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2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Jacky and Joëlle Blot

16th August 2008: Domaine de la Taille aux Loups and Domaine de la Butte

Jacky in the mi-pente section of La Butte with a
glass of the same: early November 2007

It is a short drive from Domaine Les Loges de la Folie to Jacky and Joëlle Blot’s Domaine de la Taille aux Loups also in the hamlet of Husseau. Arriving in 1989 they must be the first, or certainly one of the first, of newcomers to Montlouis. They are certainly the most influential of the incomers and the Taille aux Loups is now firmly established as one of the top two or three domaines in Montlouis with Jacky perhaps as its best-known producer.

When Jacky and Joëlle bought seven hectares of vines in Montlouis in 1989, he was already in the wine business. He had a négociant company in the evocatively named Rue Serpent Volant in old Tours. They now have some 40 ha in both Montlouis and Vouvray and, since 2002, 14 ha at Domaine de la Butte in Bourgueil. Remarkably from having previously being making just white wine plus a little rosé, the Bourgueil reds were very fine, particularly from 2003 as the Blots took over La Butte shortly before the vintage – although in this context the 2002s are remarkably good.

Domaine de la Butte: November 2007

We started in the tasting room at the Taille aux Loups with a look at the 2007 Bourgueils. There are four cuvées and they correspond to their position on the coteaux – a reminder that the esprit of the Loire is closer to that of Burgundy than it is to Bordeaux. In 2007 Jacky held off picking his Cabernet Franc at Bourgueil until most of his fellow vignerons had finished their harvest. A brave decision and the resulting wines are much richer and more concentrated than is the norm in this difficult vintage. None of these wines were chaptalised. Le Pied de la Butte from the base of the coteaux is the ‘basic’ cuvée. Bottled in April it has attractive rich fruit with damson, plum and just a hint of green pepper.

Before we move on to the Haut de la Butte Jacky tells us enthusiastically about his purchase of a Mistral grape-sorting machine. “It’s a simple system used by some of the top Bordeaux château. The grapes are destemmed and put on a vibrating sorting table. Then using a stream of air the good grapes are separated out from any rotten or dried out ones as well as any leaves etc. left. It works aerodynamically. We had one on trial in 2006 and 2007 and then bought our own machine at the end of last year."

Le Haut de la Butte comes from the section of the vineyard at the top of the limestone coteaux. It produces better grapes than Pied de la Butte as the sun exposure is better and the soil is shallower but it is not as well protected as Mi-pente the best zone in La Butte’s vineyard – all in all not that dissimilar to the difference between a premier cru and a grand cru in the Côte d’Or. It is matured in a mix of concrete tanks and barrels. The 2007 has dense, sweet concentrated black fruit flavours and good length and was due to be bottled. Not a hint of green pepper here and was due to be bottled in September.

Since buying La Butte in 2002 Jacky has revaluated the potential of Les Perrières. This section is close to Le Pied de la Butte and initially was considered to be of similar quality. However, as its name implies the vineyard is stony (gravel) and it soon became evident that the quality of the fruit was actually closer to Mi-pente. The definitive blend for the 2007 has been made. Silky textured with rich black fruits it has considerable potential, although the tannins were slightly drying but that may well have changed by the time it is bottled.

Mi-pente hasn’t been blended yet. The structured 2007 is impressively bright and very deep coloured for a 2007, silky textured, concentrated black fruits. Jacky: “We do little work in the winery – a cold soak at 10˚ and a little pigeage. No artificial yeasts just the natural ones.”

Jacky sorting Chenin in one of his Montlouis vineyards: 11.10.2008

Before heading down to the cave at the lower end of the village to taste the 2007 Montlouis and Vouvray in barrel, we try the soft and citric 2006 Triple Zero. Along with the Huet pétillant, this is our house sparkler. As a rule I much prefer Vouvray and Montlouis pétillants to fully sparkling wines from these two appellations. If you have never tried a pétillant (2.5 atmospheres compared to around 5 for fully sparkling) they are certainly worth discovering.

Huet Vouvray Pétillant 1999

Renaming the pétillant – Triple Zero – has been a great success. Until a few years ago it used to be called Pétillant non dosé, hardly a memorable or evocative name. Triple Zero is both memorable and describes what is special about this pétillant – no chaptalisation of the base wine, no added sugar when bottled and no liqueur d’expédition. This means that the grapes have to be picked around 12% potential and avoids the great fault of over-sweetness of too many of the larger brands of Loire sparkling wines.

Jacky marshaling his picking team – Montlouis 11.10.2008

“Since we called our pétillant Triple Zero sales have risen dramatically – we just can’t keep up with demand. If I were 20 years younger I’d look to create a big Loire sparkling brand. Look at Champagne some of the quality of the grapes is dreadful – because of the demand companies cannot refuse them.”

Down in the cave, where there are 400 barriques, we taste the whole range of 2007s . Jacky is very pleased with the quality – “to make a grand blanc you need a year without a lot of heat”, he says. We ask him a about how he sees the difference between the wines of Montlouis and Vouvray. “The difference is complicated but those from Montlouis are more aimable (friendly) and more immediate – Vouvray takes longer to come round.“ All the wines had the typical note of purity and precision that is the hallmark of 2007. I was particularly impressed by the weight and precision of Remus (Montlouis) and the pure racy minerality of the Clos de la Venise.

Jacky: “We use almost no sulphur but try to avoid a malolactic fermentation – obviously the constant cool temperature of the cave helps. Because there aren’t caves like this in Anjou, it is often difficult there to avoid the malo. All wines that have been through a malo are marked by it.”

Barrel tasting finished we took Jacky back to his tasting room and then headed off at the end of a successful week’s tasting and visits. Time to reflect that my favourite wines from the Taille aux Loups/La Butte are Cuvée Rémus, Triple Zero and the Bourgueils, especially Perrières and Mi-pente.

Domaine de la Taille aux Loups
8 Rue des Altres, Husseau
37270 Montlouis-sur-Loire


Mike Drapkin said...

Wonderful. Keep up the great work and passion for les vins de la val de la loire.....

Jim Budd said...

Thanks Mike. I don't think there is much danger that I'll lose my interest in the Loire as this dates back to 1979.

Mike Drapkin said...

Now that's inspiring. I hope many years later I am as enthralled and humbled by the beautiful wines from the Loire.....I wasn't even born in 1979 to put things into perspective. Really great blog and very--very delighted I have discovered it(thanks to you!!!)

Jim Budd said...

Thanks Mike. Am enjoying reading yours too.

Mark R said...

Another great blog. Noted that Jackie aims to prevent the malo by using little sulphur but rather relying on the low temperature in the cave. Any idea how he prevents the malo kicking off after the wines have been bottled - is this an increased dose of sulphur at bottling ?

Jim Budd said...

Mark. Thanks for your message. My guess is that a small dose of SO2 is added at bottling time. I'll have to check.