Chris Kissack, The Winedoctor, waxes a lovely ode to Verdier-Logel La Volcanique 2015 (….”wrapped up in a ribbon of tannin”)

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Verdier-Logel Côtes du Forez La Volcanique 2015

Within the confines of the Loire Valley, how far removed is it possible to be fromBordeaux? The Côtes du Forez is a long way in pure geographical terms, although if this is the measure we are to use this region would probably lose out – just – to the vineyards around Orléans or Gien, both of which lie a smidgen more distant. But it’s not geography I am interested in really, as my original question related to style. Which wines – red wines, to narrow it down a bit – present us with a style that is as far removed from the rich, oak-aged, Cabernet- and Merlot-dominant reds of St Julien, St Emilion and the like? Obviously, the Côtes du Forez is still in the running.

There is no Cabernet Franc here in the vineyards around Feurs, as the appellation allows only for Gamay. You can find a little Chardonnay or even a few pieds of Pinot Gris orViognier here or there depending on whether the grower in question feels more orientated towards Burgundy, Alsace or the Rhône Valley, but these are niche interests and they don’t have an appellation (they exist under the esoteric Vin de Pays d’Urfé designation). And you won’t find any familiar terroir here, none of the limestone or clay that characterises the right bank in Bordeaux, or the gravel of the left. The vineyards can be found on a thin strip of decomposed granite, basalt and other igneous rocks which runs north-south, sandwiched between the alluvial soils of the Loire to the east, and the lower slopes of the Massif Central to the west.

Even the vinification differs, although the fact I am drinking this 2015 already should tell you as much. While all the red wines of Bordeaux from this vintage slumber on in their expensive wooden barrels for the next 18 months, this alternative 2015 has seen out a very brief élevage in cuve, was summarily bottled under cork, and has been shipped ready for drinking.

Verdier-Logel Côtes du Forez La Volcanique 2015

The domaine was founded in 1991 by newlyweds Jacky Logel and Odile Verdier. They had met in Alsace, and after their marriage they then moved to Odile’s farm on the slopes above Feurs. Although the family had vineyards, established by Odile’s father, they simply sold the fruit. Jacky changed all that, as he set about vinifying and bottling the wine for himself. And being a native of Alsace, he also planted a few of those aforementioned Pinot Gris vines (and some Viognier too, in truth).

They turn out a number of cuvées, not least the deliciously fun Cuvée des Gourmets, butLa Volcanique is a step up. The difference is in the terroir; while the Cuvée des Gourmets comes from vines planted on a granitic sand, which Maxime Verdier – Jacky and Odile’s son – says is easier to work and naturally gives a lighter wine, with La Volcanique the Gamay vines are planted on a harder basalt terroir. The fruit is picked by hand, and then fermented in whole bunches at a temperature of 20ºC, with a maceration lasting three weeks. The use of whole bunches implies there is some carbonic maceration here, although I confess when I last met Maxime I omitted to verify this. Thereafter the wine sees a short élevage, also in cuve, before bottling. What you get is the pure essence of Gamay fruit, with the freshness and frame engendered by the acidic soils, unfettered by toasty oak and other overt tricks.

In the glass the 2015 La Volcanique from Verdier-Logel displays a really quite vibrant rose-crimson hue. There is a convincing lick of black fruits on the nose, especially dried blackcurrants, and alongside these we also have nuances of morello cherries, laced with fresher tinges of juniper and bay. The palate feels sweet and ripe, surely a vintage effect, set against a dry concentration rather than anything confected or too flashy though. It feels full, cool, savoury and tense, and is full of the juicy, pebbly fruit at which the nose hints do clearly. It is all wrapped up by a little ribbon of tannin in the finish. Overall the fruit profile feels genuine, and the texture true, so this is quite simply fantastic to drink, and it is exactly what Gamay combined with an igneous terroir and its acid soils should be all about. Fun, freshness, frame, and no winemaking fripperies. 16.5/20 (2/5/16)

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