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Thank you, Philippe Vatan

A lot of the thoughts swimming about my head the last day or so concern Bordeaux 2010, in particular the jaw-dropping prices of the newly released classed growths and equivalents. For my wallet these wines aren’t priced to drink anymore. And I’m sitting here trying to deflect my thoughts away from this, because I see little point in entering a lengthy diatribe which would, ultimately, reflect my own position on what wine, specifically young Bordeaux sold en primeur, should cost (or perhaps “what I would like it to cost” is a better way of expressing it). And you’ve heard all the arguments for and against – it’s a free market/world….high consumer demand and restricted supply….a wine is worth what someone will pay for it….Bordeaux isn’t just the top ten chateaux you know….the Chinese will buy it if you don’t….etc., etc. – before now, here and elsewhere.

Thank you Philippe Vatan of Chateau du Hureau, a Saumur estate with a good reputation. Proprietor Philippe started off in orchard management, growing apples, before switching to vines and viticulture. Thank you Philippe, because you and many like you still make wine that is wine, priced to be opened alongside a meal. Priced so that I could, should the whim take me, buy a bottle or a case without checking this month’s credit card statement first. Priced lower than the cost of my car, which can not be said of many recently released 2010 Bordeaux.

Having tried Philippe’s 2009s at a tasting earlier this year (written up this week: 2009 Touraine & Centre), I found two of the wines delightful, although the Lisagathe was very volatile and needed to be left alone. Happily Philippe is going to send another bottle for me to retaste, so I will be looking at this wine again later in the year. For the moment though, here are some older notes from February 2010:

Chateau du Hureau Saumur Blanc 2008: A minerally nose here, an open style, with a lovely polish to the palate. Good structure too, nice grip, fresh, with slightly plump citrus fruits. Rather softer acidity at the core, but a good substance to it. This is certainly ripe, with a touch more grip and presence in the midpalate than at the start. The fruit has a slightly dried character which I like. Good wine. 16/20

Chateau du Hureau Saumur-Champigny Tuffe 2008: The domaine cuvée, due to be bottled early 2010. The vines average about 20 years, ranging from 8 to 42 years old. From 14 separate parcels, with a clay-limestone terroir. Fresh but with a hint of plumpness to it, with stony red fruits, very typical of the appellation. A polished style, moving into cherry stone fruit, with a good flourish of tannins at the end. Really appealing. 16.5/20

Chateau du Hureau Saumur-Champigny Fours à Chaux 2008: This parcel of vines has soils of clay, limestone and schist. A great colour in the glass, although the nose is rather closed. There is fruit here though, although it has a rather crisp and crunchy style. Beautifully fresh on the palate, with a tingling acid core. Is this the acid zip of the schist? Nice tannins at the edges. Good, but difficult to judge definitively with that rather shut-down nose. 16.5-17.5/20

Chateau du Hureau Saumur-Champigny Lisagathe 2008: From argilo-calcaire soils right behind the Hureau property, with vines ranging from 25 to 48 years old. Very bright fruit on the nose, cherries and smoke, cranberry too. Good depth and character for sure. So supple on the palate, just gliding around the mouth, beautifully polished. Good midpalate tannins, with a ripe style backed up by a vigorous acid backbone. Smoky fruit, the barest hint of confit to it, but nevertheless a very appealing style. It finished very long. A vin de garde I think! 17.5/20

Of note, Philippe has a new website, here: www.domaine-hureau.fr. I particularly like the “organic growing” section where he gives some accounts of his steps from chemical farming to organic viticulture. It is all too easy to be evangelical about organics and biodynamics and to point a wagging finger at those who haven’t taken up the mantle; but Philippe’s piece highlights some of his concerns as he made the change, especially his thoughts regarding style and quality of the resulting wines, the damage ploughing may cause, and what to do when you finally forego the use of weedkillers. Interesting stuff! They also have some mature vintages, white and red, from 1989, 1990 and 2000, for sale, for very fair prices (I will avoid making any further Bordeaux 2010 comparisons). Do take a look.

This is my final post before my summer break, I will be back hopefully refreshed with new notes, opinions and more, from July 25th.

4 Responses to “Thank you, Philippe Vatan”

  1. Is the domaine bottling the Tuffe label? If so, it’s been one of my favorite affordably priced SCs over the last couple of years. (The Lisagathe is tough to find in the US and I have never seen the Fours a Chaux or the chenin.)

    Haven’t drunk a bottle of Bordeaux in…I have no idea.

  2. Hi Elliot

    Yes I think you are right; my profile is a little outdated and having seen this I’ve just marked it down for an update.

    I think in Saumur-Champigny the cuvées are:
    - Tuffe, an assemblage, largest volume, so the ‘domaine’ cuvée.
    - Fours à Chaux
    - Fevettes
    - Lisagathe

    The latter three are cuvées based on individual or specific blended terroirs, or on age of vines.

  3. PS Elliot, having said that, there was once certainly an un-named domaine cuvée – I have photos of the 2003 and I suspect the 2005 was the same. Not sure when the change was made, renaming it ‘Tuffe’, but looking at Google images I suspect with the 2006 vintage.

  4. Hi Chris,

    Having just returned from my own summer break I hope you have had a good one youself. You certainly deserved it!
    Nice to see your comments re Bordeaux. I have made it a point to not buy Bordeaux since donkey’s years. I have the distinct feeling that the Bordelais are no longer vignerons, but bankers. I do pity the poor souls who own a vineyard in the Bordeaux area, but not in one of the few demanded AOP’s. It is a hard sell!
    Exception: Château Beaulieu from the Côtes de Bourg. A very nice Bordeaux from humbler beginnings, but a bargain if you look at the quality.