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The wines of Domaine des Chesnaies (Lamé-Delille-Boucard), Bourgueil

La Vigeronne tasting, August 2001

It's not hard to see why Loire reds aren't very fashionable. They're not big, ripe, and sweetly fruited, so they lack that head-turning ability that tends to grab the attention of critics. Instead, they are often lighter, more subtle, high-acid wines, relying on elegance and perfume rather than power to make their impression. And with the Loire's cool, often wet climate there is quite a bit of vintage variation, which can make successful purchasing a tricky business. But I like them. Good examples show balance, fragrance and 'digestibility': they are wines you can sit down with and get to know over the course of an evening. They are also great food wines.

Domaine des Chesnaies is a mid-sized producer in Bourgeuil, with some 35 ha of vines. The wines are aged in large wooden foudres (barrels), and the best cuvées have extended barrel ageing. The older wines tasted here were until very recently stored in the Domaine's own cellars, carved into the tufa limestone that is typical of the region. I suspect it's partly because of the cool conditions of these cellars (a constant 6-8 °C) that the older wines here were showing so well. In particular, the 1976 is a real stunner. It may yet improve more. If the more recent vintages of the same cuvée are made in the same style, then it may well be worth investing in. After all, because of the Loire's semi-unfashionable status, the prices for these wines are remarkably fair.

2000 Bourgueil Rosé (£6.50)
Very pale in colour, with a fresh, bright nose and good acidity. There's a hint of leafiness to this. Attractive wine showing god concentration. Very good

1999 Bourgueil Cuvée Lucien-Lamé
A single 2.5 ha clos, this is the highest vineyard in the domaine. Lovely nose shows delicate notes of pencil shavings, cedar and some herbaceousness. Quite light on the palate (it was a tricky vintage), with high acidity and some spicy tannins. Very digestible. Very good+ (£6.95)

1998 Bourgueil Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
From gravel terraces, the Vieilles Vignes cuvée is apparently made in a forward, perfumed style. Bright cherry red colour, not too dense. Slightly muted on the nose with a palate dominated by raspberry and cherry fruit. Bright and fruity, this is a little primary, but may develop some real interest with a bit of time in the bottle. Good/very good (£6.95)

1997 Bourgueil Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
There's a smoky, tarry edge to the leafy raspberry fruit that is quite attractive. Lovely density to the palate: it is rich, full, ripe and cedary, with good balance. Interesting stuff. Midweight and digestible. Very good+ (£7.95)

1995 Bourgueil Cuvée Lucien-Lamé
A cherry colour with a mature brick-red rim. The subtle, expressive nose shows leafy, spicy and leathery notes, leading to a balanced palate with drying tannins and leafy, plummy fruit. Dry finish and good acidity. Very good+

1995 Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige
This cuvée has a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon added, and is made in a longer-lasting style. A pale cherry red colour with a bricking rim. The subtle nose is slightly leafy and leathery. Nice balanced palate shows cedary fruit with a herbaceous edge, firm tannins, good acid and a dry, spicy finish. Savoury and lean. Very good (£7.95)

1989 Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige
A superb effort. Surprisingly deep in colour with a bricking rim. Lovely chalky, mineralic nose with a core of ripe, slightly meaty fruit. The concentrated palate shows rich, ripe fruit with some tarry undertones. It's mineralic, with still-firm tannins. Excellent (£18.95)

1976 Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige
Remarkable stuff. Deep red/purple colour, starting to fade a little at the rim. Sensational open, chalky, mineralic nose with a beguiling hint of undergrowth. The palate is beautifully balanced and displays fresh, rich fruit, chalky minerality, good acidity, mouthfilling concentration and firm tannins. Excellent (£35)

1969 Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige
A healthy cherry red colour, this is beginning to fade a bit at the rim. It has an evolved 'old wine' nose of mushrooms, undergrowth and minerals. The attractive, balanced palate is rounded with some minerally fruit, a touch of spice and good length on the finish. I'd drink this up fairly soon. Very good/excellent (£45)

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