This week sees a whole host of tastings and events in the Loire. It’s the annual Salon in Angers (which is for professionals only) and while producers from all over the region are here, a whole host of other tastings that are open to both the professional and amateur alike take place.
La Dive Bouteille is a popular tasting that concentrates on natural, organic and biodyanmic producers (not all but a lot). As I’ll be working at the Salon next week it was a good opportunity to pop out and taste a few wines in a relaxed atmosphere. This year the tasting has relocated from its home at Chateau de Brézé to Ackerman’s caves just outside Saumur in St Hilaire St Florent. Am I the only one who finds tasting in the dark a chore? I couldn’t see to write my tasting notes, couldn’t read labels on bottles, and producers were complaining about the reds being too cold to taste at their best. Well, if your wines have been stored in a limestone cellar all night then they’re going to be too cold. Now, I know La Dive isn’t a professional only event but surely even interested amateurs want to make the odd note about wines they have enjoyed.
To the wines we tasted. We tasted some shockers and also had one or two nice surprises. I’m afraid I still don’t completely give in to the natural wine movement. Yes, I want real wines that have a sense of place, have a link with their terroir, are not subjected to too many additions and subtractions in the winery, come from vineyards that are run with the environment in mind, that use the minimum of pesticides and chemicals possible, that work the soil rather than kill the living daylights out of it. But, I want wines that taste GREAT too. Is this too much to ask?
One grower’s remark springs to mind. When pouring a sample of his red he mentioned that he was not quite sure it it had completely gone through malo yet as he’s not had it analysed. Analysed? That wine didn’t need analysing – it nearly stripped the enamel off my teeth. The acidity was so high it was undrinkable. And yet people are nodding their heads next to me ‘hmm, yes, I see, that would explain it’. No it would not, the wine was dire and no malo will make it any better.
OK, ok, not all the wines are dire. Of course not, there are some fabulous wines that are made in a natural way, using natural methods, low sulphur and hand-crafted with care and attention. We enjoyed the wines of Gerard Marula who makes wines in Touraine.
Nicolas Reau’s wines are very offbeat but we rather liked them. At first I wanted to hate Attention Chenin Mechant 2013. Cloudy and a touch petillant on the palate it has notes of flowers and pears and a gentle sweetness that pops up. Not a traditional wine by any means but I liked it and found myself wondering why. Surely this can’t be right? The Clos des Treilles 2013 comes from a single walled vineyard and was gently tropical on the nose with white peach and apricot notes. Not the expression of Chenin that I’m used to but it’s quirky and interesting.
Another white, l’Enfant (still macerating so a sample from barrique) had a huge whiff of powdered ginger and turmeric on the nose and that ginger note followed through on the palate that was dry as a bone. One to try again as an apero perhaps. We like it – what’s going on?
Before leaving we popped by to say hello to Olivier Cousin and taste the infamous Breton. His 2013 Cabernet Franc was tasting light and fresh, full of fruit and with a little spritz. He’s going to need that sparkle at his forthcoming tribunal in March.
More traditional reports to follow. In the meantime, you’ll find me contemplating my navel with a glass of Vin de France in hand…