Wine: Loire Valley reigns over Bordeaux in battle of oaked sauvignons

PUBLISHED: 17:44 08 March 2016 | UPDATED: 17:45 08 March 2016

Sancerre

Sancerre

Archant

There are grapes – chardonnay, for example, or cabernet sauvignon – which enjoy a happy symbiosis with oak barrels.

Others, though, frequently seem uncomfortable in that relationship, sauvignon blanc, for me, is often one in the latter category.

I’ve encountered too many clumsy pairings of high-acid juice and sawdusty wood. But when it’s done well... bliss.

My conversion was confirmed when wine consultant, Richard Bampfield MW, and grower Jean-Christophe Mau, staged a friendly confrontation in London between oaked sauvignons from Bordeaux, and those of the Loire Valley.

While Mau’s own wines, from Château Brown, and some other Bordeaux wines showed well, sadly for the organising team their opponents won hands down.

That result is perhaps surprising, given that oak reigns so supreme in Bordeaux wine culture and the climate is a little warmer, resulting in grapes which you might expect to be robust partners in the wine/wood blend.

But no, the buzz in the room was certainly around the Loire bottles.

Mau accepted that, commenting that the Bordeaux wines often had too much oak and too much extraction, without the attractive balance of their rivals – and were too pricey.

Both teams, though, can take great pleasure in how their wines enjoyed growing old.

As well as the chosen 2012 vintage, each estate showed a wine from as much as a decade back. And very often, these veterans were made in exactly the same way as their young successors – a tribute to tradition and a happy prospect for bottle hoarders.

I’d love to be able to suggest you go out and buy enough of these wines to stage your own comparison, but you’d need a very deep pocket for that, and many are not even available.

For more normal drinking, however, both regions offer lots of sauvignon-led pleasure.

Much white Bordeaux in the £8-£10 price range is excellent value – it may have a touch of oak but it’s rarely excessive, and often there’s semillon blended with the sauvignon, which adds interest and complexity.

Loire sauvignon comes unblended, and has lovely character whether in simpler touraine bottles or posher sancerre or pouilly-fumé.

Brilliant bottles from two regions to cater for all budgets

For me, the desert-island wine of the confrontation (though I’d need a fridge...) was Domaine Didier Dagueneau Silex 2002.

I can’t find a UK stockist, but if any merchant has a bottle stashed away it would cost around £150.

The 2012 was lovely too – roberson.com has two bottles left (£75) as I write, plus plenty of 2013, same price.

Cailbourdin Triptyque 2012 is rather more accessible yet very classy (£25.50-£28, corkingwines.co.uk, excelwines.co.uk, greatwesternwine.co.uk, madeinsicily.co.uk).

Other brilliant 2012 Loire bottles included Vincent Pinard Petit Chemarin and Alphonse Mellot Satellite (both £26.75, millesima.co.uk, but Petit Chemarin is 2013 vintage) and Lucien Crochet Le Cul de Beaujeu (£225 for 12 in bond, justerinis.com).

From Bordeaux, I liked Château Brown 2010 (£30, sohowine.co.uk) and Domaine de Chevalier 2012 (£63-£68, specialitywines.com, millesima.co.uk) – and the latter estate is responsible for the stylish, enjoyable Clos des Lunes Lune Blanche (2013 £12.45, fromvineyardsdirect.com, 2014 £10.50, rfvintners.co.uk).

Semillon forms a high proportion of the Lune Blanche blend – and to finish I want to recommend a wonderful pure semillon: Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Valley 2009, extraordinary freshness, depth and complexity without any sight of oak (£30, thewinesociety.com, winedirect.co.uk, thedrinkshop.com).

For me, the desert-island wine of the confrontation (though I’d need a fridge...) was Domaine Didier Dagueneau Silex 2002.

I can’t find a UK stockist, but if any merchant has a bottle stashed away it would cost around £150.

The 2012 was lovely too – roberson.com has two bottles left (£75) as I write, plus plenty of 2013, same price.

Cailbourdin Triptyque 2012 is rather more accessible yet very classy (£25.50-£28, corkingwines.co.uk, excelwines.co.uk, greatwesternwine.co.uk, madeinsicily.co.uk).

Other brilliant 2012 Loire bottles included Vincent Pinard Petit Chemarin and Alphonse Mellot Satellite (both £26.75, millesima.co.uk, but Petit Chemarin is 2013 vintage) and Lucien Crochet Le Cul de Beaujeu (£225 for 12 in bond, justerinis.com).

From Bordeaux, I liked Château Brown 2010 (£30, sohowine.co.uk) and Domaine de Chevalier 2012 (£63-£68, specialitywines.com, millesima.co.uk) – and the latter estate is responsible for the stylish, enjoyable Clos des Lunes Lune Blanche (2013 £12.45, fromvineyardsdirect.com, 2014 £10.50, rfvintners.co.uk).

Semillon forms a high proportion of the Lune Blanche blend – and to finish I want to recommend a wonderful pure semillon: Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Valley 2009, extraordinary freshness, depth and complexity without any sight of oak (£30, thewinesociety.com, winedirect.co.uk, thedrinkshop.com).


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