2019 Fine Wine Champions
This year’s blind-tasting triumphs for drinking now
France 2017 En Primeur
Including special triple-region cases
The wines our members order (and reorder) most!
Pep up your palate or add an extra dimension to salads or cheese dishes with this fine Loire sauvignon. Its mouthwatering mineral – almost smoky – touch makes for a very elegant glass. With more than 200 years of family history at this domaine behind him, Alexis Jeannot farms 14 hectares on the side of the Saint-Andelain hill. His 2017 is a beautifully poised wine, with a delicate, fragrant, floral perfume that mingles notes of tisane and citrus, and a fine long finish.
Product Code: LO14361
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With more than 200 years of family history at this domaine behind them, Bertrand Jeannot and his son Alexis, both of whom studied oenology at Beaune in Burgundy, farm 14 hectares on the side of the Saint-Andelain hill. The soils here are mostly flint with a further 20% Kimmeridgian shale and 10% limestone. Some of their vines are 50-years-old and much care is taken in the vineyards to ensure the health and vitality of the soil, with grass grown between the rows to help limit yields and organic fertiliser used instead of chemicals. Vinification takes place in a thick-walled cellar below Saint-Andelain that has been there even longer than the family, but very modern stainless steel is used for fermentation and maturation to retain the pristine vibrancy of the fruit. Alexis ensures the quality of the lees in the tanks at the outset. This allows him to leave the wine on the fine lees throughout, without any pumping or other movement, until it is deemed time to bottle. This not only preserves fruit and reduces oxidation, but also the carbon dioxide in the wine is not dissipated which helps to prevent both oxidation and the excessive use of sulphur dioxide in the wines when bottled.As well as sauvignon blanc - the single grape permitted for the appellation Pouilly-Fumé - the Jeannots also have a little old-vine chasselas, which produces their exceptional Pouilly-sur-Loire.
The Loire is the longest river in France, stretching some 1,000km from its source in the south to the Atlantic coast a little west of Nantes. At times majestic, never more so than when overlooked by one of the many spectacular châteaux that lie close to its banks, it was in the past a vital trade waterway. Today, it is better known as a tourist destination. Throughout, the river has been a key factor in the production of wine, whether as a transport route, as a supply of water, for its cooling effects on the surrounding land, or for the mist that often lingers along parts of the valley and helps in the production of many of the fine sweet wines that the Loire Valley is famous for.The geology and climate - the terroir - varies dramatically along the length of the Loire, and, as a result, so too does the choice of grapes planted and the style of wines produced.Red wines are in the minority but a combination of vastly improved husbandry over the last few years coupled with what looks increasingly to be the effects of climate change have made these wines more and more attractive. The main varieties are:Gamay produces wines akin to Beaujolais in the south; in the Touraine, gamay generally has less overt fruit and a slightly earthy character which is not unattractive with food but some will find an acquired taste.Cabernet franc, one of Bordeaux’s grapes, is normally grown here as a single varietal. At its best it has a lovely fragrance and freshness with a good, gentle tannin structure, making it the ideal lunchtime red.Pinot noir is the most delicate of the Loire’s red grapes, producing excellent rosé as well as fine reds that can rival good village Burgundy (more Côte de Beaune than Côte de Nuits in style).Whites are made principally from three single grape varieties. Muscadet, or melon de Bourgogne as it is still sometimes called in France, dominates in the far west, producing fresh, dry, sappy wines that are at their best with seafood.Chenin blanc covers much of the vineyard land around and between Angers and Tours, and is responsible for the Loire’s sweet wines as well as some excellent - and quite varied - dry ones. Many develop greater finesse and complexity with age, but chenin is a grape that requires patience and understanding as, more than any other variety, it can pass through a rather ungenerous "closed" phase, only to blossom again later. Something Noël Pinguet of Domaine Huet likens to the unresponsive teenage years of our children.Sauvignon blanc offers important volumes of good, everyday drinking in the Touraine region but produces its best examples in the Central Vineyards of Sancerre and Pouilly and its near neighbours Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, and Quincy. Loire sauvignon is rarely oaked and is normally fresh, grassy, bone dry and lightly aromatic, making it the perfect wine to serve with fish.Other than the grape, two other key factors should influence your choice of Loire wines. Far and away the most important is the name of the producer. Buy from a trusted, ideally tried and tested source and you will not be disappointed in quality terms.The other major influence in the Loire is the style and quality of the vintage. As one of France’s most northerly wine producing regions, and even with the apparent effects of climate change, the Loire does suffer from the vagaries of the weather, which means that the quality and even more the style of the harvest can vary quite significantly.As a very rough rule of thumb, if we have poor spring and summer weather in the UK then chances are there will have been similarly poor weather in the Loire. On these occasions it is all the more important to stick to growers you trust, read whatever information you have easy access to in order to better inform your choice, and be prepared to adapt to sometimes significant shifts in style. 2005 and 2006 were warm, healthy vintages with ripe fruit and lower acidity, producing more approachable wines. 2007 and 2008 mark a return to much more typical, classically styled Loire vintages with wines that are lighter in body (and alcohol) and with much fresher acidity. If you are lucky you will enjoy both, but many will have a strong preference for one style over another.
After Jo Locke MW's usual quick visit at harvest time it was clear that 2017 would yield some excellent results. Following her regular February 2018 trip she was delighted to report that she couldn't remember when she was last so excited by a Loire vintage! Muscadets are gorgeous across the board, and they are such adaptable wines and so light on the stomach. Central Vineyards sauvignons from Domaines Laloue (Exhibition Sancerre) and Riaux (Pouilly-Fumé) are delicious too, with ripeness and freshness in perfect balance. Go to Reuilly, Quincy, Chenonceaux, and Touraine sauvignons for value. Serious chenin lovers will need to wait a bit longer for the 2017s. The reds have delightfully bright, generous fruit (though it is still early in their progress) which at harvest looked likely to be structured and concentrated as the berries were small and yielding less juice than expected. They have given wines with delightfully bright, generous fruit.
"This is absolutely delightful and exactly what I think a Sauvignon Blanc should be. Buying more immediately."
I would recommend this wine
"Smooth fine slightly acidic but with good fruit too. Enjoyed this wine!"
JancisRobinson.com 21st May 2019
"Grassy, herby, lemon-fruited – very much the
Loire Sauvignon prototype, with a dry finish that leaves a saline aftertaste. - Richard Hemming"
The Guardian 8th Jun 2019
… Everything you want from a Loire sauvignon blanc: fresh, crisp, citrussy,
summery. The perfect wine for fresh crab. - Fiona Beckett"
Scottish Field 3rd May 2019
sauvignon blanc’s spiritual home in Northern France’s Loire Valley, this has
asparagus notes galore on the palate. Those flavours are joined by lemon and
green pepper to balance the wine’s crisp acidity. It’s elegant, it’s
refreshing, and it has some cheeky wee green apple and lemon sherbet aromas on
the nose too. It’s made by Alexis Jeannot, who is following in his family’s
200-year-old winemaking tradition. Also, keep your eyes peeled for sauvignon
blanc from other famous areas along the Loire river too, including Sancerre and
Touraine. - Peter Ranscombe"
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