Limestone & Wine

We did a small wine tasting the other night at VINO, which hopefully shed some light on the topic of wines produced from vines grown in limestone.  There is apparently much controversy & subsequent discussions on minerality in wines.  I will leave the conclusions of the hows & whys to the scientists/experts.  I would say, though, each of these five wines displayed minerality in my humble opinion.  Each were in fact grown in limestone based soils & I wanted to see what a side by side tasting of this five some would show. 

2014 Denis Jamain Reuilly “Les Pierres Plates”–Reuilly is an appellation is France’s Loire Valley, in what is referred to as the Central Vineyards.  Unlike those of neighboring Sancerre & Pouilly Fume, where I once read is a collision of different soils types, Jamain’s vineyard is pure Kimmeridgian limestone, complete with an abundance of fossilized sea critters.  To better contemplate what this could mean, we poured a 2015 Regis Minet Pouilly Fume “Vieilles Vignes” side by side, since Minet mentioned to me, while dining at VINO recently, that his soil was a mix of clay, marl & Kimmeridgian limestone that was quite different from Jamain’s property’s soil.  The resulting 2015 has an amazing core with a resounding mojo & wonderful, though not hard, structure.  In comparison, the Reuilly was much higher toned, more floral, lime blossom, saline kinds of nuances, lighter on its feet & much more high toned & seemingly more taut.  I am sure there is much more to the whys of the differences, but it sure help set the table for the next wine.

2014 Roland Lavantureux Chablis–while growing up in this industry, whenever someone mentioned Kimmeridgian limestone, I would immediately chirp–Chablis.  Yes, I had been programmed at a very early age.  I have long been really mesmerized & fascinated by the incredible purity, transparent & riveting minerality I would find in mid to top level Chablis wines. Some of my absolute favorites, since the 1980’s, came from the house of Roland Lavantureux.  His always had a real artisan feel, rather than just a long, cool, tank fermented profile.  I was also always quite taken by its very touching & personal expression of minerality.  Remarkably, the increasing frequency of warm vintages has greatly changed the richness/apparent ripeness of the wines & certainly turned up the “volume” of what they want to say.  In addition, Roland’s two sons have now taken over running the estate, & one can see the inevitable difference in the winemaking & resulting style changes.  While that is all true, this is still artisan, pure, soil driven Chardonnay from the one & only Chablis region & its long association with the Kimmeridgian limestone the vines are planted in.  AND, one can also see how the Chardonnay grape variety has quite distinctive differences than what the Sauvignon offers in the two previous wines, soil aside.

2012 De Villaine Rully “Gresigny”–here was the next wine that was poured–an absolutely pure & breathtaking Chardonnay from the grossly under rated Côte Chalonaise in southern Burgundy & the home/wine domaine of Aubert deVillaine, one of the all time “Hall of Fame” legends.  “However high profile his day job, Aubert still considers himself a vigneron like any other, and Bouzeron’s off-the-beaten-path location left him alone to make his own wines without the demands of upholding an international reputation. The domaine was horribly rundown when the de Villaines took over, but years of studying this unique terroir have made them pioneers in one of the last forgotten enclaves of Burgundy“.  While I have been a huge fan of this estate’s wines since the 1980’s, because of how pure, elegant & masterfully done their wines are, this 2012 Rully “Gresigny” really took my breath away.  I was told the soil, though limestone, has more clay/silt to it. The resulting wine is soooo different than the Chablis when tasted side by side.  It is not as floral/seashell-y.  On the palate, this wine somehow seems less angular & therefore rounder, with more viscosity & texture, which could at least be partially from oak (albeit old) influence.

2014 Guillemot Savigny-Lès-Beaune “Vieilles Vignes”–The last wine of the line-up is a Pinot Noir from Savigny-lès-Beaune, where “the Guillemot family has worked their vines for 8 generations to produce a more classic style featuring finesse & balance, all while leaving us a reminder of Savigny’s rustic character. Yes, these are wines that epitomize the local terroir and emphasize grace & elegance over power & structure“.   The grapes for this bottling come from 3 different parcels–Planchots de la Champagne, Dessus les Gollardes, Vermots— which they say has more marl & gravel components to the clay-limestone base.  As light colored as this wine looked, it certainly was still quite masculine & noticeably structured (someone might say austere) on the palate.  Still, I was quite taken how sheer, ethereal & wonderfully pure & transparent this wine truly is, & where the soils is much more prominent than fruit or grape variety.  It just needs some time aging in the bottle.  I would love to try this wine in 15 to 20 years, that’s for sure!

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