Moulin Touchais, Coteaux du Layon 1960
By the simple expedient of ignoring Sheila’s, “things to do list”, I found a moment recently to rummage through the old wine cellars here at Le Clos des Guyons, only to stumble across a bottle of Moulin Touchais’ Coteaux du Layon 1960 lying in the sand, which I had completely forgotten about – what a great moment!
To give you some background the Vignoble Touchais is a unique winery with the bulk of the wine of no great prestige with much of it being sold for the normal range of Anjou wine and much of the “Chenin” going to the large sparkling wine houses in Saumur. But there is one continual high-spot in that the grapes from the best vineyards, mainly around nearby Tigné, where the French actor Gerald Depardieu has a long established estate and Martigné-Briand, are used to make the unique cuvée “Moulin Touchais” and these are aged for 10 years before release, making sure that they are perfect for drinking.
The winery was founded in 1787 and the Doué la Fontaine based Loire Valley wine producer is only about a five minute drive out of Doué la fontaine and has been in the Touchais family for several generations. The winery is now managed by Jean-Marie Touchais whose father, Joseph, really established the practice of aging the sweet wines for a minimim of ten years before putting them on the market, partly because, at the time, they were difficult to sell. There are several hundred thousand bottles in their cellars in Doué. You may well find wine from this era also labelled Anjou because Joseph thought that people in the UK wouldn’t know anything about le Coteaux de Layon. The other bizarre fact is that all Moulin Touchais are sold in bottles of 73cl. not the normal 75cl.
We were very keen to try it and decided to have it with our last Galette de Rois of the year shared with friends, what better excuse! (lost count of these this year but have the extra kilos to show for it)!
And so, onto the wine:- The colour is a rich gold and the first thing that hits you is the mineral feel of the Chenin. When young, Chenin has vibrant fruit flavours but an aged Chenin develops these complex, mineral notes which are quite difficult to describe. There is a clear hint of “rancio” and more than passing notes of rich sherry-like flavours. Caramel developed in the mouth. The sweetness was not as intense as you would expect from the great Layons particularly those of Bonnezeaux, Chaume or Quart de Chaume and that is clearly not the intention as apparently 20% of the grapes are picked quite early to ensure the acidity. The rest is late harvested and I couldn’t find any hint of noble rot. The overall effect is, despite it’s age, a fresh rather than an intense Layon (or at least as fresh as a 53 year old wine can be)! It had a good length with a pleasant burst of citron on the finish in fact the vibrant acidity helped to give it a much more youthful feel despite the aged Chenin and sherry, (Orloroso). In summary it was not the intense Layon which we have come to expect, but perhaps an example of an older, softer style of Anjou winemaking when things were simpler, (natural fermentation, no oak etc). A surprising amount of acidity which was certainly beneficial and probably reflects the year; 1960 wasn’t an specially warm year, and the grapes would therefore have retained a lot of acidity. Of course with a wine of 53 years it is almost impossible to do a direct comparison with younger wines especially as Chenin develops a total different character after it has cast off its youthful exuberance.
The wine is naturally fermented, a temperature controlled cool ferment in concrete, epoxy lined tanks and bottled in the April following the vintage. Moulin Touchais sees no oak.
Jean Marie Touchais has said that their 2003 will be released this year – can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle of this given that 2003 was a distinguished year. Although the extreme heat, (15,000 French people died of heat related illnesses), did lead to a certain lack of acidity, it will be a very interesting tasting.
Wishing you all a ‘bonne semaine’ . As I went for my walk this morning to the café/bar, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and I could feel Spring in the air! Two red squirrels shot across the courtyard and everywhere felt good.