Thursday, February 7, 2008

Clos Rougeard, Saumur-Champigny

Visiting the Foucault cellars in the village of Chacé is always one of the highlights of my year. Nady Foucault is regarded by many as the greatest producer of red wine in the Loire Valley (as well as the bearer of one of the two greatest mustaches in the wine world), and his graceful, complex Saumur-Champignys have achieved cult status among those few consumers worldwide who are fortunate enough to receive an allocation. I was in Chacé yesterday on my annual pilgrimage to the Clos Rougeard estate, and as usual, Foucault pulled out a stunning assortment of wines from his vineyards of Poyeux, a historically famous site on the limestone and clay slopes, and Bourg, the vineyard behind the estate planted with 70-year old vines.

In barrel, the 2007s are lighter in body than the last few vintages but certainly no less fine. Foucault compares them to his 2002s, and that seems apt: I loved the ’07 Poyeux, with its fragrant, energetic fruit, and the ’07 Bourg was astounding for its sense of balance and poise. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced tannins so refined and silky. The Poyeux 2006 is richer and more luscious, showing a long and expansive finish; while the 2005 Bourg, still in barrel, combines the muscular grip of the vintage with a sleek, suave finesse, already demonstrating considerable complexity and refinement.

I had previously underrated the 2004s: tasting them again, I was surprised at how rich they felt. The ’04 Poyeux is firm yet graceful, with a luscious core of sweet black fruit, while the ’04 Bourg is dense and brooding, wound up in a dark, almost forceful structure that will take at least a decade to unwind. Both the 2003 Poyeux and Bourg are showing relatively well as young wines, with their ample depth and spicy, warm fragrance, although I would actually wait longer for these – with other vintages the acidity can make the wines freshly appealing in their youth, but I’d rather drink the ’03s when the fruit is mature. Foucault opened a 1997 to give us a glimpse of another warm vintage, and this was in a terrific place, with soft, silky tannins and a savory complexity under the brambly cassis and black cherry fruit. Even better was a magnum of Bourg 1993 that he opened at lunch, its fragrant aromas of exotic spice and saddle leather feeling resolved and inviting.

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