Thursday, January 6, 2011

Olivier Cousin's Anjou Grolleau

When I think of Anjou, one word instantly springs to my mind: schist; and in turn this makes me think of formidable, intellectual, occasionally stern wines. But I'm really in error to think that. Anjou is a geologically complex area, and even the tiny Savennières appellation is a complex melange of volcanic, metamorphic, and sedimentary-based soils. There's a rich seam of carboniferous soils in the Coteaux du Layon, and then head further east and apparently you hit limestone.

I say "apparently" because I didn't know that limestone soils were found in Anjou until I looked up Olivier Cousin, whose lively, peppery, berry-in-a-barn 2009 "Le Cousin" Grolleau I drank recently, and Jenny & Francois tell us that all of Cousin's grapes come from limestone and clay soils. Olivier plows his vineyards solely by horse and vinifies both biodynamically and naturally, without additions of any kind (it's truly sans soufre), and these grapes come from 30+ year old vines near Martigné-Briand.

I should back up a second: grolleau is a red grape variety indigenous to the Loire that in many ways reminds me of pineau d'aunis. Both are refreshing, peppery, high-acid grapes that are favored by many a natural winemaker in the Loire. But whereas the few pineau d'aunis I've tried struck me as overly peppery and a tad harsh, the grolleau I've tried (including Jerome Saurigny's) seemed to me earthier, gentler, and deeper. This one from Cousin shows some sharp acidity, yet its texture is quite soft if also nicely structured, possibly thanks to its limestone soils. The herb notes start edging toward tobacco, although they don't quite get there, thankfully, and there are savory soy notes here, too.

While the "Le Cousin" is hardly stern, it irritates me to see that this well-structured if light-bodied wine is described by certain parties as a quaffer, a wine you don't have to think much about. I couldn't disagree more. Even if this wine's flavors and aromas weren't so unique, which alone should pique a wine lover's interest, its delicacy and depth are readily apparent and invite contemplation, even as its joyfulness is equally apparent. Serve it at cellar temperature and everything about this wine becomes even more apparent.

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