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A night in Villeray

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Fou du vin’s Chapitre de Villeray tasting group sometimes has a seat or two available for outsiders and I was lucky enough to snag one at their most recent event.

While there was reportedly some Pinon Vouvray sec floating around, for me the evening began with a glass of Givry 2010, Clos de la Servoisine, Domaine Joblot. The nose was textbook Côte Chalonnaise Chardonnay: lemon, apple, chalk, oats, a hint of butter and vanilla. Rich and mouth-filling but still fluid with a firm acidic backbone, tons of chalk, very pure fruit, well-integrated oak and a long clean finish. Tonic and delicious.

Glasses were shuffled as we moved on to the main event: a 12-bottle vertical of the Patrimoine line of Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil from Domaine Sébastien David (no website that I’ve found but the winemaker does have a blog). Turning 40 this year, David comes from a long line of Loire vignerons. His 15 hectares of Cabernet Franc vines were planted by his grandparents in the 1940s. The vines are farmed organically (the estate began converting to biodynamic farming in 2003) and the wine-making is fully natural. All the Patrimoine wines are made the same way: the whole clusters are crushed by foot, then macerated and fermented with indigenous yeasts in open wood vats for around 25 days. This is followed by a light pressing in a manually operated vertical press. After maturation in barrels for 24 months, the wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with minimal added sulphur. In the winery, the grapes and wine are transferred by gravity, not pumping.

One particularity of the Patrimoine line is that the label, bottle shape and name is different for each vintage: 1999 through 2004, 2005 through 2010.

All the wines were carafed several hours before the tasting. All are listed as 12.5% ABV except the 2007, which officially clocks in at 12%. You’ll find my notes after the jump.

Premium 1999: David’s first vintage. Plum tending to prune, old leaves, old wood, dried soil. Still alive if a little over the hill, with waning fruit, ghost tannins, plenty of acid, a stony background and a fairly long finish and lingering tertiary aromas of leather and tobacco. A faded beauty, perhaps, but a beauty nonetheless.

Ancestrale 2000: Fresh nose of slightly candied red and black fruit. A middleweight, like all the David wines. Intense and youngish on the palate, not yet fully integrated. Finely structured, the mildly astringent tannins plushing the ripe fruit. Spice and a touch of green colour the long finish. Vibrant and balanced. One of my favourites of the evening.

Thyme 2001: Earthy nose with lots of spice and a hint of hung game. Supple, balanced, full of pure berry fruit but also lighter bodied, less structured and shorter than its immediate siblings.

Razines 2002: Fruit dominates the nose and is bit stewed. Smooth, rich and seemingly resolved at first sip though chewing the wine reveals firm, tooth-coating tannins and rich acidity. The finish is long and slatey.

Idylle 2003: Candied fruit (“more black than red” to quote one taster), ink and an unexpected whiff of vanilla. Dry. The texture is dense and velours-like, softer-structured than than its stablemates, though not spineless. One taster complained of the fruit seeming syrupy; while I could see what he meant, I found it vibrant enough and the wine quite tasty. Better balanced and more enjoyable than I expected for a wine from such a hellishly hot summer. That said, it’s at its peak and probably won’t get any better; if I owned any, I’d drink them up within a year or two.

Mi-chemin 2004: Odd – one or two tasters thought off – nose that lacks fruit and has a chemical edge along with hints of barnyard, green vegetables, fish oil and animale. Tight, quite dense, dry and astringent. The high acidity is just balanced by the fruit. Not bad but the least pleasurable wine of the lineup. Could it just need time?

Orion 2005: Closed nose of old wood, spice and distant fruit. Smooth, round, balanced and pure in the mouth. Fruity but so dry. The firm tannins are only beginning to soften. Long, inky finish. Full of as yet unrealized potential.

In Vivo 2006: Closed and similar to the 2005, though showing a bit more fruit. Balanced and complete, with velvety tannins, juicy acidity and good length. Young. Better in five years.

Ni Dieu Ni Maître 2007: (We wondered about the source of the name – Neither God Nor Master – speculating that it may have come from Nietzsche. In fact, it’s usually attributed to the French libertarian socialist Louis-Auguste Blanqui, who in the 1880s published a newspaper of the name, though the phrase was reportedly batted about as far back as the French revolution and was later appropriated by anarchists.) Downright approachable after the 2005 and 2006. Lovely nose of raspberry and graphite. Rich and velvety on the palate. The fruit is clean, the acid juicy, the finish nicely astringent. Fluid and delicious: if it has a fault, it’s that it’s missing some of the stuffing and structure of wines like the 2000, 2002 and 2005.

Endémique 2008: Ham juice, earth, spice, slate and hints of blood and cheese along with the expected plum and berries. Supple and, to my surprise, remarkably pure and clean with good structure, lively acidity, a minerally substrate and a long finish. Young but not at all rebarbative.

Sanguin 2009: Closed, fruit-shy nose: graphite, slate, smoke, spice, hint of tomato. Similar to the 2008 in weight, though more leathery and earthy. The fruit is intense, finely structured by tight tannins and rich acidity, grounded in dark minerals. Great balance and follow-through. Definitely age-worthy but surprisingly enjoyable now.

Dithyrambus 2010: Black fruit and hints of spice, meat and sarsaparilla. So suave and approachable. Compared with the 2009, the tannins are rounder, less astringent and the acidity is softer. Again, the fruit is pure and intense. Broad and long.

One of the most remarkable things about the wines was their consistency across the vintages, even challenging ones. The differences were subtle – shades of grey, not black and white. All the wines had presence, a density without heaviness. Even in a less than stellar vintage like 2007, the fruit was ripe and clean, showing little of the vegetal aromas and flavours that some find objectionable. The winemaker’s style is present, then, but not at the expense of typicity or terroir: these could have come from nowhere but the Loire.

Some at my end of the table found the last three or four vintages more approachable, more immediately drinkable, less demanding of ageing than their predecessors and wondered whether this pointed to a shift in style or whether it was a function of the vintage or the wine’s youth (i.e. that they’re accessible young but eventually retreat into their shells and then require another five or ten years to re-emerge). The evening’s host, who visited the estate last summer said he thought it was the first. (EDIT: Over on Fou du vin, the host has provided some details: over the years, David has crushed the grapes less and less, though whether this explains the younger wines’ relative accessibility is still a guess.)

Sébastien David is represented in Quebec by Insolite/La QV. The 2010 is currently available ($33.75, 6 bottles/case) as is the easy-drinking 2012 Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil “Hurluberlu” ($22.50, 12 bottles/case). Note that these are the restaurateur prices and don’t include sales taxes.

The evening ended on a sweet note with the Vouvray 2003, Moelleux, Fraçois Pinon (12.5% ABV). Lovely nose of quince, pear, quartz, honey. Only a little more than off-dry. Pure and qaurtzy with medium acidity and good length. Not as kaleidoscopic or dazzling as in some other years but a fine effort for the infernal 2003 vintage.

Written by carswell

May 26, 2014 at 19:48

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