ANJOU AND BEYOND, 2019
Leaving Angers, crossing the swollen Loire and descending into the valleys of the Layon and its tributaries it is easy to see why the region was so important for wine production in the Middle Ages. The Plantagenets and elite of mediaeval Angers must have been well pleased to have such a special place on their doorstep as they sipped their Gouais and Plant d’Anjou.
It is also easy to see the battle that is fought between today’s Angevins and both the climate and landscape that both so closely resemble our own; perhaps this is why the Plantagenets came to call our own island home. The climate as it is, the Angevins have suffered some challenging vintages of late but 2018 saw a bumper crop and brimming tanks for pretty much all. The growing season started off in a worrisome way with lots of rain but turned on a sixpence to finish with an extended period of warm dry weather that has resulted in rich solar wines, the Chenins particularly. The schist rich soil of “Anjou Noir” comes into play in years like this, absorbing the sun’s rays and storing their warmth. Across the board we tasted Chenin that was showing its exuberant, tropical side whilst guarding some insane acidity and minerality.
Les Vignes de Babass
Babass was really happy with the way things turned out in 2018. A good yield from his 3 hectares and the quality was great.
In the tanks the Chenin destined for his Joseoph Anne Françoise cuvée was stunning—big and textured but with a serious lick of fruity acidity. There was still a bit of sugar left which is always difficult to taste through but this should finish when the temperatures rise a little. Though the style has changed from the funky spritzy output of a few years ago the most recent vintages have shown a texture, poise and delicacy that many have found surprising. This is surely due to Babass’ work in his vineyards and his meticulous attention to the soil. The Chenin vines that Babass planted next to the Joseph, Anne, Francoise parcel in 2015 are flourishing and he is starting a project of marcottage throughout his 3 hectares.
We will be receiving the 2018 Groll n’ Roll shortly which is certainly richer than it has been but still feels fresh and gluggable. We have just received Roc’ Cab and Joseph, Anne, Francoise from 2017.
JC was on very good form with his tanks full after a very good harvest. He is starting a process of slight expansion having lost a portion of the vineyard that makes up his cuvée Les Tailles. He has bought a couple of small plots not far from the cellar and planted a small amount of Pinot d’Aunis that take his total surface up to nearly 8ha.
In the cellar the Roche Bezigon was sitting in its usual hugetonneauand tasting great, already dry. La Roche was in a fibre tank this year for fermentation and ageing whereas previously this had been in barrel. We have just received JC’s Bezigon 2017 which is singing.
Jerome did not have the harvest that his neighbours did. He produced one fibre tank that is only half full, a tiny amount compared to the others. This single tank is a blend of all the grapes that JeJe has – Chenin, Sauvignon, Cabernets, Grolleau and Gamay. It hadn’t finished fermenting yet but promises to be very very interesting. In 2018 Jerome harvested “wild” grapes that grow along the banks of the Loire. These vines were planted decades ago by people trying to maximise planting space and for the most part they are hybrids designed to deal with humid conditions. We tasted through a range of these that were in demi-johns in the cellar. Really bonkers stuff. He’s not sure what he will do with them.
Despite the problems with his dry wines somehow Jerome still manages to produce some of the most amazing sweet Chenin Blanc. We have just received some of the 2009 sweet Chenin and Salamandre (a blend of white and red from 2017).
We are really excited to have the opportunity to bring over a few bottles from Didier Chaffardon. Originally from Savoie, Didier arrived in Anjou at the end of 1996 and after working with winemakers in the area for nearly 10 years took over the 3ha that he now farms. The vineyards are made up of Chenin, Cabernet and Grolleau in 3 parcels planted on the schist of the Anjou noir and different types of clay.
Tasting in Didier’s cellar is something of a mystical experience. He jumps from tank to barrel, pipette in hand, Bach playing, extracting wines that each time leave us agape. These wines are certainly recognisable as their respective grapes but yet express something totally unique for the area. They are complex, deep and extremely drinkable. While the reds display crunchy fruit, firm tannins and occasionally the gaminess associated with Cab Franc and Grolleau the whites show all the possibilities of Chenin; richness, minerality, acidity and sometimes residual sugar. We have received a smattering of wines from Didier, white and red, which will be appearing on our list very soon.
Away from Anjou now heading East….
Vincent Wallard aka Tonton
We are also very pleased to have received some of the new releases from itinerant winemaker Vincent Wallard. Vincent is an old friend who has been spending half his year making wine in Argentina and the other half in Borgueil. In 2015 Vincent made two wines from grapes bought from Thibaut Stephan in Puy-Notre-Dame, a Chenin Blanc and a Cabernet Franc. The Chenin spent 18 months in 3 barrels bought from Patrick Bouju. The Cabernet is an blend of 3 different vinifications: the first a 5 week carbonic maceration; the second partial carbonic; and the third fully destemmed by hand. After blending, the wine spent 16 months in old oak barrels. Both wines are an absolute joy.