Damien Laureau Loire Valley, France.
The Savennières appellation, including its ‘Grand Cru’ sub-appellations of Roche Aux Moines and Coulée de Serrant, is planted to just 156 hectares of vineyard (100% Chenin Blanc) and produces some of the most noble and age-worthy dry white wines of France. And today, Damien Laureau is widely acclaimed as one of Savennières’ top producers.
Although he is often referred to as one of the appellation’s ‘new’ superstars, Damien now has nearly 20 vintages of experience behind him. Coming from a family farming background, he started out working with his uncle at a small vineyard in Anjou in the mid 1990s. By 1999 he had acquired his first vines in Savennières and in 2006 he abandoned the Anjou appellation to focus specifically on Savennières. Since then has gradually increased his vineyard sources through both acquisition and leasing, to the still very boutique total of 8.5 hectares.
Damien works organically in the vineyard and was certified organic in 2012. All harvesting is done by hand in successive tries throughout each vineyard to ensure the highest quality fruit, albeit at the expense of volume. The wines are vinified with natural yeasts and given extended lees contact without batonnage, to build texture but without excessive richness. The wines all go through malolactic conversion allowing a very low sulphur regime, whilst maintaining the freshness and minerality that Savennières is famous for. Maturation takes place in both tank and barrel depending on the wine, however new oak influence is not a part of the style.
‘I have written before that Damien makes the best wines in Savennières, and this tasting did nothing to dissuade me of this opinion.’
Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2017.
2016 Damien Laureau Savennières La Petite Roche
From a young schist-based vineyard located between Savennières and La Possonnière.
‘An entry-level cuvée. Currently in fibreglass cuve, to be bottled March 2017. A perfumed and quite floral nose, with very primary fruit, apple and pear, with a little mineral-orange note. Very convincing despite its youthful vigour. The palate is poised, gentle, with a velvety layer of fruit, and underneath that there courses an electric acidity. This feels fresh and pure, but it has fruit complexity, with orange blossom, vanilla flower too, with a great grip in the finish. A delicious combination.’ (92-94) points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2017.
2014 Damien Laureau Savennières Les Genêts
From a selection of the sandier soil terroirs, mostly from the Moulin de Beaupréau lieu-dit. Fermented and matured
‘A lovely floral purity to the aromatics of this cuvée, with citrus fruits, orange blossom, pear skin and elderflower. The palate has great purity to match this aromatic impact, a nicely tangible texture, with convincing freshness, great acid-driven energy, great vigour too, with a broad array of pure and bright flavours. This is a very fine, energetic, poised and serious wine. An impressive result, even in such a strong vintage.’ 95 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2017.
2014 Damien Laureau Savennières Le Bel Ouvrage
From a selection of the more schistous terroirs, including a rhyolite based plot in the Chambourcier lieu-dit. Tank fermented, then matured in barrel for 12 months, followed by a final elevage in tank for another 6 months.
‘The nose here is reminiscent of preserved lemons and orange pith, with a minerally confidence, very bright and convincing. The palate feels pure, fresh and bright, almost ethereal with its lifted fruit and pithy bitterness dancing along atop a bed of gentle mineral nuances and a streak of fresh acidity that feels so typical of the vintage. This is so succulent and composed, and yet there is such energy too. Absolutely delicious. A superb wine.’ 96 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2017.
2014 Damien Laureau Savennières Roche Aux Moines
From a small 0.25 ha parcel rented from the Baron Brincard holdings in this famous vineyard, adjacent to Coulee de Serrant. Fermented and matured in 400l barrels.
‘This was bottled in December 2015. Fresh, very pure, with crushed white rocks, energetic and defined, with wonderful confidence. The palate is just so convincing, with such profound purity, lifting the white-peach fruit. It has an incisive acid frame, beautiful tension and yet there is a blanket of relaxed fruit draped between them. Splendid substance, elegant and unforced, but with beautiful precision of energy and minerality. The finish is composed, harmonious and correct. Nice length too. A breathtaking wine which shows why I consider Damien Laureau to be top tier in the appellation.’ 97 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2016.
2013 Damien Laureau Savennières Le Bel Ouvrage
‘This has seen out one year in barrique, then ten months in cuve, then it was bottled. A beautiful definition to it, wonderfully polished yellow plum substance, with a broad texture, and piles of grip. Quite pure, defined, but with very expressive fruit, precise, minerally and bright. It culminates in a long and grippy finish. This is very impressive. Fine potential here.’ 95 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2016.
2012 Damien Laureau Savennières Les Genêts – a small quantity of 1500ml magnums is all that is available for our first shipment of this wine
Damien describes this wine as his favourite and also his best wine for drinking young. In 2012 this wine is made from tiny yields of 17 hl/ha from vines planted on sand in some of the highest parts of the appellation located up behind Roches aux Moines in the lieu-dit of Moulin de Beaupres. The sandy silty soil gives wines that are more approachable young and this cuvee is mostly aged in tank with just 10% aged in barrel.
“Golden in color the 2012 Savennières Les Genêts offers a clear bouquet of ripe yellow-fleshed fruits along with some honey flavors and coolish-spicy earthy aromas. Full-bodied, nervously fresh but elegant on the palate this stimulating wine is lovely pure, salty and full of tension whereas its mineral structure gives it a persistent and thrilling length. 91 points” erobertparker.com #215 October 2014
2012 Savennieres “Belle Ouvrage”
Made from tiny yields of 17 hl/ha. Produced from the “heart” of the pressings with perfectly ripe grapes avoiding both green grapes and botrytis.
“From older vines on schist and phtanite soils, the golden 2012 Savennières Le Bel Ouvrage offers a very deep, intense yet pure, precise, fresh and complex aroma on the nose added by some hints of speck. Full-bodied and rich on the palate this noble and polished Chenin blanc (which fermented in tank but aged in barrel for at least 12 months plus tank for another 6 months before bottling) is very intense, elegant and well balanced and develops an impressive sweet, dense, profound and persistent taste of cooked and ultra-ripe mangos, quinces, peaches and apricot chutney with ginger and honey – a composition which indicates the full ripeness of the manually selected berries and the generosity of this Savennières. With a salty, complex and very long finish this is an impressive wine indeed. 93 points” erobertparker.com #215 October 2014