Reintroducing the Wines of Azay-le-Rideau Near Chinon in the Loire…

In 2013, longtime friends Nicolas Grosbois and Philippe Mesnier purchased 12 hectares of vines in Azay-le-Rideau, an excellent, though relatively unknown terroir a few kilometers east of Chinon. They immediately began farming all the vines organically, and set about on an ambitious project to reintroduce the wines of Azay-le-Rideau. Traditionally, Azay le Rideau is famous for white wines made from Chenin Blanc, and rosé wines made from Grolleau and Gamay.


Most of the vineyards are located in Azay-le-Rideau on the lieu-dit  “Hauts Baigneux”. The domaine also owns a two hectare plot in Saché, close to the former studio of Alexander Calder, the famous American artist. This great flint-heavy terroir produces the two top cuvées of the domaine: Le Clos des Brancs and Blanc Chenin. In addition to resurrecting the tradition of great wines from these vineyards, the domaine produces excellent reds, and a small amount of white and rosé Petillant Naturel.


The wines of Domaine des Hauts Baigneux are all produced with natural yeast, and bottled with minimal intervention. The cuvées Les Chenes and Les Pentes are delicious vins de soif that showcase the best of Loire Valley. The sparkling wines are fantastic bottles of everyday bubbles, and the single vineyard Chenin Blancs are a testament to the towering quality of this terroir.

Nicolas Grosbois & Philippe Mesnier Grolleau 2016, Domaine des Hauts Baigneux, Vin de France, 12.5 Abv.

Rich, dark fruited, lifted and spicy with hints of incense, candle wax, pot pourri spice and exotic lavender and garrigue herbal notes. Palate is direct and crisp, crunchy and fresh with vibrant cranberry, raspberry and dark sour plum. Plenty of spicy, grippy, wet chalk complexity, this really is an energetic, intense expression offering very enjoyable drinkability. Zero added sulphur and only 600 bottles produced in this, the maiden vintage. 

(Wine safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Noble de Ladoucette Pouilly Fume 2014, 12.5 Abv, Loire…

Pouilly-Fumé and the other Central Loire Vineyards were very fortunate in 2014. Not only did they have a good vintage but they had a fairly generous vintage unlike other parts of the Loire where many producers had their third successive short vintage. In Pouilly quality producers harvested around 60 hl/ha and the quality was high. Indeed, 2014 appears to be similar to a vintage such as 1990 where both the yields and quality were high. 


The colour of this vibrant wine bristles with a lime green tinge to a brilliant bright pale straw yellow. The super complex nose drifts between hints of cut grass, green pepper corns, capsicum, lemon grass, lime peel and crunchy white citrus fruit. Then more nuances of gun flint, struck flint, dusty limestone and wet chalk. Wow, a lot going on here and I haven’t even tasted the wine yet. Every time you return to the glass the wine has revealed another aromatic layer, the sign of true pedigree. The last tangerine aromas becon the first sip. Crisp and crunchy, this wine is harmonious and beautifully balanced, but simultaneously crunchy and bright with tart green apple acidity, cut grass, gooseberry fruits, and a lemon – lime marmalade concentration. The finish is pithy, spicy, and cool with a grassy, herby verve. A seriously complex, accomplished wine from one of the best white vintages in the Loire valley in over a decade. Buy this beauty while you can!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Michel Redde et Fils Barre à Mine Blanc Fume de Pouilly 2014…

In 2009, Loire boutique producer Michel Redde began a titanic and unique project in an old disused flint quarry called Les Champs des Froids in the Village of Tracy-sur-Loire. 


The site, which has a beautiful south west exposure, was cleared by the domaine, prepared and planted with 4 hectares of vines on the rocky flint soils. The vines were planted with the aid of a crowbar (barre à mine) and 2014, the first harvest, yielded an unexpectedly exceptional level of fruit quality.


Vines are grown on Kimmeridgian Marl and Cretaceous Flint soils, that yield on average 40 to 45 hl/hectare. Vinification takes place in large barrels and demi-muids with 16 to 18 months of aging. Bottling takes place after a light bentonite fining. The wine has an impressively low pH of 3.14 but also a low(ish) total acidity of 4.4 g/l, at a 13 Abv.


Tasting Note: Michel Redde et Fils Barre à Mine Blanc Fume de Pouilly 2014 – This is top drawer Sauvignon Blanc. It has an explosive nose of gooseberries, white pepper, tangerines, orange peel, passion fruit confit and apple purée. Beautifully exotic and seductive. The palate follows the nose exactly with turbo charged flavours of white flint, stone fruits, tangerines, passion fruit and green apples and a subtle saline bite on the finish. Such lovely mid palate fleshy fruit and vibrant, bristling acidity. You don’t get this sort of concentration and flavour complexity from average vineyards… only the best sites. 2014 was an excellent vintage in the Loire and this exotic, impressive expression of Sauvignon Blanc bears testament to the fact. (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The dirty secrets are out… My Dirty Dozen Top 12 stand out wines.

The 27th September 2016 saw another edition of the Dirty Dozen Trade Tasting at the Vinyl Factory in London. 

This is still one of the most exciting events on the London tasting circuit as all the twelve “members” still endeavour to show some of the top wines in their portfolios.

Inevitably, over the years, the wines on taste have become ever so slightly more pedestrian as there really isn’t any point putting a wine on a tasting when it’s sold out pre-release on allocation… and most unicorn wines are certainly pre-allocated and practically unobtainable for most trade new comers. 

But I suppose these are the fine wine times we live in. Scarcity and rarity rule the roost. We all want what we can’t have. Nevertheless, here is a photographic snapshot of my top 12 wines tasted…in no particular ranking…in case you were not able to attend and want some top tips!




Whites:

Dewaldt Heyns Weathered Hands Viognier 2015 Tulbagh

Blank Bottle Riesling 2015 Elgin

Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc 2015 

Storm Vrede Chardonnay 2015 Hemel-en-Aarde

Pojere & Sandri Faye Bianco 2013 Dolomiti

Domaine Heitz-Lochardet Chassange-Montrachet 1er Cru La Maltroye 2013

Reds:

Niepoort Poeirinho Baga Bairrada Tinto 2013

Niepoort Conciso Dao Tinto 2012

Envinate Albahra Tinto 2014

Mother Rock Mourvèdre 2015 Swartland

De Toren Fusion V 2012 Stellenbosch

Savage Red Blend 2014 Western Cape