Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Philippe Tessier's 2007 Cheverny Rouge

For today, we have a note on the first of a couple of quite enjoyable and relatively good-value – one perhaps a bit more so than the other in both instances – Loire reds I’ve tried in the last week. The first comes from Philippe Tessier, a producer whose wines I hadn’t come across, until recently, since my last visit to François and Manuela Chidaine’s wine shop, La Cave Insolite, in Montlouis-sur-Loire.

Cheverny Rouge, Domaine Philippe Tessier 2007
$18. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Potomac Selections, Landover, MD.
Is it just me or are Gamay/Pinot Noir blends nearly always stinky? In the case of Philippe Tessier’s Cheverny Rouge, I’m thinking brush fire and a dash of barnyard, backed up by a distinct impression of stemminess. There’s a smidgen of Côt (about 10%) in the blend as well, so perhaps Malbec's typical black earth aromas are also a contributing factor. In any event, the wine’s not altogether charming at first. But on the palate, it’s immediately more pleasing, delivering a subtler version of the “earthy” aspects found on the nose along with bright if somewhat simple red fruits, mostly in the cherry/raspberry end of the spectrum. On day two, it actually blossomed into something much more attractive, with delicacy and fine texture coming to the fore, along with a greater purity and clearer expression of medium cherry fruit and spry acidity. Not a bad choice for simple poultry, and I expect a quite good one for baked salmon.

Tesssier is apparently a somewhat common surname in Cheverny. (I wrote up a Cour Cheverny from another Tessier, Christian, a while back.) Philippe Tessier’s estate comprises 20 hectares of vineyards on an ancient maritime influenced silico-argilo-calcaire soil base in the heart of Cheverny. Philippe farms organically, ferments his wines on their native yeasts and uses only a small dash of sulfur on the bottling line.

Tomorrow, we’ll check in with another ‘07 Loire red, from one of the top producers in Chinon.


Josh George said...

Get the Guion 2007 Bourgueil Cuvee Domaine from Chambers Street next time you are there. 11 bucks, and delicious!

michelecolline said...

Maybe a touch reduced?

David McDuff said...

Thanks for the heads-up. It's in my imaginary shopping cart, so it's just a question of time (among other things) before I get to try the Guion.

I think you nailed it. I was writing a bit off-the-cuff with the Tessier review but reduction was almost certainly the culprit.

I've found reduction, as hinted, to be a common trait with Passetoutgrains, Cheverny and other PN/Gamay blends. I wonder if there's a scientific predisposition for these two to reduce when blended or whether it's just a more general side effect of the reductive wine making style typical to such wines.

michelecolline said...

I remember a dolcetto producer once telling me that that particular grape needed lots of racking and aeration to prevent reduction. Gamay feels the same way to me for some reason.

ptdc said...

I really enjoy your blog -- please keep up the good work! I'm currently drinking the 2007 Tessier, and what a beautiful wine! I didn't know it was a pinot/gamay blend -- the shop I got it from told me it was a cab franc. Thanks for the tip! Just for us ignorant fools: what do you all mean by reduction, and how does that relate to the barnyard funk?

David McDuff said...

Dolcetto is definitely the poster child for naturally reductive tendencies. I'm not sure Gamay leans that way any more strongly than Pinot Noir on its own. Anyone else out there care to weigh in?

Thanks for the kind words. You ask a big, tough question. I've answered it in my own words somewhere 'round these parts in the past. This time, perhaps you'll allow me to quote the great oenologist Émile Peynaud:

"In chemist's terms, the opposite phenomenon of oxidation is reduction, asphyxia in effect.... The best and most intense bouquets [meaning aromas of mature wines] develop in conditions where the oxidation potential is lowest.... However, if reduction is excessive it results in smells, almost stenches, that are little appreciated. wines deprived of air too soon or subjected to a reductive influence smell reduced....

Reduction smells originate from sulphur derivatives and their character is that of hydrogen sulphide. They are based on traces of hydrogen sulphide or mercaptans.... The descriptions applied to these repellent smells are numerous: sulphur odours, sulphurous, rotten eggs.... There are worse and more intractable forms of reduction which render the wines undrinkable: smells that are fetid or putrid reminiscent of garlic, decomposition or stagnant water."

That's a long description and may still leave some questions unanswered but I hope it helps at least a little.

In less "intractable" cases, reduced aromas will often clear up under the influence of oxidation (aka time in the glass). In extreme cases, though, reductivity can be an irreconcilable fault.

ptdc said...

thanks very much! i think i'm a fan of more reduced wines then. and i am definitely going to have to read more of peyraud's writings... all the best.

David McDuff said...


The quote comes from Peynaud's The Taste of Wine. It's a crucial text, imho. You'll find it in my Amazon store if you're interested in picking up a copy.

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