Monday, June 04, 2007

I Heart Augé

Well, this Saturday was another fabulously beautiful weekend in Paris, and we woke up in the 5th arrondissement of Paris with our friend Philippe snoring in the living room - he'd come down from Lille the evening before and we'd gone out for some Lyonnais food, washed down with a good 2001 Bruno Clair Marsannay.

This day, though, after the coffee, o.j., croissants and Sauvignon jelly, we were heading out to the 8th arrondissement, where the Caves Augé were holding a big Loire tasting. Some twenty producers, spanning from Saumur to Sancerre (strangely, none from Anjou or the Muscadet area).

It was sunny and clear out with a light breeze and we reached Augé at 11:30 in the morning.

The atmosphere is exceptional; the winemakers are there in person at barrels, and you can talk and chat and even make insulting jokes, which Arnaud did a few times just for a laugh (n.b. some Touraine producers do not like being asked when they're going to hire Michel Rolland... but some Bourgueil makers burst out laughing).

2005 Paul Prieur Sancerre white, 2006 white and then rosé, then 2005 red. Mm. Prieur has always been one of my very favorite Sancerre producers, and the 2005 is pure while being very rich. The 2006 is lighter, tiny white-flowery, and lovely. The rosé has a lot of character. And red Sancerre... Hrrm, that's where we must part ways...

Hervé Villemade makes a range of Chevernys that are just excellent. From the entry-level 2006 white (a mix of Sauvignon and Chardonnay) to the Chenin-based higher level Cheverny to the exotic, oxydative Cour-Cheverny on over to the fruity, tangy and complex reds, I loved his whole lineup, and I am now planning on going straight to Villemade next time I'm in Cheverny, which will probably happen before the end of the summer.

By fall, we should make it over to Chinon and Bourgueil, which is nice, because Pierre & Catherine Breton's wines are still great (we tasted the lineup in March with Catherine at the Salon des Vignerons Indépendants, but that didn't stop us from tasting it again with Pierre on Saturday - two of the most knowledgeable and congenial winemakers you can imagine, and I was consoled to learn - after the catastrophic news in March that they were losing the Picasses parcel in Chinon - that a new piece of Chinon is in the works...)

The suave Chenins from Château Yvonne in Saumur reconciled me with that tricky-to-like (for me) grape. And I also liked a lean, vegetal (but in a good way) 2000 Clos des Roches Chinon, which reminded me of the style of Arnaud's grandfather - and lo, it turns out they're in Beaumont-en-Véron as well. Nice catch, I tell myself!

Late in the tasting, we met up with a Belfast native and current Paris resident Neil, who downed a few more tastes with us, and then we all went nearby for a big, cheap lunch, washed down with... a bottle of Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. We are, of course, incorrigible.


peter said...

I'm looking to try some Chinon's, there were a couple Kermit Lynch selections that caught my eye...

Have you had any Joguet wines?

Sharon said...

Yes! I did a complete lineup of them in April.

Here's what I posted on eBob:

Joguet's Chinons are the picture of elegant, well-made, and terroir-expressing wines.

2005 Clos de la Plante Martin - This white falls under the "Touraine" appellation. It's a delicious, floral and unripe-exotic-fruit chenin blanc, with just a hint of oak lurking behind it. Surprisingly full-bodied and elegant.

2005 Cuvée Terroir - This is the entry-level Chinon. Already a pleasing, round and nicely-made wine, it wasn't until we moved on to the next one that I saw how it kind of hid its "Chinon-ness" behind a more level-handed red table wine approach.

2004 Les Petites Roches - Ah! There's the underbrush and green-ness. Mouth-filling, testy, old-school Chinon, with a little extra polish. I loved this.

2005 Les Petites Roches - More smooth than the precedent, and actually I liked it less, because it seemed less rooted in its particular soil and region.

2004 Clos de la Cure - Vines grown in a gravelly parcel, and you can taste that. The northern exposure makes it somewhat richer. A nice transition between the entry-level wines and the longer-guard ones.

2004 Les Varennes du Grand Clos - This is the grafted part of the Varennes. A stately Chinon, with smooth cabernet franc and violets and blackberries. I was curious to see how this would compare with the franc de pied.

2004 Les Varennes du Grand Clos Franc de pied - From the same parcel as above, but from ungrafted vines (which are currently dying from the phylloxera louse; I believe 2005 will be the last of this wine). Similar in style to the grafted version, it had nonetheless a somewhat more "rafleux," tannic side to it, with more spicy verve than the grafted version. (Yet somehow I liked the smoothness of the grafted version, too.)

2004 Clos du Chêne Vert - Mmm, quite a hedonistic cuvée. Dense and suave, classic, with just a tiny touch of the Chinon mossy undergrowth at the end, like a crooner's wink at the end of his song.

2004 Clos de la Dioterie - Just when I thought I'd found my favorite Chinon, we reached the top of their lineup, and I was impressed. Unctuous fruits and smooth tannins, elegance.

2001 Clos de la Dioterie - And here, we were tasting a smoothed-out version of the previous. Full and lush, with six years now and well-rounded. Not as "Chinon" as some of the others (with the mixed reception that might imply), but proud and full-bodied cabernet franc.

To finish the tasting off, we tasted the new cuvée, which is a sweet chenin-based wine (I didn't note the name). The 2005 was young and floral, but maybe too primary for my tastes. But this was a first-time experiment and a very young wine, so they may get more refined with age.

In any case, in tasting the reds, I was reminded of what is best in the classic Chinon style, across the gamut. Really well-made wines, here, from Joguet.

maarten said...

Prieurs wines are indeed lovely! Even the red ones, imho. I opened a bottle of 2004 yesterdag evening, a far better Pinot Noir than I had exptected.