Vincent Carême Vouvray L’Ancestrale 2016
I have followed the Vouvray appellation and its wines for many years, ever since my earliest visits to the Loire Valley. At one time this was a relatively light commitment, as year after year it seemed as though there would only ever be four domaines of significant interest here. These were widely accepted as being Domaine Huet and Domaine du Clos Naudin, both domaines that have been at the top of their game for decades, together with Domaine des Aubuisières and Catherine and Didier Champalou, two that burst onto the scene in the 1989 vintage with some brilliant wines. I should also add a fifth domaine to this list, as François Pinon was making great wines at this time, but he was very much off my radar (but is very much on it today).
Time waits for nobody though, even at these five domaines, and it is humbling to see just how much has changed within the appellation since my first visit. At Domaine Huet, Noël Pinguet left, and Jean-Bernard Berthomé was able to step out from his shadow to prove he was no less talented than his mentor. Just a few steps higher up on the Rue de la Croix Buisée Philippe Foreau is in the process of handing over the reins to his son Vincent Foreau. Similarly, Julien Pinon has in recent years joined his father, and the future of this domaine seems secure, while on the plateau above the town more and more of the day-to-day responsibility for the running of the Champalou domaine now falls to Céline Champalou, and not her parents. In addition, although little publicised, there is also succession planning underway at Domaine des Aubuisières where Bernard Fouquet is taking on new help, as neither of his offspring are interested in taking on the domaine when he eventually retires.
So much has changed in just two decades. Having said that, beyond the story of these five domaines, the rest of the Vouvray appellation has undergone a more dramatic revolution. Unimaginable twenty years ago, today the appellation is a hotbed of new domaines and new wines, often made by young vignerons and newcomers, more often than not mentored by Vincent Carême. A conversation with Vincent at the Salon des Vins de Loire a couple of months ago (well, I think it was a couple of months, it feels more like a couple of years) was typical. Ordinary vignerons would be keen to talk about their own vineyards and wines, while Vincent was instead more eager to tell me about Alexandre Giquel, a new name on the Vouvray scene who released his first wines in the 2017 vintage.
As it happens Alexandre and I had already met last year (see, I do have at least one finger on the pulse) but insider’s tip-offs are always welcome. So the conversation moved onto a schedule for my next visit to Vouvray, but sadly I suspect these plans may now have to be put on hold, for the moment at least, until the travel restrictions imposed to combat Covid-19 have been lifted. So it may be a little while before I get back to Vouvray. In the meantime I raise a glass of the 2016 Vouvray L’Ancestrale from Vincent Carême to send best wishes to Vincent and Tania, and all the vignerons of Vouvray, including the team at Domaine Huet led by Sarah Hwang, Philippe and Vincent Foreau, Bernard Fouquet, the Champalou family, François and Julien Pinon, Peter Hahn and Juliette Gidon, Florent Cosme and everybody else I have ever met in the appellation. Stay safe and hopefully I will be back in town before too long.
As for the wine, Vincent seems to have pulled out all the stops with this one, the 2016 L’Ancestrale carrying all the energy, flavour and swarthy texture also seen in his still wines in this vintage. It has a fine bead in the glass, with a pale, straw-stone hue. The nose is all orchard fruits and orange blossom, flower petals and apricot stone, supported on a bed of crushed chalky minerals. Confident, smoky and reductive, the aromatic profile is nothing short of fabulous. This joy continues on the palate, which is lightly vinous and creamed, but it remains fresh, pure and tense, with a little seam of bitter citrus zest. This is incredible, so full of surging energy, mineral with citrus fruits, smoke and pebbles, cut with an incisive acidity. It has such a strutting, punchy, swaggering style, yet it finishes long, with a rapier-like blade of flint here. A brilliant wine, and perhaps worthy of an even higher score than this. 96/100 (6/4/20)
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