The Loire, it's languid algal dappled waters forever waiting for that last glimmer of late autumnal sunshine, Nonchalantly cleaving western France in two, it's banks a haven for wine lovers, and it's spread of appellation's and styles so vast as to almost defy fashion. As one regions waxes so another wanes.
So many blog inches have been devoted to the punkish natural wine makers that populate it's shores that one sometimes forgets that there is anything else. The constant clatter of the Joly's of the world shouting down all the non biodynamic, non un-sulphured (surely sulphured would have been easier to type) wines seems to drag all the attention away from the quieter more restrained wine makers.
What fun writing about a restrained and relatively accessible winery like Domaine Vacheron (Waitrose fine wine amongst others) when you can score points by talking up your love for Clos Rougeard or Catherine et Pierre Breton (both incredible wineries btw). What sort of a splash can you make talking about a Sancerre when you could declare your love for naturally fermented sparkling Gamay (the novelty kind of wore off after the second bottle).
Well I'm going to try.
2007; It was sometime in the early summer, the sun light was streaming into the Ashdown Park dining rooms, the gentle East Sussex hills rolled away past the landscaped gardens, the ornamental lake was glistening obsidian, like a particularly flirtatious Kohl rimmed glance, and the sip of Vacheron Sancerre I took prior to serving the bottle was just perfect. Delicately smoky, subtly floral but elegantly restrained. At that moment I would have given anything to be in the Loire... or failing that on the terrace with the rest of the bottle.
Fast forward to the Salon des Vins de Loire in early 08 and I was interested to notice that they were biodynamic (save 3.3ha in conversion 2008), how had I not noticed? Still there weren't really novel enough for me as I was in the first flush of my affair with all things sans Souffre.
The present; Simon from MARC fine wines has dropped by of an afternoon to show us the 08's. It's been some time since I've really looked at the Domaine, and I guess the fault is with me. Their 46ha are 3:1 Sauvignon:Pinot Noir, and about 45:45:10 % flint, limestone and clay.
08 Sancerre, blackcurrant leaf, a spot of flowers, a wink at red fruit and a gorgeous mineral finish. Like a late period Matisse, unadorned but it's the line that counts.
08 Les Romains Sancerre, large size old oak barrels are used for the elevage, which adds a slight waxy gloss to the nose, but really fleshes out the palette, again breeding and elegance are the order of the day, this is a beautifully turned out thoroughbred, elegant and beautiful but with every movement you see the ripple of toned muscle.
Now I'll be blunt here. I've never really seen the point of rose Sancerre, well, that is if you discount separating rich people from their money in the presence of their pretty younger girlfriends, which since I'm neither rich nor blessed with a pretty younger girlfriend, or more pertinently working in the west end has meant that my interest in the category has been rather limited.
The Domaine Vacheron rose 08, actually rather reminded me of a still version of a blanc de noirs Champagne, a touch of soured cream, a lactic backing to some yeasty autolytic characters and some rather unsubtle flirting with summer berry fruits. All very nice, but, as with all rose Sancerre one pays for the privilege.
Similarly to rose Sancerre I've always been a touch wary of Pinot Noir from the region, feeling that too often it lived and died on the novelty of being a Pinot Noir from Sancerre. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the Vacheron with a forceful dark berry nose, at once obviously a Pinot Noir, but also quite distinct, on the nose a sort of smoky medicinal character, calling to mind, camphor, clove, and dark cherry scented summer berries. Elegant, but with a noticeable tannic core which with the fresh acidity made for a quite lovely Pinot. However my host at the tasting couldn't quite give me a convincing enough reason to want to buy the Vacheron, when I could find an excellent Marsannay or Givry for a comparable price, ah the vagaries of fashion and it's subsequent effect on pricing (though that's another post altogether).
So Domaine Vacheron, beautiful and very elegant wines that bring to mind the understated elegance of a Capability Brown garden, though to think of it, I can't really afford one of them either...