Thursday 30 March 2017

We started our Dive week drunk after visiting Laurent Lebled (A la vôtre!)

Starting with the obvious: you shouldn’t turn up to a wine fair drunk. And if you do, and you’re also late, like, only have an hour before it’s all finished-late, you shouldn’t start on John Wurdeman's wines — not because they're John's of course, (read about our visit to Pheasant's Tears winery in Signagi) but because they're Georgian; and how you might actually want to be able to taste other wines after that don't happen to be Georgian. 

We learn. 

Also what should have been obvious was that 99% of winemakers in the Loire would be at La Dive during La Dive or otherwise with their friends or importers and you, being neither friend nor importer, should therefore not bother emailing to ask for a visit. Except we did and, worse, they said yes and, worst still, we had to cancel because we, ok, me, had gotten the dates wrong, ok, had used last year’s dates and had thus delivered us directly unto their junk box except for the one who said sure, anytime. And this is how we met Laurent Lebled (A la vôtre!) and we figured we’d better meet early because we had a fair to go to later and all except that when we left we left late and drunk and then started drinking Georgian wine. But let’s begin at the beginning which was 10 o’clock.

We drive to Savigny-en-Véron (western part of AC Chinon) from Saumur straining for the telltale signs of a winery rather than listening to Google. Not committing fully to whatever your navigation system requires of you is something I generally advise against, but in the past we’ve been sent up too many driveways belonging definitely not to wineries but to people definitely annoyed at having to always send people away. So nowadays we check. And, check: an otherwise unidentifiable piece of land next to a shuttered mansion with a barn stacked with red crates. Arrivé.

Laurent is as friendly looking as his etiquettes (one of them being him), and I’m struck again by how comprehensively and not at all awkwardly the French are able to communicate without you speaking the language they do. Their hand gestures, half sounds and eye twinks are so evolved that they can carry across the message no sweat even when their words are algebra to you or worse, French. But as magical as communicating sans words can be, I’m grateful that Charles was there because Charles spoke English and about wine in English (Charles helped Laurent with the 2015 vintage — hey Charles!)

And so to the wines and first, the Juicy Fruit gum exotic Sauvignon Blanc 2016 "La Sauvignonne”, left sitting in a fibre glass tank on its lees until bottling mid March. Granny Smith drips on your chin juices and a squeeze of citrus fresh without a trace of the grape’s varietal flavours (hoorah! Nope, not a fan) — banished, Laurent tells us, by the long maceration period: 8 days, whole cluster carbonic maceration: unusual, Laurent tells us, not only in the Loire but for white wine in general. 

Next up is a bone dry, stream clear 2016 Menu Pineau: de-stemmed to de-bitter, racked and pressed with a wooden paddle after 7 days a-macertain’. Laurent explains this is the first time he’s bothered to de-stem as well as the first time he’s used the paddle, and by his half sounds and full smiles you can tell that he’s pleased as pie with the result. This is true for later, too, when we try the (bottled) 2015 Menu Pineau pet nat: equally dry but now a concentrated herby nectar like those Alpine cough drops with mountain scenes on the box plus porcelain-fine bubbles. Left covered and sealed in the tank without interference and bottled without disgorgement, Laurent’s pride bubbles as the bottle explodes into our glasses and Charles tells us how what he’s learned working here goes against everything he’s been taught at the Loire Ecole du Vin. The pet nat will be released 2018.

(After this came the 16 Cab Franc "On Est Su l' Sable" but all I have is, ‘Raspberry, pepper plus stalks. Hard to get stems to mature = green taste. Too cold').

The 2016 Gamay "Ça C'est Bon!” is a meaty Gamay. Rustic rather than fruity. Dry. Folded laundry fresh. Frothing and furious in its (also) fibreglass tank, happy-gassy (gas protects the wine) and murky (because of a storm; it had been clear last week). It battled its way through 21 days maceration in a concrete tank with chestnut slats at the bottom, in place to separate the juice from the skins but also to kick start the fermentation — laden as they are with a whole forest of family trees of yeasts. 

This, we’re told, is an old beaujolais method that Laurent learned from the book he read when starting out in 2010. As in, the 2010 seven years ago when he started from scratch and read a book because he was a wood merchant not a winemaker and was all of a sudden buying a parcel of land in the Touraine finding a chai and making wine with the help of his friend Patrick Corbineau and Sébastian Bobinet like it was all no big deal. To him. I remain impressed. Impressed I also remain with the rabbit rillet Laurent ‘round about now put on the table. Best rillet ever or maybe rillet just really comes into its own in Loire wine cellars after drinking on no breakfast. 

Next we start drinking from bottles. My notes:

— ’15 Sauvignon "La Sauvignonne": amber block with insects in golden, super cider dry, cold apple crunch, saline, slight mouse. Spit out first sip to lower pH level in mouth so next sip doesn't taste so mouse.
— ’15 Gamay "Ça C'est Bon!”: ripe: can take a bite out of it.
’15 Cabernet Franc "On Est Su l' Sable": supple, strawberries.
— ’14 Cab Franc “Les Picasses": earth, rocks! de-stemmed, no carbonic maceration cus doesn’t want the tannins. Left for two years in vat without disturbing or opening tank. Without air, yeasts left to eat dead yeasts and create more aroma, ether and alcohol = adds to complexity. Not on market.
— ’15 Menu Pineau pet nat: see above

On our way out we saluted the spider webs.

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