TN: Vacation Wines (Loire, Rhône, Jura)

VACATION WINES (LOIRE, RHÔNE, JURA) - Chez M. (02.09.2013)

My friend M. had gathered some vacation wines, bought en route to Southern France in various years, mostly at the producers themselves, but also some in shops. They were all served blind, except for the Champagne. We only uncovered at the end. This was more about eating, drinking some wine and discussing politics than about concentrated tasting, so the notes may be a little sketchy.

  • NV Froment-Griffon Champagne Brut Séléction - France, Champagne, Chamery, Champagne
    Blanc de Noir blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Very light yellow, fine bubbles. In the nose silvery, pineapple, quince and nuts. Very linear, fresh. On the palate, it’s dry, lemony, again with fine bubbles, quite nutty, green and white fruit in the finish (gooseberry, white currant). Really quite good. (90 pts.)

  • 2008 M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage
    Pale yellow. In the nose, this is a bit flashy with exotic notes, something bitter, lots of wax and some elderflower sirup. It smells a little generic of “white wine”. On the palate, it’s very dry, quite bitter, there are lots of white flowers, but no perceivable acidity. Slightly watery, very simple. Dumb phase or not much there? (81 pts.)

  • 2008 Les Cailloux du Paradis (Claude Courtois) Quartz - France, Loire Valley, Vin de pays du Loir-et-Cher
    Pale light yellow. In the nose, this is very vin naturel. There are oxidative notes, but they blow away or I get used to them. There’s also some apple must, slightly green notes (gooseberry), sweet honey melon, something lactic and nutty notes. On the palate, it’s got a very prominent acidity, it’s quite expressive and persistent. Apple must again. Quite fresh, good length, very direct. You gotta like vin naturel type wines to like this, but I think it’s very well done and a good expression of Sauvignon Blanc (we guessed the grape blind). (89 pts.)

  • 2008 Château Husson Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Clear yellow with green notes. In the nose, there’s lots of oak, lots of oak. It’s hard to smell something underneath, but with some air, it gets better. It then displays some pear, white peach and quince. Quite expressive actually. On the palate, this has a really good structure, lots of extract, very mild acidity, lots of fruit in the finish. No alcohol showing through (it’s 13.5 % Vol.). I like it. (88 pts.)

  • 2008 Domaine Huet Vouvray Demi-Sec Le Haut-Lieu - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Medium yellow. The nose is terrible. There are typical notes of candied ginger, ripe apricot, honey and quince. But there’s an overriding pungent smell of chicken broth, asparagus water and cheese rind that makes the nose seriously hard to bear. Don’t know what the problem is, but there is something wrong with the nose. On the palate, the wine is truly fantastic with a beautiful interplay of fruity sweetness and acidity, exotic notes (passion fruit) and great minerality. Really long finish.

  • 2007 Desire Petit et Fils Arbois Pupillin - France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin
    Light yellow. In the nose, it’s very “classic” non-ouillé Savagnin, but without much finesse. Nuts, curry and other yellow spices. Hints of elegance, but not much complexity. On the palate, it’s slightly yeasty, very spicy, it’s got some tannins, chalky acidity. Breaks down quickly in the finish. Not bad, but not great either. (85 pts.)

  • 2007 André Perret St. Joseph Les Grisières - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
    Shining dark crimson colour. The first glass was absolutely terrible, nothing but cold and hard wood, cold ash and cigarette smoke, hints of vanilla and cherry, very grainy. On the palate, thin fruit, some petrol, terrible bitterness in the finish. The wine had been opened the morning of the night we drank it. It should have been decanted. The second glass an hour later was way better and really wonderful, the oak having gone from cold to spicy, the fruit shining through, ripe red currant and black cherry as well as blackberry. Very elegant. On the palate, it also got way better with black pepper, lots of spice, small black and red berries, a fairly edgy structure and ripe, but gripping tannins. Then, the bottle was empty. If I still had some of this, I’d let it sit for way longer and decant for a half hour or so. (90 pts.)

  • 2010 Domaine de La Pigeade Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise
    Very light yellow. In the nose, this was instantly recognizable as Muscat, I had guessed Muscat from Languedoc. There’s pear, grapey notes, white flowers, honey and apricot. On the palate, it’s very grapey again, rather sweet, slightly oily, happy and forthcoming, but also a bit simple and slightly alcoholic in the finish. (87 pts.)

We guessed most wines into the right direction, but the only wine that was identified blind correctly (except for the vineyard and the year) was the Huet Demi-Sec. The Huet was also the most controversial wine, while about two thirds of the round found the nose to be absolutely terrible, the last third did not smell the rather unpleasant notes of chicken broth, asparagus water and cheese rind. It wasn’t as strong in some moments, but always came back. I had this smell at another Huet (a 1946 Le Mont Demi-Sec according to Noel Pinguet, which was labeled as a 1945 Le Haut Lieu Moelleux), but I still don’t grasp it, especially because the wine was so great on the palate with the unpleasant notes not coming through.

It was a pity that we hadn’t decanted the Perret St. Joseph as it was just too heavily marked by oak in the first glass. This may have been wine of the night if we would have given it enough time to breathe. The second most controversial wine was the Claude Courtois Quartz Sauvignon Blanc, a rather obscure vin naturel from the region south of Cheverny. It was very vin naturel in character, but I think it not only transported the better characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc, but also tasted really good.
Posted from CellarTracker

Thanks for the notes. Claude Courtois is one of the more hardened ‘natural’ types as your note indicates. I haven’t always enjoyed his wines (except for his Racines, which is often delicious) but they never lack interest.

Shame about the Huet Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec - doesn’t sound quite right to be honest. It’s a great demi-sec vintage, and although I don’t have any 2008 myself I’ve tasted the wine five times between January 2009 and February 2011 and it was stunning every time. I think you managed to find a duff bottle, although what the fault was I have no idea.

Hi Chris,

as to the Courtois wine, the “interesting” vs. “good to drink” actually sparked a discussion at our table. And while everyone found the wine interesting, not everybody drank it with pleasure. And that’s actually an issue I have with some of the more extreme vin naturel type wines. I recently opened a bottle of 2007 “Poussière de Lune” Sauvignon Blanc by Maisons Brulées for dinner and - while the wine was certainly interesting - I found it a bit annoying that it had so much CO2 and reductive notes at first that not even two hours of decanting made it halfway palatable (for my and my wife’s taste at least). Only on night two, it was ok to drink. When a wine is that complicated, it disqualifies for me as a dinner companion, but if I know (as I do now), it’s also ok. I can’t expect Barry Manilow when buying a Merzbow CD. The Courtois Quartz (a producer I didn’t know before) to me was somewhere in between Merzbow and Barry Manilow.

As to the Huet, I don’t know what this was either, but I think this was just an off bottle. I had the 2008 Le Haut Lieu demi-sec for the first time, only had the 2008 Le Mont demi-sec before (twice) and it didn’t have anything even resembling those pungent notes. I picked up this rather unpleasant chicken broth/cheese rind in combination with honey and ripe fruit nose several times at the sweet Jurancons of Clos Lapeyre, but also there I don’t know where it’s coming from.

Absolutely agree with your thoughts on Courtois and natural wine.


I had a bottle of the Huet 08 Demi-Sec Haut-Lie about a year ago. My bottle, too, was very strange. It had the most distinctively flawed nose of any spoiled wine I’ve had before or since.

Here is my 2012 note from Cellartracker:

Pretty sure this bottle was flawed though it is my first demi-sec Huet so have nothing to compare it to. The unctuous, voluptuous honey/mango/ripe pear aroma that others’ notes have mentioned was definitely there. But there was an over-riding perfumed (like artificial perfume) aroma/flavor that completely spoiled the wine. It was as if the dial on “white flowers” was turned way up to 100. This weird smell also sometimes reminded me of sweet french tobacco. This wasn’t simply a nuance in the wine but almost completely dominated it. On the second day, it was still there and it made the wine undrinkable. :frowning:


Hi Katrina,

thanks for your note. It sounds like it could be a similar or the same weird smell, at least in that it’s dominating and quite extreme. Strange, really.