Archives for category: LOIRE

On Monday 8th May WING met to taste the Wines of Ampelidæ. Led by John and Ann.

This story starts with the long-time appreciation by several of the group of the Bourgueil wines of Pierre-Jacques Druet from Benais. I first visited the estate in 1995 and regularly, every couple of years until – I think – 2007. Druet’s wines have featured in Nottingham tastings regularly and won some admirers and regular buyers – often en primeur – in the WING group.

Several of us became aware of Ampelidæ about 9 months ago, when we were written to as “fidèles clients des vins de Bourgueil et Chinon de M. PJ Druet…” by the Director of Ampelidæ, Frédéric Brochet.

Ampelidæ had then taken over the equipment and stocks of Druet’s wine business (possibly the vineyards too?) when Pierre-Jacques’ EARL (an agricultural limited responsibility company isolating the wine business assets from the farmer’s personal assets) had become bankrupt. So en primeur Druet wines had transferred (without obligation) to Ampelidæ.

Brochet agreed to honour these en primeur holdings, although not obliged to, providing interested parties also purchased a proportion of Ampelidæ’s own wines. Accordingly several cases of the last Druet wines and some Ampelidæ wines found their way – elaborately and eventually – back to Nottingham. John and Ann decided to show a selection to the group.

Ampelidæ is actually in the Vienne department, about 50 miles South of Bourgueil, and only 15 miles North of Poitiers. The Domaine is the passion of Frédéric Brochet, who became entranced by winemaking at an early age, and in 1995 during the first year of his PhD in “Oenology and Ampelology” started the Domaine based on inherited family vines. His aim is to marry organic and very modern techniques in a little known wine area. To create “contemporary wine … always concerned by the protection of nature and to reach an ideal of purity and intensity.”

Does he pull it off?

Here are my notes:

AMPELIDÆ “Le S” 2014
This is pungent, with toasted nutty elements, this gives way to a gooseberry and redcurrant nose. Very typical and the palate echoes this in a slightly new world intense way… this “faint praise” description is saved by a rather cool clean citric acid line. Correct rather than inspiring IMO.

AMPELIDÆ “Le C” 2014
Citrus and a slightly buttery nose, hints of sweet soft fruits. Palate is very lean, with a saline minerality, melon fruit and a creamy texture growing against a citrus backbone giving good length and some elegant interest.

AMPELIDÆ “PN 1328” 2014
Pinot nose, very fruit driven with herby and mineral accents. Palate is a little thin, sweet fruit but the length is increasingly composed of slightly bitter mineral tones. The least successful wine IMO.

This has very typical green vegetal / pepper nose. Palate has a sweet raspberry edge, good acidity and a green (herby green not youthful green) tint. Slightly grainy supple tannin, quite long and correct and more Champigny than Bourgueil…

AMPELIDÆ “Le K” 2014
This is 75% Cabernet Franc; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon & 5% Merlot. A smoother nose than the previous wine – darker, black fruit, warmth and a hint of oak. The palate is rich with a quite sharp black fruit that hints in the direction of blackcurrant. The wine is integrated (perhaps helped by breathing) and further advanced than La Fuye, gestures towards an open claret (I had drunk a 2005 Graves [½ CS, ½ M] 2 days before and, although that had layers of complexity that this hadn’t [yet?], the structure and weight were very similar). Quite satisfying.

Wow. This has a strong nose of stewed plum and apple, butterscotch caramel notes, mango, a hint of botrytis marmalade. The palate has luscious sweetness but has dashing acidity and immense length – fruit flavours abound in the apricot, apple quince spectrum. Very good but even this speaks of its modernity in being quite forward… Who cares about that – I would go for passion fruit, crème brûlée with this… now!

Overall the wines are all very typical, clean and well made. I found myself thinking many times they were “correct”. Which is praise, in the sense that they were enjoyable, recognisable and faultless – and may certainly be achieving the stated aims of the Domaine. However, the term can carry a slight implicit criticism of lack of character, or in this case not expressing something specific about Vienne wines, and I think that applies in a couple of cases…

I certainly exempt the Quarts from that caveat, by virtue of being better than correct, and – to a less pronounced extent – “Le K”… Other than that I enjoyed the Chardonnay more than the Sauvignon; the La Fuye better than the Pinot. The wines are all around €20 at the cellar door, except for the La Fuye (only €12) and the Quarts (€29)… and strangely enough I’d rate those two exceptions the best value…

Thanks to John and Ann for an extremely interesting tasting.

Until next time…


Recently the wines of Domaine de La Cune, at Chaintres in Saumur-Champigny, have sort of become my house wine. I have bought several cases of their wine, and served the last vintage of the Saumur Blanc “Tradition” and the Saumur-Champigny Rouge “Tradition” at my last Birthday party – to the great enthusiasm of the 50 guests…

Soon indeed the wine may actually be my house wine – as I am looking to find a place to live not far away, somewhere near the Longué-Jumelles – Bourgueil axis, about 10 miles North.


The Domaine at La Cune

It was therefore a pleasure to visit the Domaine and again meet Jean-Luc Mary who had welcomed us there two years ago. As then we were welcomed with friendliness and generosity. I have to note the contrast of such conviviality, openness and neighbourliness – so prevalent in the world of wine – with the small mindedness of (at least the leaders of) one side of the current referendum debate… but this is a wine blog – so on with my notes of the wine:

Saumur Blanc “Tradition” 2014
Floral and sweet notes at first, hints of honey and fruit – apricot? The palate has round fruit but supple and fresh dashing acidity. Very lively now and even better than the previous two vintages IMO.

Saumur Blanc “La Favourite” 2014
A later picked Cuvée, raised in some old oak. This had a similar nose but with some wood, a touch more richness and more tropical fruit. The palate bears this out with a hint of passion fruit and warmer acidity. Less typical in  my view.

Vines at Domaine de La Cune

Vines at Domaine de La Cune

Saumur-Champigny “Fantasie” 2014
Very typical Cabernet Franc – herbs, green pepper and a hint of earth. The palate has similar flavours with a red-fruit tinge and some roundness, compared to the nose’s angularity.

Saumur-Champigny “Tradition” 2014
Cabernet-Franc but more refined, slightly less green and more raspberry. The palate follows with  a lovely food-friendly grip, and the red fruit deepens with time. Poised and refreshing, with potential for development, a lovely house red indeed…

Saumur-Champigny “Charl’anne” 2014
This comes from soil with more limestone and clay and less sand. The nose has more dark, as well as red, fruit and the green pepper trademark further recessed. The palate is deeper and balanced with fruit tending more to plum. Long with a herby, earthy backbone – a delight.

Corkmaster and Jean-Luc Mary discuss soil types and their affect on Cabernet Franc.

Corkmaster and Jean-Luc Mary discuss soil types and their affect on Cabernet Franc.

Cremant de Loire Brut Rosé
100% Cabernet Franc. Very light mousse with raspberry shot through the nose and palate. However the dry acidity and a very slight herby twist make the wine a lovely summer aperitif.

Coteaux de Saumur 2014
A lively balanced sweet wine, with some Botrytis but mostly the tell-tale passion fruit of sweet Chenin underpinned by an open lively acidity. Good, and a wine to return to…

…as is the whole Domaine. Thanks to Jean-Luc for his hospitality. Back next year if not before.

By the way – the two “Tradition” Cuvées can be had in the UK from 3D Wines, they are about £9.25 for the white and £10.25 for the red – but you have to buy 12 of the same wine, and you need to join 3D first (£70 a year).

On Monday 18th May the WING group met to taste Chenin Blanc Wines, guided by Anna and Paul.

We all know the qualities (deep acidity and almost indestructible longevity), and versatility (from bone dry, through sparkling and demi-sec to softly sweet, hors d’oeuvres level wines, to fully botrytised dessert wines) of Chenin. It’s one of my favourite grapes, I particularly like the combination of richness and acidity one can find. So I was interested to taste these examples.

Paul and Anna showed us a grower-sourced Loire example against a Ken Forrester, Stellenbosch, South African, equivalent (from Great Western Wines) at three price points: £10; £12 & £24. All the wines were dry: startlingly- in the case of the Loires; more-or-less- in the case of the South Africans.

Here are my notes:

Jasnieres “St Jacques” 2011 (Domaine Gigou)
Pungent, slightly vegetal first note – a dusty nutty element and hints of honey. On the palate very dry with a flinty minerality, fruit acid of warm apples and orange peel – very big but very structured. Later a pea-shoot herbiness appears… Not really typical but very interesting.

Petit Chenin 2013 (Ken Forrester)
White stone fruit and some honey sweetness in a rather simple nose. Not quite dry and much softer than the French wine, some acidity with a warm finish with some herbal hints. By comparison rather light and simple though…


Montlouis “Remus” 2013 (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups)
Strong linseed nose, with later a slight sweet fruit hint – greengage? This has sharp lifting citric acidity on the palate, with herby and oily nut elements later. Very mouth puckering, but later the wine starts to resolve… Needs at least 3 years in the cellar, maybe 13…

Old Vine Chenin 2013 (Ken Forrester)
Immediate oaky and honey nose… Oily palate with a warm balance, supported by a consistent line of acidity. A different kind of wine altogether – showing an almost Burgundian weight and balance of richness and acidity. Quite satisfying but not really the same animal at the Montlouis!


Savennières “Clos du Papillon” 2008 (Domaine du Closel)
Notes of straw, intense honey and hints of baked apple and passion fruit with some herbs later. Amazingly sharp wine following such a sweet nose, with an intense but stable acid line underpinning sweet apple and apricot elements, attenuated by a slight oxidization. Very complex and satisfying wine in an inimitable style.

The FMC 2012 ­(Ken Forrester)
Immediate nose of everything Chenin  – honeysuckle, apple honey, passion fruit, apricot, melon… Palate has an integrated sweet warm fruit and a fudge note balanced by a warm acidity that runs right through the wine, but much warmer and softer than any French example. This is very good, a deluxe example of the previous KF wine, but again a different animal entirely to anything French – with warmer and softer – though no less prominent – acidity.

A very interesting tasting which seemed to show that SA Chenin isn’t really the same sort of wine as the Loire version – just as Australian Shiraz is best judged on its own merits rather than compared to Northern Rhone wines. That said the last pair are both worthwhile in different situations. But the wine I’d buy and cellar??? The Montlouis!

We’ll return to Chenin at the ICC in a couple of months.
In the meantime thanks so much Anna & Paul…….

I must confess I am a big fan of Cabernet Franc. In my opinion it is by far the best Bordeaux grape to be vinified as a single variety. It is in the top rank of single red varieties, and has some qualities which I prefer to the other contenders apart from Pinot Noir: Nebbiolo (narrower stylistic range); Sangiovese (weaker finish when unblended); Tempranillo (sometimes a little hollow – and then there’s the question of oak…); Syrah (a brackish quality I’m sensitive to, and dislike)… In addition it has usually reasonable alcohol levels (12½ or 13%) and is wonderful value.

So I was predisposed to like John and Ann’s Loire Cabernet Franc Tasting, last night at the WING TT group, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The tasting took the form of a comparison of two good Bourgueil growers: Pierre Jacques Druet (in Benais), and Domaine de Chevalerie (about a mile and a half down the road towards Restignie). We tasted their entry, mid-level and top Bourgueils.

Below are my notes – other colleagues please submit your comments.

The first pair were Chevalerie’s “Cuvée Bonne Heure” 2011 and Druets’s “Les Cent Boisselees” 2007.

The Chevalerie showed dark fruit – loganberry maybe – and a hint of leather on the nose. The palate with a hint of minerality and sour cherry flavours, supple and good quaffing but a slight hard edge on the finish indicating youth.

In contrast the Druet was a little duller in colour and had a more restrained nose after an initial lily perfume faded. Again sour cherries but a darker twist and more tannin which persists longer than the fruit. It was slightly more serious, but a little too old perhaps.

I prefer the Chevalerie now but at their peaks (3 years from vintage?) it would be close.

The second pair were Chevalerie’s “Cuvée Bretêche” 2009 and Druet’s Grand Mont 2007.

The Chevalerie was lovely: dark fruit and some chocolate on the nose, the palate was supple with sweet fruit following a supple acid line developing in the glass. Not sure this was that typical, it had almost a Pinot character and while enjoyable had a slightly narrow focus.

The Druet was typical Cabernet Franc. Bright with floral notes, red fruit and a hint of stalky vegetation. The palate was earthy green and a long fruit line with a mineral finish – drying but round and long.

These are lovely wines but the Druet won for me on typicity, complexity and longevity.

The last pair (actually a triple tipple) where Chavalerie’s domain wine, just called Domaine de Chevalerie 2007 compared with Druet’s Vaumoreau in both 2007 and 2002 versions.

The Chevalerie was the most serious from the domain and did have Cabernet Franc typicity. Vegetal first nose, green herbs and red fruit. Fresh supple tannins and acidity, raspberry notes and a long but slightly mineral finish. Lovely and closer to the Druet Grand Mont than the other Chevalerie wines.

The Vaumoreau 2007 had a dusty nose with plummy fruit and perfume. Smooth palate with a tannic backbone and sappy acidity supporting a long fruit line. Wonderfully supple and long, but with a richness also slightly untypical. I think one would guess at a rather superior right bank claret if served blind. The 2002 is a little cleaner and more resolved, it has perfumed fragrance with black fruit notes and a mere hint of cardamom. Round blackberry fruit and supple acidity with (for the first time) a green pepper nuance, over a mellowed tannic structure. Richer and rounder than the 2007.

I loved all three of these wines.

The Vaumoreau are fabulous wines, untypical in the sense of going beyond Cabernet Franc’s usual expression. But the best wines for me are the Grand Mont and the Chevaliere domain wine. They have typicity with great expression of fruit and length.

The two growers have a slightly different approach. Chevalerie is quite traditional moving from easier drinking to more structured wine through the Cuvées. Druet is a bit more experimental, I think, with his classic Cuvée in the middle. But how enjoyable, and what good value were all the wines.

Thank you John and Ann.

%d bloggers like this: