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La Ferme de la Sansonnière Les Fouchardes 2009

Following on from my recent look at the 2009 La Lune from Mark Angeli the paysan solidaire (as he likes to be known) of La Ferme de la Sansonnière, I came this week to another of his cuvées, the less exalted - but still frequently delicious - Les Fouchardes, again in the 2009 vintage. Regular readers (there must be least two of you, surely) may recall my reason for looking at these wines again. In short, I wanted to revisit these wines because of the very distinctive characters they displayed when tasted at the Renaissance tasting in Angers two years ago. Returning to the wines, I am totally convinced by them, as my previous report and my note below will testify.

I concluded a number of years ago that Chenin Blanc is a particularly difficult variety to taste and extrapolate on in its first weeks and months of life, and these tastings seem to reaffirm that conclusion for me. I'm not able to put it into a context of all the world's wines of course, as I there are many regions I pay scant attention, so I'm not able to say whether embryonic Chenin Blanc is a more obstinate variety than, for example, Nebbiolo in Barolo, or Pinot Noir from the Côte d'Or, Tempranillo in the Ribera del Duero, and so on. But I can certainly contrast it against other very young wines which I taste regularly, which include those based on Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and blends thereof, from the many and varied appellations of the Loire, or from the left and right banks of Bordeaux. These wines are easy in comparison with Chenin Blanc, which seems to have the qualities of a chameleon at this stage.

La Ferme de la Sansonnière Les Fouchardes 2009

The character that threw me in the wines of Marc Angeli was the pure, water-white floral nature of the fruit, sufficiently delicate that I wondered, on tasting the wines, whether anything more characterful would develop. This is, admittedly, despite encountering a similarly cool and restrained style when tasting the wines of Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière, and also the wines of Domaine Champalou, both of which develop in very positive manners (especially Eric's wines, which have provided me with some tasting highlights in the past couple of years). But then I think some caution is probably appropriate when extrapolating wildly across varied appellations and terroirs.

In other young Chenin Blancs, however, I sometimes find more papery fruit, which is not an easy concept for me to convey in words; I really do get a papery sensation, moving into physalis leaves and fruit skins, neither of which is meant to convey anything too autumnal or pithy. This is not a sensation I have often encountered with wines that have been in bottle a year or two though; I think I've seen it most often in the wines of Anjou, such as those of Philippe and Catherine Delesvaux, but in the 2012 vintage it was even in one of the sec cuvées from Domaine Huet, which is a first. Then from some wines I get the more typical youthful Chenin characteristics, largely orchard fruits, namely apples and pears, which can be found in a huge array of wines. This is before we come to wines that have been influenced by 'natural' wine philosophies, and may show evidence of oxidation, or where there is botrytis complicating the picture, or where reductive winemaking makes its mark. I think chameleon seems quite an appropriate description.

Revisiting these wines has also reaffirmed my belief that, although still relevant, early assessments of fruit profile are less important than I once thought. As with any other young wine, what is vital is structure, vigour, balance, substance and energy, characteristics that are less likely to change so radically as mere scents and flavours, and from my point of view are also more important in determining how much pleasure I get from a wine. I would be interested to hear of contrasting opinions. While you're thinking about that, all two of you, I will get on with this week's wine, the 2009 Les Fouchardes from La Ferme de la Sansonnière, which is bottled as a Vin de France, as is the custom for Mark Angeli and many of his 'natural' peers these days. Interestingly, the nose shows the same minerally, slightly floral, lightly dusted gentle fruit character that the 2009 La Lune possessed, although perhaps not in the same exuberant style. The main difference here is that the wine seems somewhat slower to open up, and when it does so it displays a slightly more robust, pithy fruit character alongside these more minerally elements. This is also true on the palate, which has a rather gentle but appealingly balanced acidity, but also a fine if rather pithy note to the backbone of the wine. There is a good grip to it, and a sappy, mouth-watering structure all leading into an appealingly long finish. This is scented, nuanced, and so very interesting to drink; overall, an impressive wine, even if it did start life so pale and unassuming. 17/20 (4/3/13)

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