Friday, 17 February 2012
Tasting of 2007 Quarts de Chaume and Chaume in the shadow of the Conseil d'Etat
Two contrasting styles of Quarts de Chaume: Domaine des Baumard and Château Pierre-Bise
When late in 2011 Chris Kissack and I accepted Interloire's invitation to choose a theme for a tasting during the Salon des Vins de Loire, I suspect that neither of us realised that in opting to taste Chaume and Quarts de Chaume from the 2007 vintage would be quite so topical. Of course we chose the theme because of the recent promotion of Quarts de Chaume to a grand cru and of Chaume to a Coteaux du Layon premier cru. We were not to know, however, that Jean and Florent Baumard would again mount a legal challenge to the new décret by going to the Conseil d'Etat.
Our tasting was held first thing on Tuesday 7th February and on the day it had been expanded to include one 2007 from Bonnezeaux and nine from the Coteaux de l'Aubance to go with the nine from Chaume and eight from the Quarts de Chaume. The wines were tasted with the labels uncovered.
We chose 2007 because it has a little bottle age, although virtually minimal given the ageing potential of some of these wines. It is also a very fine vintage with a lovely combination of fruit, quite marked acidity frequently giving very clean, precise wines.
Overall the Quarts de Chaume was most consistent in quality and included my best wine of the tasting – Château Pierre-Bise from Claude, Joëlle and the rest of the Papin family. Chaume followed closely behind while the Coteaux de l'Aubance varied considerably in style. This was not surprising as the wines from the Coteaux de l'Aubance come in a range of styles from lightly sweet to concentrated and are more closely akin to the range seen in the Coteaux du Layon appellation. Nor should concentration be the sole criteria of quality since it is often easier to find an opportunity to drink the lighter styles than those that are impressively sweet.
These lighter styles work well as an apéro, with foie gras or other rich patés, cheese (blues especially) as well as pork, chicken etc. served in a creamy sauce. Equally they match pheasant or guinea fowl served à la Normande – apple and cream sauce enlivened with a slug of Calvados.
2007 Quarts de Chaume
It was probably through happenstance or serendipity that the third wine on the tasting sheet was from Domaine des Baumard immediately followed by the Quarts from Château Pierre-Bise made by Claude Papin, the president of the Syndicat des Producteurs de Quarts de Chaume who piloted the promotion of Quarts de Chaume to grand cru through the Syndicat. Whatever, these two wines were very markedly different in style.
Baumard's 2007 has very bright citric and apricot notes with marked acidity. In contrast the Pierre-Bise has richly unctuous stone fruits and barley sugar, beautifully textured and a very long finish with fine acidity. Overall the Pierre-Bise is wonderfully balanced with a voluptuous texture that the Baumard does not possess. Baumard's Quarts de Chaume is well made but in contrast to the Papin it is more akin to an icewine with its bright notes.
Technical details etc. (all prices ex cellar):
Baumard: residual sugar: 170 g/l; alc: 12%; price: 50€ (75cl)
production: 4000 b@75cl & 10,email@example.com. All under screwcap. This continues to be a brave move as screwcaps would be commonplace in Australia or New Zealand but they remain rare in France, particularly for wines from prestige appellations.
Pierre-Bise:residual sugar: 200 g/l; alc: 11.5%; price: 22€ (50cl) (sold out).
Three of the remaining six wines in this Quarts de Chaume section stood out: Domaine de la Bergerie (Yves and Anne Guegniard), Domaine des Forges (Claude and Stéphane Branchereau) and Château la Varière (Jacques Beaujeau).
All three were very rich and concentrated with sugar levels above those of Pierre-Bise and, although, fine they didn't quite have the finesse and marvellous balance of the Pierre-Bise. An indication that richness and concentration, although important, isn't quite everything.
Technical details etc.:
Bergerie: residual sugar: 217 g/l; alc: 11%; price: 40€ (75cl), 30€ (50cl); production: 250b@75 cl 100b@50cl
Forges: residual sugar: 250.20 g/l; alc: 11%; price: 31€ ex cellar (sold out)
Varière: residual sugar: 256 g/l; alc: 10.78%; 33€
The other three wines tasted were: Château Belle-Rive (Vignobles Alain Château), Septième Ciel, Château de la Mulonnière and Domaine de la Roche Moreau. Of these only the Belle-Rive is produced in substantial quantity (4000 b@75cl and 10,000 firstname.lastname@example.org). The fruit on the Belle-Rive was baked and clumsy as it was on their Chaume 2007 – both wines lacked complexity and finesse. I didn't look at the technical detail until after tasting the wines but I suspect that the 14% alcohol in both wines may be responsible.
Mulonnière had some concentration and length but lacking a little freshness. La Roche Moreau may have been disadvantaged by coming immediately after the Pierre-Bise. It had length, citric fruit in the finish but slightly baked aromas and without the finesse of the Pierre-Bise.
Technical details etc.:
Belle-Rive: residual sugar: 99 g/l; alc: 14%; price: 32.50€ (75cl) 18.50 (50cl); production: 4000 b@75cl and 2800 b@50cl
Mulonnière: residual sugar: 111 g/l; alc: 12.5%; price: 18€ (37.5cl): production: 300 email@example.com
La Roche Moreau: residual sugar: 200 g/l; alc: 11.46%; price: 26.90€ (75cl) 18.50 (50cl); production: 500 b@75cl.
There will be a further post on wines from Chaume and the Coteaux de l'Aubance.