The drive from Montlouis to Vouvray took us past the famous troglodyte residences built into the tufa (soft limestone) cliffs that follow the Cher and Loire rivers. Here, homes and wine cellars have been built into caves that were created when limestone for building was extracted. They are quirky and wonderful.
For winegrowers who own one of these caves, they make ideal cellars. They are naturally cool, which means nice slow fermentations, reduced risk of brett (for reds), and good storage conditions. They are also quite damp, which results in mould growth but also very little evaporation, and much reduced need for topping up of barrels.
Our visit in Vouvray was with Vincent and Tania Carême. Vincent is local, but not from a wine-growing family, while Tania is from South Africa. Vincent’s first vintage was 1999, but in 2004 he bought the property that currently doubles as family home and winery, with nice underground caves as barrel cellars. At the same time, he also bought a superb vineyard that he’s partially replanted: Le Clos de La Roche Vouvray. They farm 17 hectares of vines, and also buy in some grapes for the ‘Spring’ cuvée. Farming is organic.
We took a walk around the vineyards, and then went back to the cellar for some tasting. Afterwards, Vincent and Tania prepared some rillettes and terrine for us, and we sat, drank and chatted, while their two energetic boys and wire-hired daschund ran around us.
Vincent and Tania also make wine in South Africa, and it’s pretty good. Apart from his South African red, this is a 100% Chenin Blanc domain.
Vincent Carême Brut NV Vouvray, Loire, France
2014 and some 2013 too. A vineyard with heavier clay soils. Fermentation in tank, stop the fermentation with 18 g rs, filter and then add yeast. It’s somewhere between a methode ancestral and traditional method. 24-36 months on the lees and 5 g/l dosage. Very fruity and rounded with apples and pears, and a hint of sweetness. This is a generous fruity style with real appeal. 89/100
Vincent Carême L’Ancestrale 2014 Vouvray, Loire, France
Use only old vineyards, start fermentation in tank with natural yeast. Long, slow fermentation with one racking to get rid of the heavy sediments. After we bottle with 18-20 g sugar, but we don’t add any yeast. Store bottles at 14 C to make sure the fermentation carries on. Keep the wine in bottle for 24 months and disgorge with no dosage. This is bright and lemony with lovely fresh, pure fruit. Nicely intense with good acidity. Very stylish and linear. 91/100
Vincent Carême Spring Vouvray 2015 Loire, France
Negociant wine with grapes bought from friends, not all organic. Vinified here. Made 80% in tank, 20% in barrel. Lovely mellow, fruity wine with pretty lemon, pear and apple fruit. Pure and juicy with good acidity. Stony and juicy with nice precision. 90/100
Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec 2016 Loire, France
Dry with a hint of fruit sweetness. Lively tangerine and lemon fruit, and a delicate spiciness. Fruity and delicious with a hint of marmalade and tingling acidity, as well as a bit of apricot. Such purity and detail. Stony and fine. 93/100
Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec 2015 Loire, France
Lovely stuff. Stony and spicy with tingling, mineral acid, and lemons, pears and nectarines. Great balance here: I love the tension between the freshness and richness, with appealing fruit and a spicy depth. 93/100
Vincent Carême Le Peu Morier Vouvray 2015 Loire, France
Single vineyard on the top of a small valley, with flinty topsoils over limestone. So vital and stony with real finesse to the citrus, pear and apple fruit. Tangy and detailed with a hint of sweetness, toying with the high acidity. Made in 400 litre barrels, 5-10% new oak. Such amazing acid structure. 94/100
Vincent Carême Vouvray Le Clos 2015 Loire, France
Part of this was fermented in an amphora made of ceramic material, fired at a higher temperature, while the rest was fermented in 400 litre barrels. Detailed with explosive mineral character: great acidity, some spiciness, a lemony core and some grapefruit and nectarine exotic notes. Lovely freshness and purity. Such a lovely lemony core to this wine with well integrated acidity, as well as a hint of sweetness. 94/100
Vincent Carême Vouvray Tendre 2015 Loire, France
20 g/litre sugar. From old vines, looking for surmaturite such as noble rot. Very rich, appley and stony with some sweetness balanced by high acidity. Nicely dense with a juicy, fruity personality. Pure and delicious. Mouthwatering acidity here. 92/100
Vincent Carême Vouvray Moelleux 2015 Loire, France
45 g/l residual sugar. Off dry with some nice savoury notes as well as sweet yellow plum, pear and nectarine fruit notes. So balanced with the sweetness and acidity meshing well. Pure. Has a lovely spicy edge and hints of straw and rocks. Will age beautifully. 93/100
Vincent Carême Vouvray Première Trie 2015 Loire, France
100 g/l residual sugar. Powerful and intense with lemons, apricot, spice and minerals. There’s some marmalade and melon richness, with sweetness and acidity. Lovely spicy acidity. Rich but balanced with thrilling complexity. 94/100
Vincent Carême Terre Brûlé Le Blanc 2016 Swartland, South Africa
Chenin Blanc. There’s some freshness here with nice pear and citrus fruit with some tangerine detail. Fresh with nice acidity and lovely fruit. Fine and expressive with some baked apple on the finish. Considering the drought vintage, this is really fresh and balanced. 92/100
Vincent Carême Terre Brûlé Le Rouge 2016 Swartland, South Africa
Syrah and Cinsault. Juicy and lively with bright, slightly meaty berry fruits. Cherries and plums with some nice acidity. Spicy and a bit rustic, this is robust and delicious. 90/100
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