Monday, March 03, 2008

Three Loire 05's for the Cellar

I've been checking in on my 2005 Loire wines lately, just to see how things are going. Loire-lovers have been touting 2005 as a great vintage, as good as 05 in Burgundy or Bordeaux. If my recent tastes mean anything, this is not hype - the wines are just excellent.

Here are three wines that I can recommend very highly, although two of them are pretty much impenetrable right now. Each of them should be quite easy to find, none of them will cost you more than about $30, and they each represent one of the very best of their kind. And if you're into cellaring wine, these will improve for at least a decade, probably longer.

2005 Foreau Vouvray Sec Clos Naudin, $29, Rosenthal Wine Merchant. This is beautiful wine, I've had it a couple of times now. But I think it's in a closed phase now and might be there for a while. Even so, the quality is so obvious. Tight and unyielding on day 1, all about wool on the nose. On day 2 there's more wool, but also some citrus and some flinty hints, still feels like I'm smelling only the outer layer of the wine. On day 3 the palate shows clean wet stones, citrus, lanolin, and some green fruit. This wine is like a prizefighter in training - no sweet or fatty foods, lots of sleep, and definitely no sex, but this is just training. It will whoop your ass when the time comes. I salivate at the thought of drinking this starting in maybe, 7 years.

2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos Habert, $27 (but costs about $30 now), Louis/Dressner Selections. With Les Bournais, this is my favorite of Chidaine's Montlouis-sur-Loire wines in 2005. It's just fantastic wine. I'm guessing that people will eventually look to this as a benchmark for 2005 Loire Valley Chenin Blanc. Not a sec, and not demi-sec either, this is what they call vin tendre. The nose is so pure and fresh, the wine absolutely transparent. A gorgeous and classy nose, no flash - almonds, minerals, wax, wool, and super clean fruit. The palate is balanced and persistent, with a great streak of acidity. Young quince, citrus, and melon fruits are the main thing on day 1, but on day 2 the palate includes almost salty minerals and woolly earth. Everything is so seamless that the sugar doesn't in any way stand out, the wine comes across to me, especially on day 2, as being in perfect balance. I'm not as good as some of you at seeing into the future of a wine, so if I were to buy only one of the three discussed here, it would be this one. It's showing best today.

2005 Yannick Amirault Bourgueil Les Quartiers, $25, David Bowler Wine. Here is a concentrated and intense Loire Cab Franc that will reward time in the cellar. It's drinkable now, but there is so much going on under the surface. Inky purple with a guarded nose of lead pencil. Aeration beings about some dark flowers and peppery fruit. The palate is super concentrated with layers of dark fruit, some funky earth, and a clean mineral core. And this is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. There is great energy to this wine, it is concentrated but nowhere near ponderous - there is very good acidity and it feels quite alive. BrooklynLady thought this was pretty much shut tight, but I loved it. Very serious wine, and I'm eager to see what happens to this one with time. I'm also eager to try Amirault's other wines, as this was my first taste.


Drink, Memory said...

I have a question for you, and this is coming from a person who doesn't cellar wines, so bear with me. How can you tell when a wine needs to be aged, and how does one know if it even can be aged, and for how long? What qualities would tell me this? I have always been in the dark on this matter, to be honest.

This may be off subject slightly, but as far as aerating/aging...have you ever encountered those gadgets that claim to age wine by one year per second? They oxidize the wine with copper, which seems strange and gimmicky. Any experiences with that?

Louis/Dressner Selections said...

Are you really a sailor?

What do you do?

ARBeck said...

Knowing whether a wine needs aging is kind of a complex thing. Here is how I do it.

I open a bottle that I suspect might be better with a little age. I pour a small bit, swirl, sniff, and taste. If it is closed. I pull out the decanter. I decant and let it sit for an hour and taste again. If it's changed significantly for the better, I drink a glass and then finish the decanted wine over the next day or two. If it continues to improve over the days, you have a good idea that it will improve in the bottle.

ARBeck said...

I also have a question about the Yannick Amirault Bourgueil Les Quartiers. You have the '04 pictured, which is the same as I have in my cellar. Is the picture just off?

I understand that the producer releases his wines much later than normal, I was offered the '04 in August of 07. I was not even sure if the '05 had been released.

Brooklynguy said...

hi memoree - solid question, one with many answers. i don't think of it as "need," per say. because for me it's a sense that i get from tasting, a sense of the structure, and the feeling of the wine. the experience of tasting enough wines meant to be drunk young and wines that become better with age has allowed me to develop my own sense of this. my sense might differ from other people's though. i'm sure some other readers can weigh in, probably more eloquently than I can. as for the gadgets...i don't drink decaf, eat margarine, or use gadgets to age wine. but that's just me. i'm a snobby purist in that vein. anyone else tried the wine aging gadget?

hey joe - i'm not a sailor. just my way of smirking at the idea that i'm supposed to give all that personal information with my wine blog. i like to rotate between sailor, clown, plumber, cardiologist, and exotic dancer. in reality i'm still figuring out what i want to do. i'm happy to talk about it but i'd prefer to do so via email, if you don't mind. my email address is in the profile.

Brooklynguy said...

Andrew - the picture is taken from cellar tracker, i forgot to take my own photo when i had the bottle. good catch.

Louis/Dressner Selections said...

I'm disappointed. I though it was fascinating that you were a sailor!

I've been considering leaving the wine trade and joining the merchant marine. I was looking for tips.

ARBeck said...


Now I'm just confused whether or not I should drink my 2004 Yannick. I got a great deal on in ($16.99), so it wouldn't be the end of the world if I drank it too early.

Anonymous said...

Here's how ignorant I am--

I usually age wine because someone told me to. It's not like I taste lots of young Cornas or Burgundy or Hermitage; I can't afford to. So sometimes I feel like I just have to follow the advice of more experienced tasters. On the other hand, I might open a more affordable bottle of young wine (or snag a sample at a wine store tasting) and that experience may lead me to recognize that a particular wine is closed down, kind of muted. Then if I buy it I'll make a mental note to store it away for some period of time. If I've purchased several bottles I'll open them at intervals, and frankly that's the way I learned that aging works.

I know exactly what you mean when you describe a Chenin blanc as smelling "wooly" but here's something strange: I get that often with Savennieres but almost never with Vouvray. Go figure.

Brooklynguy said...

sorry joe. please feel free to think of me as a sailor, if you like.

andrew - i happen to be a big fan of 04 Loire reds, and i think they will age very nicely. there's no right or wrong on this. why not follow your own technique - open it, if its closed, decant...or sock it away for 6-10 years. it will hold up fine.

steve l - first of all i would like to personally congratulate you for figuring out how to include your name again when commenting. good show ol' chap! i think your explanation on how to know if a wine ages is absolutely spot on. that's how we all do it, i would say. listening to others we trust and learning to trust ourselves over time. i get wool on all sorts of chenin in 05. i know what you mean in general though.

Anonymous said...

Neil, Based on your write-up of these three wines, I would only cellar the Bourgueil longterm.

You see, you didn't mention acids for the other two; and that's what I first look for when determining if a wine can age well. (Okay, so what do I know!?)

If you want to be wild, cellar a bottle of all three and crack them in 10 or 12 years.

Brooklynguy said...

hiya Jack - i think you're right on when you talk about acidity and aging. i mentioned an acid streak in the Clos Habert, and that one will definitely age well. The Foreau was so closed it was hard to tell what was going on.

The Cheap Lush said...

Weird, I had much the same experience with Chidaine's Clos Habert. The best 2005 Chenin Blanc from the Loire I've tasted; I'm a fan, so I've tried a few. This was just so beautiful. Oddly, the well-known Vouvrays—from Huet and Foreau—have all been completely closed, even on day two, also per your experiences. Someone with more knowledge than I recently told me that wines from Montlouis drink better young than ones from Vouvray. Could this be true?