Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Cousin-Luduc Saumur Brut, $26, Jenny & Francois Selections. Olivier Cousin makes natural wines, working his family's property in the central part of the Loire Valley near the area defined as Coteaux du Layon. He farms without chemicals, ferments with only indigenous yeast, and adds nothing whatsoever to the juice - no sulfites, no enzymes or other chemicals, and no sugar. Cousin cultivates Gamay, Grolleau, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Chenin Blanc - there is something for everyone in this portfolio. The wines can put some people off at first, as they showcase the spectrum of aromas and flavors that occur when fermenting grape juice into wine. They can be funky and a bit rustic, but they evolve beautifully in the glass and in the cellar, and offer a clean and pure expression of the terroir that is Layon.

This sparkling wine is no exception. I first had it at the Jenny & Francois tasting back in March and liked it very much. It wasn't until buying it retail that I noticed its closure - a bottle cap, no different from what you'd find on a beer. Shouldn't that indicate a low pressure sparkling wine? As it turns out, yes. There is little to no mousse, a very light bead, and a barely effervescent mouth feel. But sparkling it is, and it's an interesting style. This wine really shines aromatically with fleshy peach and yellow fruits, nuts n' honey, and an underlying streak of funky animal. The palate is more on the fruit side, less animal, and there is a pleasing and faint yeastiness. After a half hour of air time the wine really fleshed out, the fresh stone fruit on the palate mingling beautifully with the hints of bread and soil.

I imagine that this wine would be good on its own, although people not used to this style of wine making might prefer it the way we did, with a little nibbles like almonds, a spicy yogurt spread, thin crackers, things like that. This is a definite re-buy, although the price forces me to consider the occasion instead of just grabbing another and tucking it away, as I would if it were under $20. Everything is getting more expensive these days...

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