This Loire-themed edition of our monthly Euro lunch was one of the most delightful yet. Not only did our wines show well, and we had a couple very interesting verticals, but the food, which was excellent as usual, also paired beautifully with each course. We can’t wait to do this theme again.
We started with a pair of sparklers from two of the best producers in Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire: Huët and François Chidaine. Both are terrific, complex, sparkling versions of Chenin Blanc, with wonderful focus. Our course with this flight was a beautiful looking and very tasty salad in a parmesan basket, or frico. We then moved on to a flight of Savennières and Saumur, including a three-vintage vertical of Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon back to 1979. This oldest bottling, which was both youthful and savory, showed how wonderfully ageworthy Savennières can be. We cleansed our palates after that with a little Muscadet intermezzo before proceeding to our red flight: a Chinon, a Bourgueil and a two-vintage vertical of Clos Rougeard from Saumur. There’s a short video clip below of Cory Cartwright, of Selection Massale, talking about Clos Rougeard. After that great flight, we segued to the sweeter end of the Loire with an ’85 Moelleux from Huët and an ’08 demi-sec from François Chidaine. We concluded with another awesome Huët, the sweet and delicious Cuvée Constance. Oh yeah, quite the delicious lunch alright!
We bookended our lunch with pairs of wine, sparklers and then off dry wines, from two of my favorite Loire producers, Huët and François Chidaine. I’ve previously posted about a Huët tasting here: http://www.rjonwine.com/loire/domaine-huet-tasting/ and summarized a blindtasting of 2005 bottlings from Chidaine’s several vineyards here: http://www.rjonwine.com/blindtastings/francois-chidaine-2005/ This was a great showing for the July ’08 disgorgement of the Chidaine Brut. Chidaine makes these sparkling wines from younger vines, and picks them at a high level of ripeness, so as not to have to add dosage. In general, I think Chidaine’s wines just keep getting better and better. The ’02 Huët Reserve Brut, which I’ve enjoyed before, was excellent as usual. It is a pétillant as opposed to the other type of sparkling wine from the Loire, the mousseux. The latter is bottled with a pressure of up to 5.5 bars, with a resulting very forceful bead and dominant quality of mousse. The bottling pressure on the pétillant is only 2.5 bars, giving it a finer, lightly prickling bead, and showing off the fine quality of the wine more than the bubble experience, which I greatly prefer.
Salad of frisee, yellow beet, fava bean and buffalo mozzarella in parmesan and parsley frico
- 2002 Huët Vouvray Pétillant Réserve Brut – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray Pétillant
Light golden yellow color; lovely tart apple, chalk, mineral, quinine nose with a little honey; tart apple, mineral, tart lemon palate with medium acidity, focus and depth; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
- N.V. François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire
Light lemon yellow color; lifted, tart apple, mineral nose; tasty, focused, tight, tart apple, chalk, lemon palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 93+ points (disgorged July 27, 2008) (93 pts.)
Clos du Papillon Vertical
For our dry whites, we were fortunate to have a flight of Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon spanning 25 years. The 1979 was the wine of the flight for me and the group, showing how well this wine can age and add fascinating tertiary flavors with 30+ years of bottle age. The Baumards own 7.5 hectares of the 14.5 hectare Clos du Papillon vineyard, which gets its name from its butterfly (papillon, in French) shape, as viewed from the opposite slope. The entire Savennières appellation consists of only about 77 hectares of vineyard, nearly all of which are planted to Chenin Blanc. Winemaker Florent Baumard avoids oak on the Baumard’s Savennières, which are bottled after about nine months aging on the lees. He also does not encourage malolactic fermentation. These wines are definitely made for aging, and our ’04, which seemed like such a lightweight compared to our bottles with age on them, may indeed age into something special, but this particular bottle just wasn’t showing those qualities. I have, however, had a couple other bottles of the ’04 that were quite good. Florent moved to Stelvin screwcaps with the ’03 Clos du Papillon, a change that surprised a lot of people given that these are wines for aging. Given my recent experience tasting the ’97 Plumpjack Reserve in its cork and Stelvin closed incarnations, and greatly preferring the screwcapped bottle, I’m glad Florent made this change.
Our fourth wine in this flight, from Domaine du Collier, was also quite wonderful–delicate, floral and flavorful. Domaine du Collier was established in 1999 by Antoine Foucault, son of Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard, with his partner Caroline Boireau. Antoine had previously worked for four years at Clos Rougeard. Antoine and Caroline currently own six hectares, which they farm biodynamically. This Saumur Blanc is the Domaine’s basic Chenin Blanc bottling, from 30- to 75-year-old vines grown on clay limestone soils. They also make an old vine cuvée, from 100-year-old vines, and small quantities of Cabernet Franc.
Strudel of baccalà with tomatoes, onions, cauliflower puree and Jacoby Farm fresh peas
- 1979 Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières
Light medium golden yellow color; savory, dried mushroom, smoke, parmesan, white pepper nose; youthful, tasty, savory, tart citrus, mineral, baked lemon palate; medium-plus finish (group’s WOTF) (94 pts.)
- 1999 Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières
Light golden yellow color; light, fresh lemon, focused, mineral, delicate nose; tasty, medium bodied, tart citrus, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
- 2004 Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières
Very light yellow color; has a touch of petillance on nose, with nearly bitter citrus; tart kumquat, lemon, tart apple palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 88+ points (flawed somehow? Not at all as good as when I’ve had it twice before) (88 pts.)
- 2006 Domaine du Collier Saumur – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur
Light medium butter yellow color; lovely floral, white flower, ripe apple, apple blossom nose; tasty, delicate, tart apple, floral, tart pear palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
This wine didn’t quite fit in with any of our other flights, but we wanted to taste it, so we did it as an “intermezzo” wine (what our buddy Craig Haserot has dubbed “tweener wackage”). Marc Ollivier is one of the best winemakers in Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine, and his vineyards are 40 years old or more, planted only to original stock. He is reportedly the only grower in the appellation to use no clonal selections. This is his least traditional Muscadet cuvée–grown on granitic soils, and spending two years on its lees. It is a stunning, and very minerally, Muscadet, that also has good aging potential.
- 2005 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Granite de Clisson – France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine
Light yellow color; nice, oyster jus, sea air nose; tasty, poised, excellent Muscadet, medium bodied, ripe lemon, tart citrus, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
Brothers Charly and Nadi Foucault have been running Clos Rougeard, whose vineyards have been in their family for several generations, since 1969. They produce three different Cabernet Franc bottlings from their 10 hectares: 2 old vine, single vineyard bottlings, and this cuvée made from other plots. They also make a white Saumur and, in some years, a sweet wine. Our red bottling sees no new oak, just mature barrels, and is aged for 18 to 24 months. Both of these wines were silky textured, elegant and complex. The ’02 was the best of the two for me, but the ’03 was very close. Here’s a brief clip of Cory Cartwright–an owner of Selection Massale and author of the Saignée blog–telling us at lunch about visiting Clos Rougeard:
Our Chinon, from Olga Raffault, and Bourgueil, made by Domaine de la Butte, were also quite good, although the Bourgueil seemed very youthful and tight by comparison to the other wines in the flight. The Les Picasses bottling from Olga Raffault is from the 50-plus-year-old vines in their Les Picasses vineyard. The wine is aged for two to three years in neutral large oak and/or chestnut barrels. Jacky Blot is the owner/winemaker of Domaine de la Butte, where he found the vineyards he was looking for, to farm and vinify, to make red wine, after having established a strong reputation with his white wines from Montlouis and Vouvray under the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups label. The Mi-pente bottling is from the domaine’s oldest vines, that are over 50 years old. It is aged in a mix of new, one year and two-year-old barrels for 16 months.
Duo of veal: Milanese with salad of wild arugula and celery hears and filleti dimiale wrapped in panciale on top of a yellow beet slice
- 2002 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
Slightly bricking medium dark red violet color; maturing Cab Franc, tart, herbaceous red fruit, tobacco leaf nose; tasty, silky textured, medium bodied, tart currant, herbaceous palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
- 2002 Clos Rougeard (Foucault) Saumur-Champigny “Clos” – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur-Champigny
Slightly bricking medium dark red violet color with 6 millimeter clear meniscus; tart currant, tart cassis, ox blood nose with a touch of menthol; silky textured, tart currant, tart cassis, herbaceous palate with herbal edges, minerality; medium-plus finish (group’s WOTF) (94 pts.)
- 2003 Clos Rougeard (Foucault) Saumur-Champigny “Clos” – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur-Champigny
Slightly bricking medium dark red violet color; nice herbal, tart currant nose; tasty, silky textured, rich but poised, tart red currant, mineral, herbaceous palate with depth; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
- 2005 Domaine de la Butte Bourgueil Mi-pente – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil
Opaque red violet color; carbonic maceration, tart currant, tart red plum nose; tasty, tight, medium bodied, tart red currant, very tart red plum, olive palate with medium acidity, needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
Off-Dry White Flight
We moved on to a lovely flight of sweeter Chenin Blancs from two masterful producers. It was a treat to taste the aged Huët Moelleux from their greatest vineyard, the very old, six hectare Clos du Bourg, which consists of a shallow layer of soil over solid limestone. It had the classic wet wool and lanolin nose that I look for in great Vouvray. And while I loved it, I felt it was somewhat eclipsed by the much younger Chidaine Clos Habert. Clos Habert is in two parts, one about 25 years old, with the rest 60-80 years old. Chidaine uses these vines to make a “vin tendre,” i.e., between a sec and demi-sec, style of Montlouis with balance and minerality. They usually have about 20 g/l of residual sugar. Chef Pedro’s dish with this course was also wonderful, and went well–with the light spice from the squid ink and tomato and pepper foam playing off the sweetness of the wines.
Sea bass wrapped in Yukon potato and pan seared with black rice from Piedmont in squid ink, topped with tomato and pepper foam
- 1985 Huët Vouvray Moelleux Clos du Bourg – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
Light medium lemon yellow color; mature, mushroom, wet wool, lanolin nose; tasty, rich, lanolin, mature, mineral, tart peach, green apple palate with near medium acidity; long finish (93 pts.)
- 2008 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos Habert – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire
Light lemon yellow color; focused, tart pear, tart peach nose; rich, poised, ripe peach, ripe apple, lime palate with medium acidity; long finish (94 pts.)
For the perfect ending to a gorgeous meal and great set of wines, we had this masterpiece from Huët. This is a sweet wine made from selected botrytised grapes in only the best years, starting in 1989. It is named for Gaston Huët’s mother Constance. The fruit is sourced from any of Huët’s primary vineyards: Clos du Bourg, Le Haut Lieu and Le Mont. It is a wine made for long aging, but was quite delicious at this stage, with its viscous, unbelievably rich and complex palate, which carries its 200 grams of residual sugar with remarkable balance.
Lemon tart over citrus infused yogurt with homemake milk gelato with lemon zest
- 2002 Huët Vouvray Cuvée Constance – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
From 500 ml – light orange gold color; lovely almond, toasted almond, lemon tart, baked peach, baked apricot nose; viscous, rich, apricot, lemon tart palate with good acidity; long finish (96 pts.)