2013 was not kind to the appellation: a devastating hailstorm in summer and a rainy late season and cold spring reduced yields and made the growers struggle mightily to produce top-level wines. We will wait for subsequent visits to judge this challenging vintage.
At the Clos de la Meslerie in the hills above Vernou-sur-Brenne and adjacent to and a few moments from Vouvray, we are looking forward to two contrasting vintages: 2011 and 2012. The latter produced a very small quantity of wine, approximately 3000 bottles, about half of what the estate has produced annually over the prior four years. A good deal of the loss was purposeful as Peter Hahn conducted a severe selection at harvest to insure top-notch quality. For the first time at this domaine since its acquisition by Peter, the Meslerie will be “sec”. The wine is firmly mineral underlying a slightly bitter orange flavor offering another view of this unique part of the Vouvray appellation.
The 2011 at Meslerie is a more classic “demi-sec” version clocking in at 13 grams of residual sugar. It is quite fine and delicate basking in its strong Chenin character and finishes gently dry – a wine that should prove to be a highly versatile companion at the table.
Later in the AM, Philippe Foreau and I wandered through, as we usually have done for the past 30+ years, an intriguing variety of vintages. We first tackled three vintages of Vouvray Brut: the 2010, 2009 and 2008. The latter is what we currently have on offer and which is showing great depth of flavor. Philippe is now more or less out of stock so we will be moving into the following two vintages during 2014. The 2009 is quite rich, benefiting from 39 months “sur latte” before its recent disgorgement. Philippe produced a very small amount of Brut in this vintage so we will ship our lot early in 2014 and then move into the 2010 later in the year. The ’10 is clean, bright and lively, less “fat” than the ’09 and quite promising. Using the small quantity of the ’09 as a transition vintage will give us (and Philippe) additional time for this 2010 Methode Traditionelle to rest on the lees.
We next tackled the 2012 and 2011 Sec. The ’12 is pale in color, carries only 2.9 grams of residual and has a lovely lemon-confit touch on the palate and nose. It has a nice level of acidity, higher than ’11 and lower than ’10. Foreau is convinced that this wine will take its time evolving and will prove to be a worthy candidate for many moons – another wine to “collect”.
The lone Demi-Sec of the morning session was the 2003 which we re-visited at my request since the domaine has set aside a reserve for us. The DS ’03 has a honeyed nose with a hint of smoke and is savory with lychee-melon flavors (Philippe’s description!). Foreau, a master at the food and wine marriage game, likes this bottle particularly paired with Asian-influenced cuisine, even more specifically with curries or coconut-influenced dishes.
We wrapped up the session with a trio of Moelleux: 2011, 2010 and 1999 (the latter of which Philippe has also squirreled away for us for a number of years). To create some context, the ’11 is fatter and more dense than the ’10 but less fat than the ’09. Though I find this wine less elegant than the following ’10 at the moment, Philippe is convinced that this wine will have a long and glorious run – a waiting period of 10 years or so for it to approach its apogee. The ’10 is very fine, rich but subtle, wonderfully persistent in its finish and a wine that I think will perform particularly well at the table on a variety of levels. The ’99 Moelleux has a beautiful golden robe and a complex mix of flavors that range from an iodine-infused salinity to tangerine zest. It’s not a full-bore Moelleux, almost at the crossroads of Demi-Sec and Moelleux at 35 grams of residual sugar … an intriguing wine that we will continue to work over the coming months.
Philippe and I had a quite pleasant lunch together, simple but hearty, at a little bistro tucked into the cliffs of Vouvray at the entry to the Coquette Valley: Les Gueules Noires … definitely worth a stop one day.