Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Guiberteau's Fabulous Saumurs

Guiberteau Saumur BlancWhy the blogs are not abuzz over the wines from Saumur's Domaine Guiberteau is beyond me. Nothing from even Jim's Loire or any other Loire-friendly, English language blog out there that I can see. The wines are a tad pricey (mid-20s), but they're worth it as far as I'm concerned. I'm very happy that my friend Erin turned me onto them!

The wines are ultra-clean, but they are also naturally-made, transparent, and completely expressive of place. If I (and Google Translate) interpret their French-only web site correctly, the domaine hand-harvests both their organically-grown chenin blanc and their cabernet franc from 25+ year old vines to the tune of 45 hl/ha. Romain Guiberteau ferments the wine solely with native yeasts, eschews all enzymes and stabilizers, and ages the basic "domaine" level wines in two to four year old oak barrels (the top wines do see some new oak, but I've not had them). The soils are clay and calcareous silex.

The first wine I experienced from Guiberteau was the 2005 Saumur Blanc, and it's stunning. The aromas of lavender, paraffin, and apple skin show great clarity. The wine is dry and utterly precise on the palate, with a come-to-jesus delivery of elegant concentration (and concentrated elegance) — the pear and melon fruit is layered with chalky minerality, stony lemon, rainwater, and firm, well-structured acidity. The texture is full and nicely defined — the angles haven't been overly sanded down — and the finish is long.

2007 may have been a more difficult vintage, but the 2007 Saumur Blanc is, in its own way, just as successful as the 2005. It's very firm and dry as befits the vintage, but there's a richness underlying the steely, high-acid structure. It's slightly chalky on the nose; otherwise, it's quite closed aromatically speaking. It's more expressive on the palate, with flavors of melon, tart apple, honey, and nuts, and it's very dry on the long, citric finish. It's exceptionally well balanced and has the bones to age, and it should blossom as it does — it's just a baby!

Finally, I was gratified to comes across the 2006 Saumur Rouge on the wine list at the vegetarian-focused Green Zebra. This 2006 was just barely coming into its drinking window, as you'd expect from a concentrated, well-made Saumur rouge from this structured vintage, but expressive it was: a twinge of herbs, some black olive notes, beautiful acidity, and good earthiness. It was a great companion with my green papaya salad, my earthy dal, and even the pan-seared scallops served with braised mushrooms. Meanwhile, my dining companion, who's not geeky like me but enjoys solid reds with good fruit, very much liked it as well.

Do these wines represent the Platonic ideal of excellent Saumur? Maybe! I've never had the Saumur-Champignys of Clos Rougeard, for example, so I'd rather not spout such things off. But I'm happy to spout off about Romain Guiberteau's wines in general.

1 comment:

Candid Wines said...

Mike -

Thanks for this post - we are Romain Guiberteau's importer / distributor in Illinois and I live in Bucktown. Let me know if I can help find the wines or provide any info.