Marc Brédif Vouvray 1985

There are many ways one might frame a definition of “good friends.” For now, though, my working formula is:

People who save an evening from your bottles of disappointing white Burgundy and corked biodynamic Pinot Noir with a superb aged Vouvray and a few luscious, late-night glasses of Penfolds Grandfather Port.

Indeed, dinner yesterday was bookended by beautiful wines offered by my companions, the first of which I shall discuss in a moment.

To digress briefly, wine can be the most frustrating of things, and it sometimes feels as though those frustrations come in multiples. I rocked up to dinner with a couple of bottles that promised much pleasure: a 2010 Alain Chavy Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles — not previously tasted, but for which I had high hopes considering Chavy’s powerful ’10 Puligny-Montrachet Folatières and St Aubin En Remilly bottlings — and the ’09 Hochkirch Maximus, enjoyed several times previously.

The Chavy was only okay; surprisingly for a 2010 Burgundy, it’s quite blowsy through the mid-palate, its evident complexity of flavour undermined by indistinct articulation and a general sense of blurriness. The Hochkirch would have been delicious, I’m sure, were it not for a massive dose of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (thanks, cork). And that was pretty much that.

Perhaps the disappointment wouldn’t have been so great had the first wine, this old Brédif, been less enjoyable. There’s something about old white wines in particular that I find fascinating and, in a way, more remarkable than old reds, because they are so unlikely. Chenin Blanc gives great acid, sure, but there’s an obviousness to many red wines, structurally, that makes ageability a foregone conclusion. By contrast, when a white wine grows old with grace, I can’t help but marvel a little at how it’s happened.

This is, surely, at its peak. There are subtle signs of oxidation now — a hint of flor sherry, some aldehydic nuttiness — that overlay core notes of baked apple pie and spice, creating a wonderfully complex flavour profile that moves between these primary and tertiary notes without skipping a beat. Indeed, this kept changing over the hour or so we tasted, with some luscious dried fruit notes creeping in towards the end. It’s in the mouth, though, where this truly comes alive. An off-dry style, this still has the acid structure to create brisk movement down the line and counterbalance a lovely swell of residual sugar through the after palate. Flavours range from savoury to sweet, giving some angularity to the wine but never robbing it of its comfort. Texturally, there are several dimensions, a slippery, waxy mouthfeel giving way to raspier textures through the finish. And what a finish; exceptionally long by any measure.

A truly delicious wine.

Marc Brédif
Price: N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Champalou Vouvray Sec Tendre 2008

I had a glass of this with a friend and some friendly pork rillettes. Not sure of the match, but the wine was very enjoyable, if initially served way too cold.

The nose is quiet at first, evolving to show ripe apple flesh and a sharp, detailed minerality that elevates and organises the whole aroma profile. There’s also a sense of sea breezes here, a light brine influence that I find tantalising and quite visual.

Nothing on the subtle nose flags the dramatic intensity of the palate, though. Instant impact on entry, this wine doesn’t hold its apple and lemon fruit flavours back at all. There is plenty going on if you value complexity; for such a young and relatively affordable wine, I’m impressed by the array of citrus rind flavours, moving between floral and fleshy then back again. There’s also an architecture of minerals here, contesting and ultimately overpowering the fruit, though the effect isn’t nearly as brutal as my words might suggest. Acidity is quite sensational, zipping things along and remaining a firm influence right along the line. The impression is crystalline, precise and driven; flavour, sure, but this wine’s strength is more figurative. Loved it.

Price: $A40
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Domaine Côteau de la Biche Vouvray Sec 2005

I spied this while at lunch today and couldn’t resist buying a bottle.

On the nose, apple and pear plus a collection of somewhat prickly notes that remind me a little of pies baking in a slightly-too-hot oven. It’s very distinctive and quite forward, expressiveness growing as I sit with it through the evening. On entry, the most notable element is a thick, round mouthfeel that is quite unexpected after a relatively tight nose. Hence, the wine has good impact and presence. Labelled “sec,” there’s no overt sweetness, although fruit flavours are quite forward and soft in the context of the style. Apples and pears and, dare I suggest, grapes are the primarily flavours, overlaid with that distinctive marshmallow and toffee halo that one sees in some Loire Chenins. I wish it had a bit more incisiveness and bite, as well as a notch more intensity. A little tame through the after palate, the wine is of average length, seeming to taper off too quickly relative to its punch on the middle palate.

An easygoing Vouvray that provides a good hit of Loire goodness for not too much money. For my dollars, though, there are probably others that represent better value.

Domaine Côteau de la Biche
Price: $A31
Closure: Cork

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2006

In an effort to distract myself from market woes, corporate reorganisations and general predictions of gloom and doom, I have this evening turned to my most reliable companions, cheese and wine. To be specific, a goat’s cheese omelet and Loire Chenin Blanc. I’ve been drinking older Chenins lately so it’s nice to consume a fresher example.

Pale hue, watery almost, excellent clarity. The nose is pungently fruity, showing a combination of pineapple and fig-like fruit, along with a good streak of savoury minerality. The latter, savoury aspect shows a hint of sulfur, ending up smelling as much of gunpowder as anything else. Enough with the obscure descriptors, though; there’s balance, richness, some complexity. I’ve been smelling this wine for a good two hours and am still enjoying each sniff. It’s a lot more forward than the 2005 version and, in a perverse way, I miss the evasiveness of the earlier vintage.

In the mouth, the richness of the aroma translates to some residual sweetness and relatively straightforward fruit character. Fine acidity and a certain fullness of body are most striking on entry. Minerality soon emerges along with rich fig/pear fruit. Good balance between sweetness, savoury notes and acidity. The wine comes alive from the mid palate onwards, with a characteristic Loire-like mix of floral delicacy and richer, baked pie flavours. Very long finish.

Overall, this wine seems less structured and textural than the 2005, and hence more approachable and generous in its youth. I don’t have enough experience to know how this particular vintage will age, but suggest its softer acidity encourages immediate consumption. Excellent value.

Marc Brédif
Price: $A25.65
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: October 2008

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2005

On the nose, soft, powdery, floral notes along with orange blossom honey and crisp white peaches. There’s almost a hint of pineapple there as well, and a suggestion of peat smoke, almost like Scotch. Finally, there’s something else going on here just behind the scene – almost bread-y, like fresh baked brioche.In the mouth, the wine is soft and rich, mouth-filling, but it’s on the finish where the big surprises are: a very much savory note of fresh apple pie along with a calming, supporting streak of acidity. The flavor hangs around for quite a long time after you swallow; it’s kind of like biscuits with whipped honey butter, with a hint of peach. There’s also a curiously bass note there, which is what I suppose one calls minerality: it’s like a subtle underpinning of all of the higher positioned flavors and returns again and again unexpectedly, drifting in and out of focus.This is a wine of great subtlety and grace; I imagine it would pair well with venison stew, somehow.Marc BrédifPrice: US $12.99Closure: CorkDate tasted: December 2007—Julian is absolutely correct when he describes the attack of this wine as largely textural; the slippery, fat, acidic, oily, ever-changing feel of the wine is one of its great pleasures. Funny thing, though – I can’t remember the last time I read a tasting note that really paid attention to the way a wine feels!

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2005

The nose is best described as elusive, but tantalisingly so. Flavours of powder, flint, light tropical fruit, herbs and musk seem to emerge from the glass with unexpected intensity and then disappear again just as suddenly; the overall effect is quite beguiling.

The entry is not flavourful so much as textural. It’s slippery and surprisingly viscous and leads to a medium bodied palate that is again surprisingly intense. There are herbal edges to the same light tropical fruits that showed on the nose, plus a whack of acidity that introduces a mineral aspect to the flavour profile. It also counterbalances the residual sugar that emerges on the middle palate. Really nicely judged in this respect. Flavour density builds towards the after palate, and the wine’s finish shows very clean, lingeringly sweet fruit and minerality in equal measure.

I’m actually having this wine as an aperitif, and regret that I don’t have something like a nice liver pate to go with it. This is a lovely wine for those who enjoy a more subtle white wine experience – perhaps those who can appreciate a younger Hunter Semillon might enjoy this wine. To me, there’s a sophistication in this wine’s reticence and elusiveness. Balance and complexity in spades. Very nice indeed.

Marc Brédif
Price: $A30
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: November 2007