TN: Four Bottles of Fizz from the Loire

This Friday four notes on four examples of Loire fizz (“The Friday Fizz Four”?), all distinctive in their own way, all fine for drinking now, and all relatively inexpensive.

Two ‘commercial’ wines to start, first up the Flamme d’Or cuvée from Gratien & Meyer, a very large producer based near Saumur, their headquarters a distinictive art deco edifice lookingdown onto the Loire itself. I must confess I don’t tend to drink much from Gratien & Meyer, as I have always associated them with the commercial, profits-through-quantity side of the sparkling wine business. This cuvée, however, was very good indeed, rich, satisfying and yet firm and fresh as all Loire sparklers should be.

Bouvet-Ladubay is similarly commercial, an old firm established in 1851 they buy in fruit from over 150 growers to turn out a complex array of wines some of which in my experience can be very good. I often find the cheaper cuvées, such as the Mlle Ladubay range which is intended for supermarket shelves to be more appetising than the more pricy cuvées, some of which are tarted up with too much oak, residual sugar or fluffy packaging, whereas the ‘lesser’ wines with their freshness, acid and ‘lick-a-stone’ mouthfeel speak much more of the Loire to me. The Rubis is a blend of Cabernet, Gamay and Grolleau and although a demi-sec I’ve never had any problem with the sugar on the palate.

Gratien & Meyer Flamme d’Or Crémant de Loire NV: Current release. A ‘golden flame’ if the name is to be believed, but I am happy to write that this wine is much more typical of the Loire than that rich and exuberant title suggests. A blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, the colour is pale, pale straw, and the bead plentiful, giving a bone-white head of bubbles. The nose is quite delightful, with elements of stone fruit, especially white peach and even mango. This carries through onto the palate, where there are notes of tangerine too. But what keeps it in the Loire is a dry texture, creamy minerality and fresh, vivacious acidity. There are even notes of vanillla, but reminiscent of a fresh seed pod more than anything effusively oaky. A very stylishly composed wine indeed. Drink now to get it at its best, I suspect. 17.5+/20 (September 2009)

Bouvet-Ladubay Rubis Rouge Excellence Demi-Sec NV: Current release. A blend of Cabernet, Gamay and Grolleau. Dark, dusty, black cherry hue, and a vibrant purple froth when poured into the glass. Why do some sparkling reds give a clear/white froth, and others purple? On the nose crunchy dark fruits, plum skin and cherry stone character, with a touch of fatty smoke. Nice weight, a little fleshy but not over the top, well-judged residual sugar giving some body rather than sweetness, balancing out the smoky, crunchy fruits. More summery in style on the palate, with strawberry and loganberry alongside the more grippy fruit elements noted on the nose. Nice, gentle mousse, and just a little tannin in the finish. Good. 16/20 (September 2009)

A move upriver from Saumur to the Touraine duo of Vouvray and Montlouis is necessary for the next two wines. In the case of these two, an interesting comparison of two low-sugar cuvées from Jacky Blot and François Pinon. First up the Triple Zero from Jacky Blot, a cuvée named for the ‘no added sugar’ approach as outlined in my note below. This is a very good wine, although the midpalate is a little flat, something I find with a lot of examples of the extra-brut style. On this occasion I take more pleasure from Pinon’s Non-Dosé cuvéé, but I would be very happy drinking either of these two wines, or indeed either of the two described above.

Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis Pétillant Triple Zero NV: Purchased Summer 2009. The ‘triple zero’ denotes no added sugar at fermentation, or with the liqueur de tirage or indeed with the dosage. This wine has a pale hue and a very subtle bead, with just a few streams of moderately small bubbbles. The nose caries the aromas of sweet, ripe and perfumed dessert apples and a light minerality, very soft in style, suggesting richness. In the mouth it has a creamy entry, is bone dry underneath, with a slightly flat midpalate but lovely style though, with lots of appley, chalky Chenin character. More creamy again at the finish. Great acidity here despite the slightly soft-focus fruit, and a gentle mousse. Supple, full, cream-soda mouthfeel with a bitter edge just at the finish. Moderate length. This is very entertaining, stylish, dry and a great aperitif. 16.5/20 (September 2009)

François Pinon Vouvray Brut Non-Dosé NV: Purchased Summer 2008, at the domaine. A pale golden hue on inspection, and a plentiful bead - as I have noted before. The nose has a lovely, green, nettly, minerally character, with a impressive rocky edge too. Following on the palate has a rich and slightly creamy character, although there’s no doubt that this is wine defined by crispness, freshness and acidity. Lovely, fresh, sour and sappy, juicy and mouth-watering, this is a delightful wine which makes great drinking on a warm day (rare I know) or as a fresh aperitif. Delicious. 17/20 (September 2009)

Not intended as drift, but to add another Loire sparkler to your thread…

Merieau Bulles nv - blend of primarily chenin blanc and a small portion of either chardonnay or sauv blanc (I’ve seen conflicting statements about contents).
Golden yellow color with very aggressive mousse and, oddly, bubbles that are among some of the fattest and others that are among the finest I’ve ever seen in a champagne flute - how does that happen?
Palate shows classic demi-sec vouvray fruit flavors, relatively high dosage, but also strong acidity which I thought did a great job of balancing the sweetness.

I enjoyed this last weekend. The strong dosage and acidity makes me think this could be held a few years and might enjoy some positive development.
This wine was easier for my non-wino wife to enjoy compared to a Huet petillant and Baumard cremant which were much drier wines.

Thanks for the notes. I remember trying the Flamme d’Or a number of years ago not expecting much and being very pleasantly surprised. Haven’t seen it around since then or I would have continued to buy.

I just pulled another bottle of the '02 Huet Petillant to try sometime soon. Looking forward to seeing how it’s done over the last year.

Thanks for the Tasting notes Chris. I have always been attracted to Loire Valley sparklers but unfortunately, my experience with them is that they are either non-descript and lack varietal character or that the producer tries way too hard to emulate Champagne. As much as I love the Idea of chenin based bubbles, I have basically given up on them. Foreau made the only one I have ever enjoyed and just didn’t find it to be nearly as good as his still wines for roughly the same tariff.

It sounds as though Jacky Blot takes his sparklers more seriously then most of his peers and every description I have read of his Triple Zero sounds amazing. Do you think this wine might change my perspective on CB sparklers? I am a little gun shy after getting burned so many times.

Have you tried their sparkling cuvée Zéro? I’ve only tried it once (the 2003, back in July '06) - a bottle during a blisteringly hot day, over lunch at at La Licorne. It cooled my wife and I down very nicely. My old notes, for whatever they are worth:

2003 “Zero” por Bouvet-Ladubay Extra Brut, Saumur - recommended to go with my seafood dishes at La Licorne (an impeccable restaurant, a must in the area) 250-or-so yards from the Fontevraud Abbey on an extremely hot day. As its name states, this is a bone-dry white - bracingly crisp, clean pure white fruit, hints of grapefruit and pre-ripe pear, lots of white mineral, with generous acidity yet doesn’t come off as tart. Very light and bright on the palate. Alluring mild spiciness on the nose didn’t seem to translate onto the palate. As dry a white as I’ve ever had, you could cut your cheek on it. Superb on a hot day. Would be great as an appetizer as well. I would drink this young.

I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your website. It is an excellent resource, one I visit/read very often.

Have you tried the Huet Petillant? It basically falls into the category of “if you don’t like this one then you really don’t like Loire sparklers”.

No. Unfortunately, Huet wines are not distributed in Oregon. I have some still wines coming shortly that I ordered from the internet but his sparklers were not available.

Well, I broke down and bought a bottle of the Triple Zero over the weekend. It was by far the best Chenin based bubbly I have ever had. (Again, no I have not been able to find a Huet). I know that I just complained that too many attemptto emulate champagne but this immediately reminded me of a NV Camille Saves Blanc de Blancs with its nose of hay, nuts and honey.

Very ripe and very creamy on the palate with baked apple and pear notes. After it breathed for a while it started to show some attractive melon and spice as well. Just barely fizzy in the glass but feels very sparkling in the mouth. I don’t know if this really tastes Like Camille Saves, I suspect my memory is tricking me here, but clearly this wine has the quality of nice NV Champagne. I wish it cost less then it’s $24.00 price tag, Jacky Blot makes some excellent still Montlouis at $18.00, but I will almost certainly buy again next time the urge for bubbles strikes.

Thanks again Chris for the great recommendation.

I opened another over the long weekend, and it is doing very, very nicely, I can report.

Thanks guys.

The next pétillant release from Huet will be the 2005 which I am anticipating should be delicious! I am due to meet Noel Pinguet in London tomorrow so I will try and find out when this is expected to arrive on the market.

Re Domaine Huet, few people know that Anthony Hwang, referred to often as “Chinese-American”, was originally from the Philippines.