Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Loire Transmitted Via Baudry and Puzelat ca. 2007

My cat doesn't like having a dog in the houseAfter I fell in love with dry and demi-sec Vouvray some years ago, I was driven to learn more about Loire chenin, and so I crossed the river to Montlouis and went downriver to Savennières. I began reading about reading about the nearby appellations, and soon enough my palate was making loop-de-loops throughout the Loire. Hello, Bourgueil, hello, Chinon, pleased to meet you. I was initially more intellectually engaged by Loire reds than emotionally engaged, but then I found some that changed that dynamic, although doubtlessly my palate became more open to these wines simply by virtue of exposure.

The rains of 2007 in the middle Loire did not necessarily cause dilution, but acid and tannin levels are typically lower than in the more structured vintages that surround it, and people more experienced than I say that 2007 Loire reds are early drinkers compared to 04, 05, 06, 08, and (it is thought) 09. That is, while my favorite producers' wines are transparent in every vintage, the wines from 2007 will likely express the terroir and the vintage more quickly and are less apt to last. I continue to put this received wisdom to the test.

Thierry Puzelat Le Telquel (lot 2007)
It's now more common for American shoppers to see Loire reds made from grapes other than cabernet franc, and among the 500,000 cuvees that Thierry Puzelat makes, both with his brother under the Clos Tue Boeuf moniker and on his own, is this 100% gamay, a negociant bottling sourced from a variety of vineyards in the central Loire. Back in August of 2008, Mr. McDuff reported that there was "no mistaking it for anything other than Gamay" due to its pure and bright red fruit. With a further year's evolution under its skinny belt, I actually could mistake this for something other than gamay, but I would not, I think, mistake it for anything but the Loire.

Certainly with its nose of black cherry, smoke, roasted barley, black olive, and worcestershire sauce, I wouldn't peg this as Beaujolais — the olive note in particular recalls, say, Saumur, although the barley and smoke notes push this wine closer to the Clos Roche Blance 2007 Gamay. The Telquel is fairly concentrated and the texture is more rustic than refined, and driven by robust cherry-tart acidity. There's plenty of primary, non-sweet fruit on the palate — tangy plum, mostly, with a hint of olive — yet it's just starting to turn autumnal, with aspects of dried leaves and brown earth minerality.

Is this an expressive early drinker? You betcha. I suspect the acidity will seem harsh after the fruit fades but I expect this to drink very nicely over the next 6-12 months.

Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges 2007
Baudry's entry-level Les Granges, per the excellent profile at The Wine Doctor is "a wine produced from 6 hectares of vines planted on alluvial sand and gravel soils on the banks of the Vienne between 1985 and 1988; when the Vienne bursts its banks the vineyard can flood, and Baudry has been known to undertake pruning from a rowing-boat." Um, wow.

Les Granges is meant for early drinking — at least by Baudry standards. I'm not sure whether this sees oak or not. The Baudry web site mentions nothing about oak aging, but I've read elsewhere that it is aged in older, more neutral oak. It hardly seems to matter, as I am consistently bowled over by the purity, elegance, and transparency of M. Baudry's wines (even the 2003 Les Grézeaux was astonishingly elegant given the crushing heat of the vintage).

My rule of thumb is to wait three years before opening better Loire cabernet franc, a rule that even this meant-for-early-drinking wine validated to some degree, as it was fairly tight when first opened. But no worries: over the course of the evening it slowly revealed aromas of coffee, smoke, candied ginger (!), sweet black cherry, and especially iodine. It also became very expressive on the palate, as the flavors of cherry, graphite, and blackcurrant are nicely framed by (and integrated with) both acidity and tannins. Finally, there are fine, pure, iodine-rich minerals on the medium-long finish.

It's a mystery to me why I don't have more Baudry in my life. I think that's a mystery I should solve.


Tommaso said...

In 2/08 I tasted the 2003 Baudry Les Grezeaux at a free Saturday tasting at the WDC. Even though I was drinking out of a small plastic tasting cup this wine did not fail to impress, and led me to try other reds made from cabernet franc from the Loire. While I have enjoyed many of them, I don't know anyone who can compete with Baudry as a producer.

David McDuff said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Mike. Sounds like "Telquel" has gone much more to the umami side since I last drank it. I've no more in the cellar but will have to keep on the lookout for another bottle or two based on your description.