Posted by Bacchus in Wines January 31, 2012
I love Chenin Blanc. It is not always great- examples from high yields give very little character, and a lack of ripeness can leave a searing acidity that overpowers everything else- but when it is grown with care and understanding it ranks up there with the very best. In the Loire this white grape is used successfully to make anything from bubbly through to intense sweet wines, and like Riesling it can be very long lived. I enjoy the subtle nuances of dry versions, yet it is the fine balance of a sweet one that can really set it apart and send shivers down my spine.
Last weekend I was looking after a friend’s house, dogs and hens in the middle of nowhere, so it was the perfect excuse to enjoy the twin pleasures of good cooking and fine wine. While I love to share a bottle with anybody I am entirely selfish when it comes to a good sweet wine; I will happily hide away somewhere and indulge in its delights all to myself. This time I had chosen a Domaine de Montgilet Coteaux de l’Aubance 2008 from the Anjou region. The Loire being so far north means it can be tricky some years to get fully ripe grapes, although rapidly improving viticultural practices are making this less of a problem. 2008 was fine for dry wines, but rains in November cut short the extended ripening period for sweet wines, so rich, unctuous styles are harder to come by. This wine instead offered a lighter, fresher style with a superb balance and a lovely velvety finish. It was like biting into a ripe but still crisp red apple, and almost seemed refreshing. A tantalising aroma of honeysuckle, citrus, peach, cut hay and cream followed into a juicy palate full of ripe apple, honey and lime flavours. A suggestion of rhubarb, which often appears in finer examples, was just beginning to emerge. I enjoyed it with a wine-poached pear puff pastry tart, and it was seriously classy.
I also found the time to compare two 2010 Cabernet Francs from the same part of the world. This red grape variety is a vital component of Saint Emilion and features in most Bordeaux blends, but in the Loire it usually goes solo to produce medium-bodied, aromatically charming wines. The Domaine de la Perrée Bourgueil was light and fruity, with a suggestion of tinned raspberries and raw meat (more attractive than it sounds). The Chateau de la Roulerie Anjou was more savoury and a little richer on the palate. Again some nice red fruits and raw meat, with the added complexity of green peppercorns and a mineral/graphite note. Both were good classic French reds- well-balanced, a lightness of touch and eminently drinkable, with the Anjou in particular partnering my Heston Blumenthal perfect steak and homemade chips beautifully.