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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Loire Masterclass at Berry's

A Loire Masterclass at Berry's with Martin Hudson MW
The Loire has a quality that is not very much in mainstream fashion these days - a freshness and lightness to fall quietly in love with, rather than be bowled over at first acquaintance; marry, not snog.
For all its family resemblances, it is a diverse region of 63 appellations and varying climates with an average vineyard size of just 3ha.

It has the third largest vineyard area in France and produces more methode traditionelle fizz than Champagne.

France's longest river with a viticultural tradition dating back to the second century, the Loire's production is just over half white, a little over a quarter red, the rest rosé, fizz and sweet.
All these wines from Berry's were, as might be expected, elegant and faultless. The only consideration, then, is personal preference and value for money; prices started in the mid-teens and maxed out at around £40.
With four main regions ranging from maritime to continental, the Loire grows a wide range of grapes in varying styles. Its noblest, most versatile grape is the Chenin Blanc which, like Riesling, is highly responsive to terroir and can pretty much do anything - dry, sweet, sparkling; oaked and unoaked; young and aged.
The wines were accompanied by an elegant plate of canapés; a number of the wines that seemed a little ordinary on their own really showed their best with the right food.
St Maure (goat's - wines 1 and 2)
Pennard Ridge (hard white - wine 3)
Cave aged Cheddar (wine 4)
Asparagus quiche (wine 4)
Salmon rillettes (wine 5)
Lamb croquettes (wines 6 and 7)
Confit chicken wings with bbq sauce (no obvious match)

Aperitif: Touraine Sparkling rosé, Domaine Nicolas Paget with just 9m on the lees, this feels fruited rather than bready and autolytic; precise and elegant with a fine mousse.
Wine 1: 2012 Sauvignon de Touraine, Jean-Christophe Mandard modern-style SB with an aromatic nose and modern technique, kiwi-esque expressiveness. Cultured yeasts and cool fermentation enhance the aromatics.
Wine 2: 2012 Pouilly-Fume, Les Chants de Cri, Domaine Grebet more-traditional style, more restrained nose, but greater complexity and texture with a persistent minerality. A touch of flintsmoke from fossil limestone soils.
Wild yeasts; warmer fermentation and lees aging provide a more waxy texture.
Wine 3: 2011 Vouvray Sec, Vincent Careme with some new oak, this has spiced baked apples and conference pears, honey and blossom aromas and freshness. A persistent, honeyed finish but completely dry.
Wine 4: 2011 Savennieres, l'Enclos, Eric Morgat squeaky clean organic, biodynamic and oaked, this is a well-scrubbed exuberant hippy in a power suit.

Toasty-oaky musky nose, baked apples, vanilla sweetness and warmth. The grapes have some botrytis and are partially air-dried - giving it complexity, substance and a powerfullness that is not typically Loire.
Matches the white Pennard Ridge cheese; an impressive wine, but in this line up lacks the discreet elegance of the others, albeit another five or ten year's age may well solve that.
In the short term, it works well with the cave-aged cheddar.
Wine 5: 2012 Sancerre Rosé, Brigitte & Daniel Chotard a PN grown on its preferred soil of clay over kimmeridgian. Pale pink, gentle and pretty. Elegant and long with red fruits and some flintsmoke.
Made from young vines, it is supremely elegant if a little bland, but comes into its own with the salmon mousse.
Wine 6: 2011 Reuilly Rouge, Les Pierres Plates, Denis Jamain unusually dark and toasty for a Pinot, quite extracted and acidic with a grippy finish from cold soaking in stainless steel. Smokey, tobaccoey aromas.
Positively demands to be matched with the lamb croquettes.
Wine 7: 2010 Bourgueil, Grand-Mont, Domaine de la Chevalerie vibrant purple Cab Franc from a good year. Still youthful, primary and very focused - dark fruit, tobacco leaf, green bell pepper with spice and savoury notes.
Precise and expressive; ripeness with freshness; long and persistent. Will only improve with age.
Wild yeasts, large old oak foudres. Again, needs the lamb croquettes.
Wine 8: 2010 Quarts de Chaume, Domaine des Forges bright golden sandy yellow, roasted ripe peaches and some musky botrytis, just a hint of nail polish.
Roasted ripe peaches in butter, the richness of some new oak, cut through with freshness. It only lacks the delicately nuanced elegance of a really top Sauternes.
Delicious. Match with pate, foie gras or blue cheese.
There was nary a bad wine here and all were at least Good. My top wines for drinking now were the Vouvray Sec and the Quarts de Chaume, but I would lay down the Savennieres and the Bourgueil.
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