Your friendly neighborhood Loire tasting.

Domaine de Bellevue (Jérôme Bretaudeau), Muscadet, Gaia, 2019

I enjoyed its sibling last week, Clos des Bouquinardières, but that wine needed time and a Burgundy glass, which the Gaia did not get. I enjoyed its clean lines and purity, but I need to try another bottle to make up my mind. If it doesn't improve with air and/or time, then it's not a very smart buy. 

Didier Dageneau, Pouilly-Fume, Pur Sang, 2012

Once upon a time, I used to think Dageneau made the best Sauvignon Blancs in the world. Partly because I didn't know that many Sauvignon wines at the time and partly because I read so. The wines are expensive everywhere, especially in Israel, so it's been years since I've had a bottle. At ten years of age, the Sur Lang manages to combine a honeyed, reductive nose with the rich texture that slow oxidation in the bottle provides. The reunion was briefer than I'd have liked. It's a wine that requires time and attention in order to relish its nuances,

Claude Riffault, Sancerre, Chailloux, 2020

This is the mirror image of the Pur Sang, and not just because it hails from the other side of the river. It's a story of youth versus maturity, extroversion versus nuances, size versus balance. The Chailloix' nose is chalk and peaches veering towards tropical fruit, the palate powerful and dense. Like the 2019 I had last year at the same age, it's still struggling to integrate. 

Eric Morgat, SavennièresFidès, 2015

Savennières is the biggest-boned Chenin appellation. The wines are arguably the most alcoholic along the river, so textured and spicy they can seem almost tannic. Sometimes I get an ashy nose that recalls whiskey. This is a prime example, almost my white WOTN. It's my first encounter with Eric Morgat and I need a second date. The mid-palate was just about starting to fill when the next wine came up to the plate.

Huet, Vouvray, Clos de Bourg, Vouvray, Demi-Sec, 1995

Back before I became a persona non grata with the importer, I used to think the Huet demi-secs were some of the great values around. Sure, the sweet wines could be an exercise in heaven on earth, but the dash of sweetness in the demi-secs rounded out the wines while letting them serve the same function at the table as a dry wine. I drank up all the bottles I purchased locally before they turned six, they were so delicious I couldn't keep my hands off. I did manage to score some 14-16 year olds  abroad, so I know how great they can turn out to be. But a 27 year old is not something I thought I'd ever have a chance to taste. It's still fresh and thriving - apricots and spices on the hedonistic nose, echoed on the dry palate with sweetness on the fringes and splendid acidity. Especially complex? no, and not very hedonistic either, more of a sly, understated pleasure.

Domaine des Roches Neuves (Thierry Germain), Saumur-Champigny, Les Memoires, 2019

This is a very misleading wine to pop and pour, even to pop and air for a few hours and then pour. I drank half a bottle of leftover 2018 at the same age, the day after it was opened. It was still nubile, but you could get a good sense of its poise and potential. Here, all we got was ripe, primary red fruit. It's one of Germain's flagship reds, but if you don't treat it right, it plays out like a supermarket wine. Don't touch any bottles until the 2030’s.

Les Memoires is a perfect example of how frustrating young Loire reds are. A serious specimen might cost less than a third the price of a Bordeaux of the same quality, but will be just as frustrating to drink before it matures. Which, as far as I can tell after all these years, means wait until age 15-20 years, compared with 20-30 for a comparable Bordeaux.

We were lucky, in that respect, that the next two wines were already a delight to drink.

Yannic Amirault, Bourgeuil, Le Grand Clos, 2010

The nose is gorgeous and detailed, red fruit and earthy nuances, the palate balanced and attractive, even sexy. I thought it was ready, but my opinion was in no way consensual.

Domaine du Bel Air (Pierre et Rodolphe Gauthier), Bourgueil, Grand-Mont, 2016

Despite its youth, I gave it the edge over the Amirault. The nose is better, classy and classic, with slightly darker fruit, iron, ash. The acidity is marvelous, the tannins and rusty and fine at the same time.

There were two more bretty reds that I will skip over and address the final, dessert wine.

Huet, Vouvray, Clos de Bourg, Moelleux, 2009

A wonderfully complex nose, some wax and botrytis and that special Chenin stamp: "look, my wet wool sweater got covered in honey". It's just on the lean side, despite the high sugar level. Another wine that deserved more attention. Looking over old notes, it seems to me that the best Huets need air to flesh out, although I wish I had a larger data set for that opinion. At any rate, the two Huets are tied for my wine of the night.