Thursday, December 29, 2016

Nerdy & Delicious Loire Wines from Domaine de la Roche Bleue & Christophe Foucher

If I’m looking for fascinating, intriguing and delicious wines in the $20 range (which is always the case), I look to the Loire Valley of France. 

Many of these offerings are “natural” wines in the sense that the winemakers use organic viticulture and take a minimalist approach in the winery (old oak, native yeasts, no additional sulfur, some wines are corked by hand). They’re not “natural” wines in the sense that they’re faulted, off-kilter or shittily-made (per a Robert Parker-style critique). 

They’re pure expressions of fascinating grapes planted in unique soils and produced with minimalist intervention in the cellar. If you’re tired of in-your-face oak and alcohol, and looking for wines that express their terroir like poetry, there are so many options to explore in the Loire Valley. These three wines, and these two producers, are just some of many. And, taken together, these are three of the best $20 bottles I’ve purchased all year. 

Christophe Foucher organically farms the quirky Menu Pineau grape in the village of Touraine, ferments his wines in old oak and doesn’t add any sulfur. Sebastien Cornille is the winemaker at Domaine de la Roche Bleue, and he makes some fascinating whites, reds and a sparkling rose that are guaranteed to get your palate and intellect going. Two out of the three are labeled as Vin de France because, despite coming from sites in Loire Valley appellations, they don’t adhere to appellation rules regarding permitted grapes. But they express their Loire terroir with finesse.

Below are my notes on three exciting Loire wines I tasted recently.   

2014 La Lunotte (Cristophe Foucher) Le Haut Plessis - France, Vin de France
Light gold color, a bit cloudy but no worries. Unique nose of preserved lemon and quince, potpourri, nettle and briny ocean jetty. Medium-light-bodied with racy acidity. Bitter lemon meets quince and melon rind, and the fruit is laced with minerals and complex spicy/herbal notes. Precise and clean but also exotic and flashy. Tingling, mineral-heavy finish, this would verge on the austere if it wasn't so damned delicious. A very interesting wine made from a grape called Menu Pineau, which is sourced from vineyards in Coufy, near the estate of Clos Roche Blanche. (90 points)

2014 Domaine de la Roche Bleue Jasnières Sec - France, Loire Valley, Jasnières $20
Light gold color. The nose is brisk and salty with seashells and white flowers on top of limes and lemon meringue. The palate is so bright and zesty but it’s not lean, showing juicy and creamy aspects. Gorgeous lime, lemon and apricot fruit topped in complex mineral, chalk, seashell, white tea and honeycomb elements. Long and nervy but so delicious. Such a great Chenin Blanc for $20. Comes from 10-25-year-old vines planted in clay/silex soil on limestone. That’s it — anything from this producer, I’m buying on the spot. (90 points)

2015 Domaine de la Roche Bleue Vin de France La Petillante - France, Vin de France
What a cool wine. A rose pet nat made from 100% Pinot d’Aunis grown near Jasnieres (but a Vin de France appellation). A pale rose color in the glass with light froth. Salty and spicy on the nose with some apple peel and white cherries. It's tart and bracing on the palate and insanely refreshing. Ripe strawberries mix with tart white cherries, and I get loads of minerals, chalk, seashells, some nettle and white pepper. Not too weird, but definitely exciting and nerdy. This wine is so refreshing and delicious that it almost feels hydrating to drink. Love it. (90 points)

These wines were imported by Fruit of the Vine and I purchased them from Chambers Street in NY, NY.

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