Vincent Carême Vouvray Clos de la Roche Vouvray 2020
Freshly returned from the Loire Valley, I have had a busy two weeks. I was able to check out the harvest – where it hadn’t already finished – which really meant anywhere picking red grapes (although a few dedicated souls were still picking Chenin Blanc for dry whites) and those intent on producing a sweet wine, which we may see coming from Anjou in 2020 (depending on how the weather holds in coming weeks). I made a few post-harvest visits in Vouvray, and checked out some favourite domaines in Chinon. I headed north to dine in Tours, and hanging around the old quarter for a day brought back some memories from my first visit to the city, back in 1993. And I also headed down to Muscadet, for a great day of tasting with the Fédération des Vins de Nantes.
Perhaps the most exciting moment, however, was the opportunity to taste and drink this new release from Vincent Carême. Vincent’s first vintage in Vouvray was 1999 (a difficult year to start, as the harvest was plagued by rot), when he was working with lesser parcels up on the plateau. It was a few years later that the single-vineyard wines appeared, the most recent addition being from Le Peu Morier, first released (if memory serves correctly) in the 2006 vintage. In 2020, however, Vincent and Tania have also released a cuvée parcellaire from the Clos de la Roche Vouvray, making this the most significant addition to the portfolio for close to fifteen years.
The Clos de la Roche Vouvray is tiny, with just 0.8 hectares of Chenin Blanc. Until recently the fruit has gone into one of Vincent’s blends, but the vineyard’s position – perched perilously on the very edge of the première côte – meant that it was perhaps always destined for greater things. If the name seems familiar, it may be that you read last year’s report on the vineyard which I walked around with Vincent.
The vines of Clos de la Roche Vouvray sit just below those in Le Clos, currently Vincent’s most highly regarded parcel, and are inclined towards the west. The position and slope protects it from the prevailing winds, which tend to come from the north and the east. The soils are very similar to those of Le Clos and thus typical of the première côte, rich in limestone with a light clay, particularly shallow at the top. It is from these higher rows of vines, positioned more on limestone than clay, that Vincent has sourced the fruit for this cuvée, meaning it represents the harvest from less than half a hectare of vines.
In the glass the 2020 Vouvray Clos de la Roche Vouvray from Vincent Carême displays a polished golden hue, and this is followed by a deliciously intense aromatic assault rich in confit citrus fruits, especially preserved lemon and dried apricot, nuanced with fragrant notes of honeysuckle and acacia, a profile which surely reflects the warmth of the vintage as much as the topography and terroir of the site. Indeed, the palate ramps it up a gear, with a rich dried-fruit intensity, more confit citrus and pear, imbued with a lightly powdery minerality, a great texture, a confident phenolic backbone and bright acidity, all of which serve to carry the desiccated and dried fruit flavours forward. It maintains a weighty presence with some mouth-watering sour fruits in the finish, showing concentration and fine length too. Coming back to it the next day, however, it felt rather more taut, with greater tension and minerality, perhaps showing a little more of its limestone origins at this point. This is a great first vintage for the wine of this clos, and it will be fascinating to see how it evolves in bottle, and to see how the style of the parcel evolves in future vintages. 93/100 (18/10/21)
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