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.

BROCHET CABERNET FRANC “LA FUYE ” 2014
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.

BROCHET QUARTS-DE-CHAUME 2014
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…