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MWG October 2nd tasting: Chenintensity

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Writing up my tasting note on Domaine Guiberteau’s delicious 2013 Saumur Blanc (the domaine bottling) back in September, I noticed that six of the estate’s seven wines were currently available in Quebec. Whence the idea for this and the following flight.

Mentored by Clos Rougeard’s Nady Foucault, 40-something Romain Guiberteau has been making wines from his family’s vines since the late 1990s. The 12-hectare estate, 9.4 hectares of which are planted to vines, comprises parcels in Montreuil-Bellay, Saint-Just-sur-Dive and, above all, Brézé, a legendary climat for white varieties. The vines, about evenly split between Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, range in age from four to 80 years, with most toward the upper end of the range. Guilberteau has been farming organically since 2000 and received AB certification in 2007. The wines are well regarded – Guiberteau is widely viewed as a rising star of Saumur – and are found on the lists of many of France’s top restaurants.

Saumur 2013, Domaine Guiberteau ($23.45, 12370658)
100% Chenin Blanc from organically farmed, five- to 60-year-old vines grown in the estate’s three main vineyards. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured in concrete tanks. Spent several months on the lees with no stirring. No additives other than sulphur dioxide. Lightly filtered before bottling. 11.5% or 12% ABV, depending on whom you believe. Quebec agent: Les vins Alain Bélanger.
Complex nose of white flowers, chalk and quartz, mowed meadow, lemon. One taster claimed to detect “wet tweed.” Clean, focused and bracing in the mouth, not extracted or weighty. Acidity is high but not sharp, instead conferring freshness and, in combination with the citrusy fruit and chalky minerals, tension. Long tart finish. An elegant, food-friendly wine. (Buy again? Def.)

Saumur 2012, Clos de Guichaux, Domaine Guiberteau ($30.00, 11461099)
Located in Bizay, near Brézé, the Clos de Guichaux is a monopole, meaning Guiberteau owns the entire vineyard and makes all the wine that comes from it. The chalky clay subsoil is covered only by a thin (30 cm) layer of topsoil. At present, about 1.5 hectares of a total 3 hectares has been planted, entirely to Chenin Blanc from massale cuttings taken from the estate’s best old vines in Brézé. As the cuttings were planted in 2003 and 2004, this is a young vines cuvée. The grapes were manually harvested and whole-cluster pressed. Fermentation was with indigenous yeasts and no chaptilization. Maturation lasted ten months and took place in second- to fourth-fill 600-litre oak barrels. The wine was lightly filtered before bottling. 13.5% ABV. Québec agent: Les vins Alain Bélanger.
People got caught up in exclaiming over “Bazooka gum wrapper” aromas but there was lots going on besides: quince, wool, dried honey, a veritable mine of minerals. In the mouth, it’s richer, minerallier and tighter than the domaine bottling. There’s so much stuffing you almost don’t notice the massive acidity. The fruit tends less to citrus, more to peach and apricot, and is buttressed by an intense minerality. A bitter honey note colours the long finish. A bit monolithic but, then again, this is nowhere near peak. (Buy again? Yes.)

Saumur 2011, Brézé, Domaine Guiberteau ($51.25, 12114831)
Sourced from two small parcels of half-century-old, low-yielding vines in the Brézé vineyard. Manually harvested, whole-cluster pressed, transferred into second- and third-fill 228-litre oak casks for fermentation and maceration on the fine lees for up to 24 months. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les vins Alain Bélanger.
A strong bacon aroma dominated the yellow fruit (stone and tropical), caramel, honey, chalky earth and oak (as distinct from vanillin, mocha and smoke). On the palate, suave and… bacony! Elegantly structured: the humming acidity, pure fruit, crunchy minerals and elegant wood are exquisitely balanced. That fruit? Yellow apple-ish and less extracted and driving than in the Guichaux but also deeper, more layered. The oak is discreet and integrating nicely. All the elements intertwine persistently on the long finish. Just beautiful though still a youngster. (Buy again? Yes, to cellar for five to ten years.)

Oddly, neither the Bazooka gum in the Guichaux nor the bacon in the Brézé were noticeable when the wines were opened and carafed, about an hour before they were tasted. The Brézé’s bacon began dissipating after 30 minutes in the glass and had disappeared entirely an hour or so later.

(Flight: 2/6)

Written by carswell

October 18, 2014 at 13:17

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