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The wines of Ampelidae, Loire, France

Website: www.ampelidae.com

Frédéric Brochet (right) is a very interesting person. He’s a PhD psychologist and a winegrower. He did his PhD at Bordeaux University II, as well as doing some studies in Paris, finishing in 2000, looking at the subject of the perception of wine – something that fascinates me. Indeed, I first knew him through his writings, only later realizing that he was actually making wine.

Set for a career as an academic, he grew disenchanted with both Bordeaux and the French University system. On Bordeauex, he says, ‘It’s an empire: if you are not born there you can’t fit in’. And of the University system, ‘if you want to order a pen, you have to fill in a dozen papers. It is not a meritocracy’. So he decided to leave academia for wine growing. ‘My passion is creating stuff’, he reveals.

He decided to get involved with Ampelidae, his own wine project, and then to teach on the side. He currently spends four weeks a year teaching at the Slow Food University in Pollenza, Italy.

Frédéric’s grandparents had four hectares of vines close to Poitiers, and his father kept a 0.5 ha vineyard to make wine for his own consumption. Frédéric took an interest, and in 1990 made wine for the family – just two barrels.

During Frédéric’s masters year, he went to Wagga Wagga in Australia and was involved in a project on measuring methoxypyrazine levels in wines. The Australian wine industry made an impression on him. ‘When I came back from Australia I wanted to make the French equivalent of Penfolds’, he recalls. This project, which he named Ampelidae, would not have been possible in a well known region. He began in 1995.

He makes a range of different wines. The top ones, labelled with a single letter indicating the variety, are from organically managed vineyards, and they are beautifully packaged, with simple labels and a short metal caspsule reminiscent of that of Ridge (a super-premium California producer) and more recently Ravenswood (another Californian producer).

Some of the wines are available in the UK at Waitrose here.

Ampelidae K 2005 Vin de Pays de la Vienne
This is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. ‘I’m concentrating on a full fruit wine’, says Frederic Brochet, ‘using fully ripe grapes from a significantly cold climate’. This is ripe and quite full with a bright nose showing some roasted oak (70% new). The palate has lovely richness with dense, well defined sweet dark fruits. There’s lovely gravelly, spicy tannic structure, too. 91/100 (£11.49 Waitrose)

Ampelidae K 2006  Vin de Pays de la Vienne
Fresh, bright fruit dominates here: really supple with nice purity of fruit. Good structure. This is a bit earthy with lovely minerally, gravelly structure. A fresh wine. 90/100

Château des Roches Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Full yellow colour.
Grassy, herby nose with a bit of honey. The palate is quite broad with nice herby melony fruit. A really tasty wine with some weight. 88/100

Brochet Mon Blanc NV
From the 2006 vintage, but labelled NV. A selected tank with a specific character. Broad, rich, almost nutty nose with a reductive lees character. The palate has a lovely broad, nutty, herby character with some melony richness. Distinctive and full flavoured. 90/100

Brochet Pointe de Deux NV Vin de Pays de la Jardin du France
2006 vintage, but this is labelled NV.
Made from bought-in grapes. Amazing fresh nettley nose shows notes of grass and mint. The palate has a rounded texture and ripe grapefruit notes, with great purity and a touch of melony freshness. Versatile and distinctive. 88/100

Ampelidae S 2005 Vin de Pays de la Vienne
Old vine Sauvignon Blanc, free-run juice, half done in barrel, half in tank. Fine, quite complex stylish nose is tight and herby. The palate has some toasty warmth as well as elegant, smooth fruit. Sophisticated and quite intense with lovely ripeness. A grown-up Sauvignon. 90/100

Ampelidae S 2006 Vin de Pays de la Vienne
Subtly toasty, slightly reductive nose with notes of struck match. Lovely fruit under this, though. The palate shows dense, taut, fresh grassy fruit and good acidity. A serious effort with lovely savouriness. 91/100 (£9.99 Waitrose)

Wines tasted 02/08  
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