Loire Tête de Cuvée Brut

Overlooking the stepped embankments of the Loire River, 130 hectares of Château Moncontour make for one of the oldest and storied estates in Touraine — a Loire Valley sub-region where the namesake river meets two of its main tributaries: the Indre-et-Loire and Loir-et-Cher. Dating to the mid 15th-century, the Renaissance-era château was built by King Charles VII as one of the many gifts lavished on his courtesan, Agnès Sorel. Euphemistically known as ‘Dame de Beauté,’ the striking appearance and courtly influence of Agnès was one bookend in the life and fortunes of the king; the other came disguised as a boy, but was a young country maiden, Jeanne d’Arc — aka ‘La Pucelle d’Orléans.’ Her religiously-inspired military campaign to challenge the occupying English armies was a deciding factor in Charles’ quest to resecure his crown and fractured lands. Among many other tales linked to the Moncontour estate in the ensuing ages is the partial destruction by fire during the French revolution, and then becoming an elusive fascination for the 19th-century author, Honoré de Balzac, who featured its twin white turrets and brambled riverbanks in his published, personal writings — perhaps, while giddily inspired by the bottled bounty of its vineyards!

As with most Crémant, this week’s effervescent bottling has been produced by a double fermentation process generally referred to as méthode Champenoise, though, in the 1980’s the term was made proprietary to only wines originating from the Champagne AOC in north-eastern France. This was justified to guard the distinct typicity of the region’s sparkling wines but doesn’t directly infer a greater level of quality. Moreover, the highly- variable pricing for bonafide Champagnes tends to be among the most arbitrary of all premium wine styles in France – frequently more informed by what the market is willing to pay rather than how much effort has been invested by the vintner. This week’s DéClassé feature of Château Moncontour Tête de Cuvée Brut is fashioned with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes sourced within the Vouvray AOC boundaries and finished in an equivalent winemaking manner called méthode traditionnelle.

Moncontour’s current custodial vintners are the Feray Family, who since 1994 has been drawing Chenin Blanc fruit, aka Pineau de la Loire, from numerous small plots dotted around the village of Vouvray. Influenced by the sedimentary rock and clay soils that are typical of the Touraine, this local cultivar imparts a distinct minerality along with a high level of acidity – making it an ideal base for the pétillant (sparkling) versions of Vouvray. Having spent at least 12 months ageing in the bottle before disgorgement, final corking, and release, this is so modestly priced that you will chide yourself endlessly for not having bought more before having to wait again until next January!

Chateau Moncontour

CHÂTEAU MONCONTOUR TÊTE DE CUVÉE BRUT VOUVRAY
VINTAGES/LCBO — Product #207936 | 750 mL bottle
Price $17.95
12% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Loire, France
By: Château Moncontour
Release Date: January 6, 2018

Tasting Note
This wine’s straw-yellow colour, apricot and pear aromas, some nutty and baked brioche notes, and a very lively mousse make for a refreshing counterpoint to the winter blues! Try as an informal apéritif or with lighter fare such as goat cheese tartlets, pâté and seasoned bread crisps or alongside a selection of moderately spicy, Asian appetizers.

Loire Crémant

As early as the 6th century, the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Maur had begun to cultivate, refine and gradually proliferate some of the white wine yielding grapes that now thrive in the chalky soils or pierres de tuffeau of the Loire Valley. This underlying, light-coloured, fine-grained and fossil-laden limestone also has a long history of use as a quarried building material, giving the Loire’s photogenic cathedrals, châteaux, and towns, their distinctively luminous personality – both above and below ground, as in the surprising, 5 mile-long cellar at Maison Bouvet Ladubay. It’s actually an excavated cave, first begun a millennium ago by another monk order, Saint Florent, who used the stone in the 1040AD construction of their Abbaye La Belle d’Anjou. Now invested with an artist-commissioned installation of 35 architectural clusters, including carved pillars, capitals and arches, the Underground Cathedral is an ode to 10 centuries of skill and intricate labour by the Loire’s inspired stonemasons. It’s also a contemporary contribution to the storied, natural and cultural landscape between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes; declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

Finished using the Méthode Traditionelle, this is the non-Champagne descriptor for a somewhat involved, in-the-bottle, secondary fermentation process that’s employed to create premium grades of vins mousseux (sparkling wine); originating in one of eight approved AOC’s in France for the wine style that were established in the 1970’s. The best known of these include Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Limoux, and Crémant de LoireMoreover, the latter is further distinguished as 3 zones of unique terroir, whose vineyards sprawl along the valley slopes and banks of a meandering Loire River: Touraine, Anjou and the most prolific of all, Saumur – the fertile source for this week’s DéClassé featured Bouvet Brut Excellence.

It’s an ebullient assemblage of mainly Chenin Blanc, the region’s flagship grape that’s also known as Pineau de la Loire, and a splash of Chardonnay, a migrated variety that’s often generically referred to as white Burgundy – here contributing added depth and softness to the wine’s body, mouthfeel, and range of aromas. Aged in the winery’s deep limestone cellars, these wines must be left to mature in the bottle for a minimum period of 12 months. However, as is the typical case with the finishing of non-vintage crémant (or Champagne, for that matter), the vintner is free to incorporate a dose of stored wine from a previous harvest into the final blend – thereby better ensuring the year-to-year consistency of the brand’s intended character and flavour profile.

So, as you delight in this expertly made, dimensional and bubbly offering, see if you can experience some hinting references to the land and the prideful culture from which it comes. If you can’t, then be satisfied with having picked up several bottles of extraordinary value in Loire Crémant wine making.

Bouvet

BOUVET BRUT EXCELLENCE CREMANT DE LOIRE
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #303636 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 18.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Loire, France
By: Bouvet-Ladubay
Release Date: April 29, 2017

Tasting Note
This is a particularly zesty, pale golden-amber, crisp and dry sparkler with a fruit and honey bouquet – and some surprising berry flavour notes in among the 
expected apple, pear and citrus. Try this as a spritzy apéritif with soft cheeses, charcuterie and hors d’oeuvres or with seafood and freshwater fish.

Crémant Alert

Finished using the méthode traditionelle, this is the non-Champagne descriptor
for a fairly involved, in-the-bottle, secondary fermentation process employed to
create premium grades of vins mousseux (sparkling wine); originating in one of
eight approved AOC’s in France for the wine style; according to the negotiated
regulations established in the 1970’s. The best known of these include Crémant
d’Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Limoux 
and Crémant de Loire.
Moreover, the latter is further distinguished as 3 parcels of unique terroir, whose vineyards sprawl along the valley slopes and banks of a meandering Loire River: Touraine, Anjou and the most prolific of all, Saumur – the fertile source for this
week’s DéClassé featured Bouvet Brut Excellence.

It’s an ebullient assemblage of mainly Chenin Blanc, the region’s flagship grape
that’s also known as Pineau de la Loire and a splash of Chardonnay, a migrated
variety that’s often referred to, generically, as white Burgundy – contributing
added depth and softness to the wine’s body, mouthfeel and range of aromas.
Aged in the winery’s deep limestone cellars, these wines must be left to mature
in-bottle for a minimum period of 12 months. However, as is the common case
with the finishing of non-vintage crémant (or Champagne, for that matter), the
vintner is free to incorporate into the final blend, a dose of stored wine from a
previous harvest – thereby better ensuring the year-to-year consistency of the
brand’s intended character and flavour profile.

As early as the 6th century, the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Maur had begun to
cultivate, refine and gradually proliferate some of the white wine yielding grapes
that now thrive in the valley’s chalky soils or pierres de tuffeau. This underlying,
light-coloured, fine-grained and fossil-laden limestone, with a long history of use
as a quarried building material, has also given the Loire’s photogenic cathedrals,
châteaux, monuments and towns their distinctively luminous personality. This both
above and below ground, as in the case of Maison Bouvet Ladubay’s surprising,
5 mile-long cellar. It’s actually an excavated cave, first begun a millennium ago by another monk order, Saint Florent, who used the stone in the construction 
of their Abbaye La Belle d’Anjou, est.1040AD. Now invested with an artist commissioned installation of 35 architectural clusters, including carved pillars, capitals and arches,
the Underground Cathedral  is an ode 
to 10 centuries of skill and intricate labour
by the Loire’s inspired stonemasons. It’s also a contemporary contribution to the
storied, natural and cultural landscape between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes; deservedly declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

So, as you delight in this expertly made, dimensional and bubbly offering, see if
you can experience some hinting references to the land and the prideful culture
from which it comes. If you can’t, then be satisfied with having picked up several
bottles of an extraordinary value in the state-of-the-art, crémant wine making.

Bouvet

BOUVET BRUT EXCELLENCE CREMANT DE LOIRE
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #303636 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Loire, France
By: Bouvet-Ladubay
Release Date: August 8, 2015

Tasting Note
This is a particularly zesty, pale golden-amber, crisp and dry sparkler with a fruit
and honey bouquet, with some surprising berry flavour notes in among the
expected apple, pear and citrus. Try this as a spritzy apéritif with soft cheeses, charcuterie and hors d’oeuvres or with seafood and freshwater fish.