We spend the morning yesterday at Domaine aux Moines in Savennières with some guests from Houston, Texas and enjoyed a very interesting vertical tasting with Mme Laroche. As you know, the Loire valley is a huge winemaking region and many winemakers in Anjou produce a whole plethora of wines making the tasting proposition a confusing one. Tasting just one wine from a range of different vintages is sometimes a much better way of understanding what makes one appellation different from another.
Pruning at the domaine is just over. Due to the very cold spell we have had here since Christmas, the vines are well behind schedule which is good news as this will have the effect of delaying budburst and in turn offer more protection against late frosts that can make or break yield in this cool climate region. They are pruned leaving two small canes on either side with just 2 or 3 buds (or nodes) on each side and no spurs to provide a back up in the event of frost or to provide for the following year. The young vines (15 years old), have been left with one short cane and one long cane. This, explains Mme Laroche is to 'tire out' the vines. The long cane will be left in place until June when it will be cut off. The prunings and all taken out of the vineyard and burnt to avoid spreading the risk of esca which is a problem in the Loire valley. In addition, vines that are suffering from esca are pruned last and with different secateurs to avoid cross contamination.
This disease has no cure so is a real and persistent problem for vinegrowers in the Loire valley. In the past, there was a noxious chemical formula that dealt with it but this has since been banned and no natural product has been developed since.
To the wines - we tried a range of vintages of the Domaine aux Moines, Savennières-Roches-aux-Moines. This sub-appellation of Savennières covers an area of 33 hectares although Mme Laroche tells us that only 15-17 hectares are actually under vine.
Pale golden colour with honeysuckle and white flowers on the nose. A real grapefruit element on the palate with acidity not too dominant. Warm and long on the palate. A great match for white meats. Not strikingly mineral for a Savennières but think this element will development over time.
Pale golden colour, a little richer looking than the 2004. This was a fatter vintage and has a maturity on the nose that it not normally this developed in a wine of this age. Less floral and more waxy lanolin notes. Lighter and softer on the palate and softer on the finish. This has a bigger mouthfeel than the 04 and would make a good match to fish with a creamy sauce.
Tiny yields during this vintage due to frost (17hl/ha). This wine is slightly paler in colour and has striking primary pear fruit on the nose. On the palate a great rush of wonderful acidity backs it up. Going to have a problem keeping this one in the cellar because it's delicious now but one can see it has huge ageing potential. Would be perfect with a young goat's cheese or platter of fruits de mers.
The colour has moved to a rich golden colour. Wonderful honey, nuts and acacia aromas on the nose. Rich and hazlenutty on the palate with a wild honey note carrying through right to the end. The finish is rich and a little mineral. Exotic and interesting - would be good with something spicey not hot.
Rich deep golden colour. Incredible earthy spicey notes on the nose with lots of wild honey, white flowers and a hint of saffron. On the palate the saffron note is completely dominant and delicious. A perfumed medicinal note with almonds, dried fruits and spices. Absolutely delicious and long on the finish, more so than the 2000. This would be wonderful with a saffron risotto, wild mushroom risotto or even a tagine. The wine is big enough to take on a meat dish and Mme Laroche says it also goes well with asparagus (tricky one to match) and truffles. This was a very tricky vintage and there were 7 passes through the vineyard.
A very informative and enlightening tasting that really illustrated vintage variation. How one grape variety can produce wines from one terroir that are so different and yet so equally pleasing is one of life's mysteries and pleasures.
For the record, we bough half a dozen of the 2008 and half of dozen of the 1992 - from one extreme to another.
Photos to follow.