We spent a most enjoyable Saturday morning (27th May) in Tours at VitiLoire.
It all started well as the SNCF were operating – there was no grève that day. Even better there was a special SNCF promotion for VitiLoire – Chenonceaux to Tours return for just 4 euros each. Furthermore there was full-on sunshine and clear blue skies.
After a quick coffee we started on VitiLoire just after 10am – the official start time. It is always good to get in early before the crowds arrive. First off a stroll around the stands along the Boulevard Heurteloup and in the Jardin de la Préfecture. Time to chat with producers I missed seeing because my accident at the beginning of January on black ice precluded me going to the Salon des Vins de Loire.
All without exception were very pleased with the current state of their vines, which are growing fast due to the warm weather. Obviously hail is a threat. News of the hail storm which hit parts of Bordeaux the day before will have underlined the threat. Indeed later in the day on Saturday around 6pm there was a violent storm at Epeigné-les-Bois featuring strong winds and briefly torrential rain but fortunately no hail. Unfortunately this week, although cooler, threatens unstable weather. As I type this there are distant rolls of thunder.
Current indications are that 2018 could well be a generous harvest. While producers need decent quantities this year after small harvests from and including 2012, it will be very important to avoid an excess volume resulting in dilute wines as was the case in 1992 following the severe frost of 1991.
In general flowering is predicted to start in the next ten days or so. Jean-Max Manceau, Domaine de la Noiré in Chinon, said he had seen the first signs of flowering the day before. Although this isn’t as early as the remarkable 2011 vintage the start of flowering in early June is still early. Promising news as an early harvests usually bring good quality, although this is not invariably the case especially if there is a lot of rot around at vintage time as there was in 2011.
I took the opportunity to taste Touraine Noble Joué from three producers – Rousseau Frères, Rémi Cosson and Domaine Astraly – formerly owned by Domaine Jean-Jacques Sard, who has now retired and now run by Jéreemie Pierru. Noble Joué is an unusual rosé being a blend of three Pinots – Gris, Meunier and Noir.When in a Touraine restaurant I often chose a Noble Joué as an apéro. Unfortunately they have recently often been hit by spring frosts. For instance, Cosson lost 80% of his crop in 2016 and 35% in 2017.
All the three Noble Joués the one from Michel Rousseau (50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Gris, 15% Pinot Noir) was the most austere, while Rémi Cosson’s had the most concentration with Astraly’s ( 65 Meunier, 25% Gris, 10% Pinot Noir) closer in style to Cosson with a touch of sweetness, wild berry fruit and good length.
Julien et Justine Thomas, Domaine Thomas et Fils, Verdigny (Sancerre)
It was good to meet and taste the wines of Julien and Justine Thomas of Domaine Thomas et Fils in Verdigny (Sancerre). They have 15 hectares of vines, which have been farmed biodynamically since 2012.
Although their red Sancerre is pleasant drinking, the whites are much much interesting. They showed three cuvées highlighting Sancerre’s three soil types. Up first 2016 Le Pierrier from the limestone caillottes. This had attractive texture and precision. Next up 2016 Grand Chaille from vines on silex (flint). Again good texture, concentration and length but a currently a little closed in the finish. Lastly 2016 Ultimus from 40 to 60 year old vines on argile-calcere (clay limestone) vinified in oak barrels – spending six months on its lees. This is their most concentrated Sancerre with attractive texture and length but like the Grand Chaille currently closed in the long finish.
New Chinon Blanc
I tasted the 2016 Silice the first Chinon Blanc from Marc Plouzeau – Château de la Bonnelière Marc planted his 50 ares of Chenin Blanc in 2013 on a south facing site. This rich and concentrated wine is vinified in 600 litre barrels. There are some wood notes present but these I expect will soon blend in.
Rapport qualité-prix in Saumur-Champigny
Domaine la Bonnelière
Son of Anthony Bonneau helping Cedric Bonneau on their stand
Domaine la Bonnelière in Varrains continues to offer remarkable value and quality with both their Saumur-Champigny Tradition (6€) and Les Poyeux (8.50€). The Tradition is currently 2017 and 2015 for Les Poyeux.