cellar is overflowing with examples of the other two rarities.
Having said that, alongside these curiosities there are some rather more famous Loire Valley appellations which I have struggled to get to grips with, and Bonnezeaux is one of them. Despite this appellation being about twice the size of its Layon cousin Quarts de Chaume (the two cover 90 and 45 hectares respectively), it seems to be much less frequently encountered. I suspect this is because alongside the grand old names of the Quarts de Chaume appellation, such as Domaine des Baumard, Château de L’Écharderie and Château de Suronde, there are numerous other vignerons such as the Ogereau family, Claude Papin and sons and Stéphane Branchereau, among others, who despite having only small parcels here and have done much to raise the appellation’s presence and profile. By contrast, Bonnezeaux has not seen the same level of outside interest, leaving the appellation in the hands of a few big-name domaines, such as Château de Fesles and Château la Varière.
One relatively recent arrival in the appellation that might be worthy of our interest is Domaine de Terrebrune, a relatively young domaine created in 1986. One of the original partners was René Renou (1952 – 2006), a Chevalier in the Legion d’Honneur and onetime president of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine. His family have long owned vines in the appellation, and I recall I once tasted a 1940s Bonnezeaux made by René Renou, under the name of Domaine de Terrebrune, with Jo Pithon (I need to do some digging through my old notes to be sure). I believe the Renou family vines are those now incorporated in the modern-day Domaine de Terrebrune.
The domaine is extensive, touching on many local appellations including Anjou and Coteaux du Layon, and over half of its production is accounted for by rosé and sparkling wines. On a vineyard of 55 hectares there are just 3.5 hectares of Chenin Blanc in the Bonnezeaux appellation, planted on deep soils of clay, loam and sand, over deeper schist of course, typical of the vineyards along the banks of the Layon. The fruit for the 2014 Bonnezeaux from Domaine de Terrebrune was picked by hand of course, and fermented in small barrels, fairly standard practice here and for Quarts de Chaume (the volume of juice often dictating the fermentation vessel). In the glass it has a fresh hue of bright gold, very correct, and the nose carries an interesting complexity suggesting bitter orange fruit nuanced with apricot skin and white raisin, alongside botrytis notes of macaroons and almond biscotti. The palate shows beautiful freshness and purity, backed up by a pithy substance, with good grip too. It is intense and concentrated, with sweet orange and praline flavours intertwined. For me, a great sweet wine should touch on four elements, sweetness, bitterness, minerality and acidity, and while this is (perhaps unusual for Bonnezeaux) not exactly brimming with mineral character it ticks the other three boxes very nicely, showing a fine combination of sweetness, pithy Chenin bitterness and citric acidity. Balanced and bright, with zippy energy and good length, this is a nice introduction to the wines of this domaine. 93/100 (3/1/18)