1996 is one of my favourite red wine vintages in the Loire – classic in style and aging very well as the occasional bottle of Villeneuve's 1996 Grand Clos demonstrates so enjoyably. It is some time since I have tasted the straight 1996. Naturally it doesn't have the full concentration, power and structure of Le Grand Clos but it does have attractive black fruit, medium structure and is still youthful for a nearly 14 year old wine.
To be continued – but may be a while with several tastings on today: Liberty Wines and French Independent Wine Growers. In 1989 the Clos was owned by Mme Yves Sourdais. However, I visited the domaine sometime in the later half of the 1990s (I think) it was owned and run, as it is now, by Marie Raffault. 1989 was a hot and dry vintage – among the best of the 20th century. Mid-weight, this has the soft, ripe fruit more typical of a vineyard further south that is characteristic of 1989, which you see again but even more so in the 2003 heatwave vintage.
Of the three reds that accompanied the particularly delicious beef the Clos de la Grille was the very clear favourite both with and without food. I was quite surprised by this strong preference as I thought that both the 2002 Anjou-Villages and the 1996 Saumur-Champigny had strong points.
We finished with two stunning wines from Domaine Huet:
Both have that wonderful balance of the 2002s, which the 2008s also show. Le Mont is all precision, mineral and austere, while Le Bourg is a little richer, a touch honeyed but still with marvellous precision and minerality. Two wines that have a very long life ahead of them.
They were served before the dessert – walnut tart, poached pear and coffee ice cream. There was one claim that they worked with the dessert but I think they are better, as both are moderately sweet rather than super sweet, drunk with cheese, patés, perhaps even Pekin duck. With hindsight it would have been interesting to serve Le Mont with the roast scallops.