Last week The Wine Society came to town with a tasting at The Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle. The theme was Loire and Beaujolais, a summery focus as both regions produce light, fresh wines.
As usual the tasting was held in the Collingwood Room at the Royal Station Hotel, a large banquet hall where the tables are laid out around the edges, allowing the tasters to mill around the centre the several tactically positioned spittoons. Liz and Emma were present from the tasting team but the big guns were out in force with Society buyers and resident experts Joanna Locke MW (Loire) and Marcel Orford Williams (Beaujolais) along with a selection of producers and distributors for some of the wines.
There was an impressive 28 wines on show that evening from Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine in the far west, through the central Loire and east to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, then down to Beaujolais in the southeast. As usual I stuck to a white-then-red plan for the main tasting (revisiting a couple of favourites before the end). It was interesting to see Irwin Thompson of Tyne Wines checking out the completition, as he specialises in France and in particular Beaujolais. I’ve restricted my notes to the more intriguing wines that stood out or contrasted the most.
Les Domaines Chéreau Carré had 3 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine but it was their 2010 Château L’Oiselinière de la Ramée that impressed with a smooth and gentle taste and some lemon sherbert dryness on the finish, a good wine at £7.95 a bottle.
Chenin Blanc was next and Domaine Huet is the most prestigious names in Vouvray, the Loire’s Chenin-only appellation. The 2006 Vouvray Pétillant was made using the méthode ancestral technique, where partially fermented wine is bottled and fermentation completed in bottle, resulting in a lightly sparkling wine with about half the pressure of a méthode traditionnelle. This had a strong, somewhat unusual nose and taste, a little toasty yet savoury. The fizz made it interesting, but the strange flavour profile meant I wasn’t sure I liked it. More to my taste was the 2002 Le Mont Sec, in half bottles for £11.95. This had an intense floral nose and was very dry but with a luxurious texture. The finish was even drier with the floral aspects returning – a thought-provoking wine.
We changed grapes to Sauvignon Blanc with la Famille Bougrier and the Domaine Guénault 2010 Touraine Sauvignon. This had a strong, pungent nose reminiscent of New World Sauvignons, fresh with a dry bitterness, but not my style, unlike their 2010 Les Hauts Lieux Touraine Sauvignon which had a smoother nose and a full bodied texture, gently balanced with some lemon and nettle giving it an interesting edge, a bargain at £7.25 a bottle.
The final Sauvignon of note was the Domaine Seguin 2010 Pouilly-Fumé with a mellow nose, just enough hint of Sauvignon to state its case, but wrapped in subtlety. There was a little tingle on the tongue on the first sip and then a dry citrus acidity carrying through to the finish. This was an excellent wine, multi-layered flavours with a superb texture and, at £12.50 a bottle, definitely worth trying.
Unfortunately Loire rosés and reds were in short supply, I talked with Joanna Locke about this and she admitted that the joint theme with Beaujolais meant the Loire was always going to be dominated by the whites with no representation from some of my favourite Cabernet Franc areas (Chinon, Saumur-Champigny and Bourgueil).
Sadly the best description of the rosés was “avoidable”. Famille Bougrier showed their 2010 Rosé d’Anjou which was a deep, vibrant pink with a candy sweet nose which continued into the taste – too sweet, too simple and too confected. Domaine Serge Laloue had their 2010 Sancerre Rosé which was at the opposite end of the spectrum; a light, delicate salmon pink colour with a pleasant creamy red fruit nose but followed by a sharp attack. Although the finish was enjoyable this was otherwise a severely dry wine with unbalanced acidity
The Beaujolais reds were most noteworthy, with Maison Trenel dominating the table with 6 wines on show. They were also the only one from Beaujolais to show something other than red with the Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Nature, which had a part-baked apple nose, dry in the mouth with good texture and ripe fruit flavours – good value at £13.95 a bottle.
Staying with Trenel and the 2010 Chiroubles showed young, sweet fruit which continues into the taste. There were youthful tannins on the mid-palate and a dry, slightly bitter edge on the finish – a little austere but still good. The 2009 Esprit de Marius Sangouard Juliénas (named in tribute to an old winemaker from the area) had a savoury, meaty nose with strong underlying fruit, mild tannins on the mid-palate and a dash of quinine bitterness on the finish – an excellent balance of textures and flavours and a bargain at £9.50 a bottle.
The 2009 Fleurie was the only Trenel wine that was disappointing, there was a lack of balance which didn’t sit right in comparison to the other wines around it, such as their 2009 Côte de Brouilly which had some depth to the nose with berry fruit and ash. It was smooth and warming with an interesting grip, good underlying fruit and a long finish.
The final Trenel wine was the Domaine de la Tour du Bief, Tirage Limite 2005 Moulin-à-Vent, an unusual bottle-aged Beaujolais which had an intriguing spicy/sour nose with a meaty aspect. This was a light wine, very smooth with gentle tannins – any primary fruit had long gone but was replaced with complex, delicate secondary flavours and I enjoyed this a lot (although others in the room didn’t feel the same).
Of the other Beaujolais producers in the room the Domaine des Hautes de Chasselay 2009 Coteaux du Lyonnais by Jacques Depagneux had a smoky nose with underlying red berries (a consistent theme of the evening). Well balanced with a dry mid-palate and a hint of strawberry on the finish this was a well made light red, as was The Society’s 2009 Beaujolais Villages which had a tight nose but was very easy in the mouth, light but with just enough tannins to interest and good value at £6.95 a bottle.
Château du Ringuet 2010 Beaujolais-Perréon had a structured nose which suggested more age and integration than the 2010 on the label stated. There was some creamy berry fruit and a pleasant mouthfeel, the taste more youthful than the nose, with a slightly bubble-gum aspect which did not detract.
Durand 2010 Brouilly Pisse-Vieille is named for Brouilly’s famous Pisse-Vielle vineyard. The legend goes that an old lady was being given absolution by the local priest but when he said “Allez, et ne pêchez plus” (Go, and sin no more) she misheard “Allez, et ne pissez plus” (Go, and piss no more). Distraught at such a command the woman tried to obey, but her concerned husband soon went to the priest and learned the mistake, rushing back and shouting before he got through the door “pisse vielle! pisse vielle! le curé la dit” (Piss old woman, the priest has said so!). Luckily the wine bore no relation to the label, with a fresh nose and hints of fruit, although not too expressive. There was good acidity, light tannins and enjoyable fruit, uncomplicated and pleasant drinking.
The Society’s Exhibition 2009 Moulin-à-Vent had a creamy fruit nose with fresh flavours, balanced with mild tannins on the mid-palate and a well integrated finish with decent complexity, another good wine and the last of the notes.
The Wine Society has a good selection of Loire and Beaujolais wines (although some suffer from France’s inability to offer competetive prices compared to pure quality). These regions are often overlooked by consumers but they can both produce decent, if somewhat light, wines in a fresh style – perfect with food.
For me the stand out wines of the night were the Domaine Seguin 2010 Pouilly-Fumé and three of the Trenel wines, the 2009 Esprit de Marius Sangouard Juliénas, 2009 Côte de Brouilly and the Domaine de la Tour di Bief, Tirage Limite 2005 Moulin-à-Vent. Each of these had a special character that raised them above the other wines, and I suspect that an order to the Wine Society in the next month or so will include these, if they’re still available of course.
It was also good to see wine producers pouring & talking about their own wines and to be able to talk with Society buyers at a tasting (the first time since I joined the Society that any have ventured to the frozen North East!).