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Château de Villeneuve Saumur Blanc Les Cormiers 2007

Château de Villeneuve Saumur Blanc Les Cormiers 2007

I spent the weekend embroiled in a long-overdue cellar sort-out. It was absolutely necessary; it had become one of those cellars (I have seen them before – an old friend is notorious for his) that you can’t even get into. The cases and boxes were stacked above head height and filled the entire centre-space. Opening the door revealed a wall of wood and cardboard. And outside there were stacked another thirty-or-so boxes, deliveries that have arrived during the past couple of weeks, and wine that I purchased in Chinon and Sancerre a few weeks ago.

I thought it would take an afternoon; after all, the plan was simple. First, lift out the boxes to gain access (maybe half an hour’s work?); second, pull out some long-forgotten bottles from distant corners of my racks and bins, some of which were seeing daylight for the first time in several years (maybe an hour’s work?); third, liberate as many bottles as possible from the boxes and rack them away (let’s give that another hour, maybe?); and fourthly, those boxes that couldn’t be emptied and the bottles racked in such a manner would need to be restacked, preferably in a way which would allow me to gain access once again. Simple; it should all be done in time for dinner.

Who was I trying to kid? It took me a day and a half. And the end result is I have nearly as many stacked boxes as before. The only difference is I now has a thin ‘access passage’ down the centre, which means I can get into the cellar once again. Provided I shuffle in sideways, that is. Once in, I feel like a sardine in a can, my arms pinned to my sides. But still, at least I am in.

Château de Villeneuve Saumur Blanc Les Cormiers 2007

I found some real oddball wines when exploring. Some half bottles of Champagne from Chanoine Frères that I had long forgotten about (heaven knows if these are still alive), also a pile of old half bottles of Cuvée Frédéric Émile from Trimbach, along a similar line some thirty-year-old Pinot Gris also from Alsace and some curious bottles of Madeira. And, of course, I found stacks of bottles from the Loire Valley which really need investigating. I am comfortable leaving most Vouvray (from the best domaines, at least) untouched for decades, but I have less certainty when it comes to some white wines from Anjou and Saumur.

Here’s one bottle I liberated. Château de Villeneuve was a domaine I serendipitously stumbled upon back in 1993, the first time I visited the Loire Valley. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the wines I found myself drinking that summer were the results of some of Jean-Pierre Chevallier’s earliest efforts, as he set about revitalising his family’s estate. Having completed his studies in Bordeaux, Jean-Pierre had only returned to the domaine in 1982. More than three decades later it is a source of some of the Saumur-Champigny appellation’s best wines. I feel that outside of Loire geek circles, however, the domaine remains relatively unappreciated; it hasn’t attained the sort of cult status some Loire domaines seem to enjoy (or endure?), probably for the same reasons I explored in my recent report on the 2015 Pouilly-Fumé from Jonathan Pabiot. Good news for those of us who judge a wine by its quality, not by the cultish standing of the label.

The 2007 Saumur Blanc Les Cormiers from Château de Villeneuve could, I suppose, be regarded as a 25th anniversary wine for Jean-Pierre. I think it is only the second of six bottles I bought many years ago that I have broached, and so I approached it with some concern. Happily, I need not have worried. In the glass it shows a polished mid-golden hue. And it has a beautiful nose, of desiccated fruit, dried pear and peach, with some tropical notes too, hints of dried pineapple and mango. Alongside, there is a seam of white pepper, acacia and elderflower, and a flinty, mineral energy. Despite its rather golden hue, aromatically it feels delightfully fresh. The palate, thankfully, does not let the side down, as it provides layers of succulent and sweet fruit, polished but taut and vinous, the middle showing super definition and energy. This is a wine of great harmony, dry, fresh and purely defined, long and convincing. And it has a totally electric finish. This is so good, I have realised I should be tucking into my other four bottles as soon as possible. The problem is, they’re now buried behind a stack of boxes again. Oh well, I guess they can wait until my next weekend cellar sort-out. 18/20 (8/8/16)

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