Caves de Pyrene, summer reds natch: natural wines from the Loire & the Yarra Valley

Remember the irritating fad for ending sentences with “natch?” When it comes to wine though, I’m a fan of natch natch, so where better to taste than at Terroirs Wine Bar, which is part owned by Les Caves de Pyrene, purveyors of natural wines.  Given the basic raw material – grapes – wine is hardly Coca Cola, but chemicals are used growing grapes and making wine.  Les Caves de Pyrene aim to source wines from producers who eschew chemicals entirely or near as damn it and I can do no better than refer you to their website here and here for a much more detailed account of what this means.

As you might expect given that the Loire is a hotbed of natural winemaking, Les Caves have an impressive Loire portfolio, but they’re also at the cutting edge of Australia’s natural wine scene.  A few weeks ago, I snuck in a tasting of the latest Loire and Australian additions to their list before dinner with a wine mate.  It was another hot and airless day and I was glad to find some respite in a handful of joyous summer reds as well as some impressive whites.

The Loire

Benoit Courault Gilbourg 2008 (Vin de Table) – I always think of Anjou Chenin Blanc in particular as a red wine drinkers white.  Schist soils seem to produce tensile, structured wines and this golden wine is no exception.  Made from 60+ year old vines it’s naturally fermented then aged in old barrels.  Tight and savoury on the nose, there’s a firm, minerally, acid backbone behind its rich and concentrated layers of leesy, spicy, quince and dried honey.  Lots to savour here.  Very good.  13%

Franz Saumon Un Saumon dans la Loire Romorantin 2009, (Vin de France) – Saumon makes excellent Chenin in Montlouis (see my recent write up here) and, a fish out of water in Cour-Cheverny, buys in the fruit for this wine.  Romorantin is renowned for its high acidity though the nose does not betray it, with its lemon rind and spice. But it’s a driving force on the palate which shows crunchy, tart even, green apple, tempered by a savoury edge and a fine, nutty spine.  Rolling not angular acidity makes for a long, lipsmacking, bone dry finish.  Lovely depth of flavor and taffeta richness/layer; 13.5%

Le Domaine du Moulin Pivoine 2008 (Vin de Pays du Loir-et-Cher) – another departure, this time from a Cour-Cheverny not Montlouis producer.  This winsome blend of 90% Cot (Malbec) and 10% Gamay is very hands off and pure.  A pretty nose of violets with hints of chicory and smoky bacon leads onto a textured palate (bony tannins) with black cherry/cherry stone, almond, white pepper and peonies.  With no added sulphites the bottle directs it to be stored under 15 degrees.  But why store it – it’s just lovely summer days drinking. 13%.   

Domaine Chahut et Prodiges La Mule 2008 (Vin de Table) – this pale ruby/garnet Gamay is a terrific alternative to Beaujolais with its freshly picked cherry and strawberry nose – like smelling a punnet on market day.  Silky, ripe red fruits follow through in the mouth which has an attractive edge of edge of rhubarb – mostly sweet with a judicious touch of sour.  With no added sulphites there’s a smoky, earthy hint to the finish, but its bright fruit remains firmly in the picture.  Pretty and very drinkable.

Domaine Sébastien David L’hurlubelu 2009 (St Nicolas de Bourgueil) – as the name, label and screwcap closure suggest, this is a bright and breezy part carbonic maceration fermented Cabernet Franc with soft, lilting pure black cherry and a cooly mineral touch of lead pencil. 12%

Clos Tue-Boeuf Rouillon Cheverny 2009 – this blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir has an attractive mélange of red cherry, berry and currant fruit with lifted violets and savoury white pepper and subtle smoky bacon, supported by ripe but present tannins.  A great alternative to “budget” Burgundy or Cru Beaujolais, with lovely freshness and life.


Mayer Pinot Noir 2008 (Yarra Valley) – a really pale, ruby hue and, though there’s weight  – a lovely mouthfeel – to its ripe silky wild red currant and cherry fruit.  A gossamer levity too with lifted floral notes as well as a very subtle earthy undertow.  Beautifully judged with great balance, complexity and length. 13.5%.

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