It’s a dialogue I am hearing more and more frequently. Clos Rougeard? No thanks, the prices are ridiculous now. Indeed, other than a few premium restaurants, I don’t know many merchants that actually took their allocations of the 2013 new release wines last year.
Nowadays, there are certainly a few contenders to the Cabernet Franc throne… like Antoine Sanzay, who shares a link to the Foucault family and cultivates a bigger part of the Poyeaux site. Domaine de Collier of course, Guiberteau as well. But for me, and also for Loire aficionado Jim Budd, the estate most in the spiritual mould of the old Clos Rougeard estate, is La Porte St Jean, run by Sylvain Dittiere, the son in law of Charlie and Francoise Foucault.
To quote Jim Budd… “I fancy that Charly Foucault would feel more at home here at La Porte Saint Jean than at Clos Rougeard now that it has been bought by Martin Bouygues. While I was with Sylvain, Pauline and Francoise Foucault, visiting Sylvain, I felt a strong sense that Charlie’s esprit lives on here”.
The Domaine covers 8.5ha around Montrueil-Bellay where Sylvain cultivates his plots with huge dedication. He makes two whites, Saut-Mignon (Sauvignon Blanc) and La Perlée (usually in Saumur but more frequently in Vin de France designation). These are made from 60 to 90 years old Chenin Blanc.
His red Saumur cuvées, Les Cormiers and Porte St Jean are matured for 18-24 months in barrel in an ancient limestone cellar from the 16 century. Long elevage is a staple of the style here and the wines are built to last. Sylvain served an extensive apprenticeship before setting up La Porte Saint Jean with stints at Thierry Germain, Gerard Gauby, Marc Tempe, and (of course) the Foucault brothers at Clos Rougeard.
Sylvain Dittiere La Porte Saint Jean 2016 Rouge, Saumur-Champigny AOC, 12.5 Abv.
A vintage that only recently arrived in the UK, it shows a dense, dark, intense purple plum colour. Initially when opened, it was very tight, dark fruited, broody and quite reductive with cassis and struck match spice intermingling with notes of lead pencil, cedar, graphite and sweet leaf. But a few hours in a decanter, and this wine has started to shed its protective layers of armour to reveal a modest glimpse of where this wine will possibly be in 5 to 8 years time. The aromatics are elegant and floral with intriguingly complex notes of grilled herbs, smoked meats, carpaccio, cassis leaf and the most incredibly intense red cherry fruit concentration. The palate too is dense and broody, but incredibly precise and focused, slowly loosening its linear grip to show very elegant fine tannins, delicious vibrant tart red cherry acids, iodine, salty brine, tart cassis and a fantastically cool, smooth elegant persistence. Wow, there is a whole lot of wine in this bottle. Still fantastically youthful, this wine oozes tension, energy, passion and artisanal blood, sweat and tears. A truly remarkable wine that just keeps on opening up revealing more and more nuances the longer it spends in the glass. This is noble Loire Cabernet Franc at its very best.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)