Dating back to 1856, the rather grand Château de L’Aulée was built just outside Azay-le-Rideau, in the heart of the Loire Valley, by the Cordier family of Bordeaux and stayed in their hands until being bought and restored by the Champagne Deutz family in the early 1970s. After a brief period under a visionary Chinon producer, it was taken over in 2004 by Arnaud Henrion and his wife Marielle, a Champagne-trained oenologist who had previously worked for Pommery, Bricourt and Bollinger. The Cuvée Jeanne d’Arc is named after one of the vineyard plots – local legend has it that Jeanne d’Arc stopped here to rest on this site en route to meet the King-to-be Charles VII at nearby Chinon.
The estate’s 48 hectares (of which 37 are planted around the château itself) are run according to the rules of La Lutte Raisonée, with each plot being grassed through and run according to site and age of the vines. Everything is done in the vineyards and in the winery to ensure the finest possible fruit, state of the art winemaking – and good time sur lattes (in the bottles, stacked horizontally) for the crémant.
Winemaker Marielle Henrion is a Champagne-trained oenologist. She and her husband took over this prime single estate at Azay-le-Rideau in 2004. Marielle previously worked for Pommery, Bricourt and Bollinger. Concentrating on making sparkling wines – always the mainstay of the Château’s production – the Henrions pick the Crémant de Loire by hand in and place into small cases. After grape selection and a gentle pressing in one of the estate’s two pneumatic presses, fermentations take place at controlled temperatures in stainless steel vats. To further ensure quality and, as a back-up to her own experience and qualifications, Marielle uses the services of a consultant oenologist from the Station Viticole of Épernay.
This is a beautifully made, 100% Chenin Crémant de Loire, with that purity of fruit and intensity that make Loire wines stand out – together with the toasty complexity that is the hallmark of the finest sparkling wines. With a charming pear and sherbert-y edge, this bears a likeness Prosecco but has a whoosh of zippy acidity that makes it more refreshing. Jeanne d’Arc tastes like the freshly pressed juice of russet apples, with an exhilarating sherbet streak. A good alternative for Prosecco-philes.
Château de l’Aulée Crémant de Loire ‘Cuvée Jeanne d’Arc’ NV, £12, ABV 12.5% is available to buy online here: http://www.oddbins.com/chateau-de-l-aulee-cremant-de-loire-cuvee-jeanne-d-arc-nv