Domaine du Tremblay Quincy Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2020
Ask even the most spaced-out Sauvignon Blanc devotee to name their favourite appellations and I think we could all predict their first two choices. After Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, however, it is anyone’s guess where they will go next. Menetou-Salon, perhaps? Or the many facets of the generic Touraine appellation? Or, perhaps more likely, they simply bypassed all these Old World old-school suggestions and went straight to New Zealand?
A few centuries ago this list of Sauvignon superstars would have looked very different. I am not referring to the obvious absence of New Zealand, but the fact that the as-yet-unmentioned Quincy would surely have landed a podium position. While today Quincy is something of a niche interest, a few centuries ago it was a wine of great renown. During the 15th century Charles VII (1403 – 1461) and his court took up residence in Bourges, a mere stone’s throw from Quincy, which even at this stage was already blanketed with vines, planted by Cistercian monks. The region was abuzz with thirsty noblemen, and presumably because they and their king drink the local wines at court, Quincy came to be known as the Vin Noble.
Who saw fit to anoint the wines of Quincy in this manner? There are several noblemen of note in the running, the most likely candidate being Jean de Berry (1340 – 1416). The son of a French king, Jean de Berry – who modestly styled himself as Jean Le Magnifique – was a 14th-century gourmand and bon viveur of some repute. He lived near Quincy and was no doubt familiar with the wines.
I rest my case.
Yes, I accept the evidence is little more than circumstantial, so I am open to other suggestions.
Quincy is also notable for being the Loire Valley’s oldest appellation, and indeed it is the second oldest appellation in all France. This early step up to appellation status is a good example of what can be achieved if vignerons work collaboratively. It seems that this co-operative spirit is still live and kicking today, because Quincy (along with its neighbour Reuilly) has invested heavily in frost protection measures, and today the vast majority of the appellation is protected by anti-frost turbines.
In my experience the wines of Quincy often show a velvety texture that sets them apart from most other Central Vineyard Sauvignons. I attribute this to the soils of silt and fine gravel which dominate in Quincy, and which are quite different to the limestones, marls, flints and clays which are almost ubiquitous through Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and the like. These soils tend to engender a richer substance and texture in the wines. They also warm up quickly and waken the vine earlier than these other cooler soils, leading to a longer period of frost risk (hence the well-established frost protection) but this also means Quincy picks earlier, usually before any other Central Vineyard appellation. The soils also account for Quincy being an entirely white appellation; the locals simply don’t regard them as favourable for Pinot Noir.
The list of vignerons working in Quincy is not a long one and it is easy for me to pick out an appellation figurehead. Without a doubt this is John Tatin who along with his wife Chantal Wilk and daughter Maroussia makes wine under a variety of domaine names, including Domaine du Tremblay. The 2020 Domaine du Tremblay Quincy Cuvée Vieilles Vignes is sourced from old Sauvignon Blanc vines planted in the lieux-dits of Gatebourse, Nouzats, Chaumoux and Coudereaux (some of which Jean has featured in a superb collection of single-vineyard cuvées). It has a rich, straw-coloured hue in the glass, and a fine combination of complex fruits and thiol notes on the nose, with passion fruit, yellow peach tinged with clove, mirabelle, dandelion and crushed sandy minerals. A delicious palate follows, one that combines these characterful aromatics with a lightly creamed substance, which is part-vintage and part-appellation in origin. Dense and sweetly substantial, with a leesy richness and a relatively low acidity which is fairly typical of the vintage, it relies on its texture, character and phenolic substance more than its acidity for frame. As a consequence, while this is delicious it is in an easy-drinking style, nevertheless it should develop positively over the next year or two if you were in the mood for cellaring it. 91/100
I don’t usually digress into details of packaging and presentation, I am always more interested in the wine, its origins both geological and viticultural, how it was made and the history that lies behind it. But if the image on the label intrigues you, I can tell you it is a small section of a fresco depicting the journey of the Magi in the church in Saint-Aignan, in Brinay, just a few kilometres north of Quincy. Given that the church’s many frescos date to the 12th century, I wonder whether Jean Le Magnifique himself might have been gazing upon this kingly scene when the phrase Vin Noble popped into his head? (25/7/22)
Read more in:
- My profile of Domaines Tatin
- My reports on the 2020 Loire Valley vintage
- My guide to Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley