Thursday, 15 March 2012
2011 Loires@France under one roof tasting
2008 Grande Cuvée, Fournier Père et Fils
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I wasn't able to spend as much time at the annual France under one roof tasting on Tuesday as I would have liked. This is a pity as it can be a chance to taste wines from producers that I don't often get to try.
Having just been asked by Decanter to write a report on dry whites from the 2011 I spent most of my time at the tasting focusing on these. This reinforced my impression formed at earlier tastings that this is a crowd-pleasing vintage with softer fruit and less acidity than 2010. Although 2010 is one for Loire purists who like its precision, frequent austerity and its potential to age, 2011 is more flattering and will be easier to sell.
One substantial producer in the Central Vineyards, whose wines I don't often taste is Fournier Père et Fils, based in Verdigny. Indeed I think the last of their wines that I tasted was during last year's Decanter World Wine Awards when we gave a commended to a 2009 Tesco Finest Pouilly-Fumé and no award to Tesco Finest Sancerre also from 2009. In addition to their own domaine, the Fourniers also acquired Domaine des Berthiers in Saint-Andelain from Jean-Claude Dagueneau in 1995 and the following year Domaine de Saint Romble, whose vines are in Maimbray (AC Sancerre).
O.Moore & Co Ltd in Dorking import the Fournier wines into the UK and they were showing a range of six wines. I was impressed by the ripe and full 2008 Grande Cuvée Sancerre (approximate UK retail price: £12-£14.99), which now has gained additional complexity from time in bottle.
2011 Emptying Cabernet grapes@Domaine Fouquet, Brézé (Domaine Filliatreau)
(Purely illustrative – not represented by Richards Walford but by Yapp Brothers)
I'm also including Adam Bruntlett's vintage report from UK agents and importers Richards Walford:
Loire Report 2011
Nul n’est censé ignorer la Loire
When I arrived at Richards Walford just under 18 months ago, little did I imagine I would be writing my first Loire Report in what is just my second vintage looking after the various appellations dotted along the banks of France’s longest river. I must admit that when I began my aventure ligérienne, my eyes were not fully open to the true extent and variety of the region’s offerings. It is all too easy to concentrate on the big names of Sancerre, Pouilly and Vouvray, and in so doing neglect the enormous array of differing styles of wine produced from the assorted other appellations. The more observant of you will note that it has been a couple of years since our last Loire Report and will therefore, I hope, excuse the substantial length of this year’s missive on the basis that there is much to catch up on. I promise it is for your own good: after all, ignorance of the Loire is no excuse.
What a vintage 2011 was: summer arrived in spring, followed by autumn in summer and rounded off with the return of summer (albeit in the glorious Indian sense) in late September. Our growers reported that by the middle of June they were on average around three weeks ahead in comparison to the normal growing season. There then followed a couple of very dry weeks, which caused water stress in the vines and slowed development almost to a standstill. From mid July until the end of August, the temperatures were low and rainfall high. This was something of a double-edged sword: despite kick-starting growth again, the cool, damp conditions also brought about the threat of rot. When the time came to harvest - typically two weeks earlier than is the norm - the warmer temperatures meant that sugar levels rose rapidly as acidity plummeted, with many vignerons encountering the challenging phenomenon of all of their parcels reaching maturity at the same time. In both whites and reds, those who harvested by hand and worked hard both in the vineyard and the cellar, pruning and sorting meticulously, achieved the best results. With the reds, it seems as though those who had the patience to wait a little longer for the grapes to reach full maturity really benefited from the excellent weather conditions in mid to late September. I can certainly vouch for the warm weather in early October as I found myself in the unfamiliar situation of visiting our growers in my shorts, as opposed to the ensemble of multiple layers, scarf and gloves typically sported during our traditional January visits.
As an overall summary, it appears to be a decent vintage, against the odds, with the whites perhaps lacking the linear correctness of 2010 but having a little more roundness and immediate appeal than their predecessors. Judging by those wines I tasted in February, however, it is arguably a better – or perhaps one should say more approachable - vintage for reds: they are certainly précoces, already very appealing with plenty of soft, supple fruit and not a hint of the green, unripe characteristics that so often beset Loire reds of yesteryear. Whilst they perhaps lack the firm backbone of acidity and tannins required for vin de garde, it is clear that climate change is certainly helping in this northern outpost, producing appealing and fruit-forward reds in 2011.