I first discovered the wines from Patrick Baudouin while drinking in Paris and knew instantly that I needed to bring them to Australia.
Patrick Baudouin took a circuitous route from city life to his final destination in the Côteaux du Layon. It was only in 1990, after twelve years of factory work and a stint selling books in Paris, that he decided to take over the estate his great-grandparents founded in the 1920s. Today, Patrick is shaking things up, where he is fighting to outlaw chaptalization for sweet wines. In collaboration with some of France's greatest wineries – he is working to promote a return to the founding values of the AOC system. The goal is to establish a trustworthy seal of origin andquality, rather than a mere guarantee of geographical origin with a bar set low enough for production requirements as to let pretty much everyone in.
The domaine is certified organic. In the cellar Patrick “gives birth to wines, (he does) not fabricate them.” He uses indigenous yeast fermentation, eschewing chaptalization, and adding only very small doses of sulfur. Patrick has received considerable recognition in France as one of the new stars for Côteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume. His is the only Loire Valley wine to be included in legendary French collector Michel Chasseuil’s ‘100 Vintage Treasures.’ Domaine Patrick Baudouin comprises 13 hectares of vineyards on the great terroirs of the Anjou Noir, the Black Anjou named after the dark-colored ancient rocks of the Massif Armoricain. They cover the eastern arm of France and are the remnants of the once mighty Hercynian mountain range. These eroded ancient rocks are a cocktail of granites, shale, schist, tuffs (volcanic ash, not tuffeau), hard coal, sandstone, and quartzite.
The hills of the Côteaux du Layon are the result of a geological fault that is 120km long, which goes from the north of Nantes all the way to the south of Saumur. The fault was created during the rising of the Alps. The vineyards are situated north of the fault (and the Layon), on hills facing south and southwest that only reach up to 80 meters above sea level. Southwest of the Layon, the Massif Vendeen rises up to 200 meters and deflects the clouds that come up from the Atlantic. This means that despite its proximity to the Atlantic, the Côteaux du Layon receives some of the lowest rainfall in France, an average of only 600 millimeters per year, very similarly to Alsace and the Vosges mountains. But little rainfall does not mean low humidity.
These little hills remain open on the west to the Atlantic, and they lie between two rivers, the Layon and the Loire. The conditions for botrytis are ideal. “Every vintage it is there”, says Patrick, “always a temptation, always a risk.”
2017 Anjou Blanc 'Effusion'
This is an assemblage of fruit from a variety of terroirs, the vines planted on volcanic rocks, sandstone and schist. There are 3 hectares of vines altogether, aged 35 years on average. The fruit was picked between September 11th and 14th, with yields approximately 27 hl/ha. The vinification was in older barrels, with spontaneous malolactic fermentation on the entire blend. The nose is filled with the scents of smoky crushed chalk, gently effusive and charming. The palate carries a soft charm, with a full and polished style, open but with tangible twists of extract and phenolic substance. This is fine and grippy, with a good acid tension. 93/100 thewinedoctor.com
2017 Anjou Blanc 'La Fresnaye'
These vineyards sit on the left bank of the Layon, south of St-Aubin-de-Luigne, with 1.3 hectares dedicated to Chenin Blanc. There are soils of schist with, unusually for this corner of the Loire Valley, a little limestone. The fruit was picked in two tries starting September 15th, and looking at the volume produced the yield was exceptionally low, less than 15 hl/ha. It was vinified in older barrels, with spontaneous malolactic fermentation. The nose here is quite charming, with a chalky mineral character draped over yellow plum and peach fruit. The palate lives up to expectations, with a medium-bodied substance, lightly chalky yellow stone fruit mirroring the aromatic profile, the fine mineral and acid veins, building in the middle of the palate. Fresh, pure, with some surging energy in the finish. 93/100 thewinedoctor.com
2015 Anjou Rouge 'La Fresnaye'
This is 100% Cabernet Franc, sourced from 0.9 hectares of vines, picked at a yield of 39 hl/ha. It was destemmed, vinified in cuve with a gentle infusion rather than active extraction, followed by malolactic fermentation and élevage in small used barrels. It is quite charming and fresh on the nose, with notes of smoky crushed cherry skins. An appealing palate, fresh and pure, smoky with cherry and blackcurrant skin, and a very complete finish. Good. 91/100 thewinedoctor.com
2015 Anjou Blanc 'Le Cornillard'
The Cornillard slopes are east-facing, on the banks of the Layon, very close to the Baudouin domaine. The terroir is naturally dominated by schist, and the vines are aged between 50 and 70 years. The area of vines is tiny though, just 0.8 hectares, so volumes of this cuvée are always restricted. The wine is vinified in oak barrels, using new wood for this wine, with spontaneous malolactic fermentation. In this vintage the nose is just beautiful, with a little blanched almond and truffle, with sweet apple slices showing lightly caramelised edges. On the palate it is polished, with a plump style, ripe and showing a delicious evolution. It has great energy though, with very fine mineral and acid veins, culminating in a nicely gripped finish. What a charming wine. 95/100 thewinedoctor.com
2016 Savennières 'Bellevue'
From a small parcel close to the waters of the Loire, just downriver of the town of Savennières. There are just 0.9 hectares of vines, which Patrick works by horse, a practice he began in the 2016 vintage. The harvest brought in 32 hl/ha, which was vinified in a mix of 400- and 228-litre barrels, using both new and older oak. There was spontaneous malolactic fermentation across the whole blend. This starts off with a polished and gently minerally nose. The palate is a model of purity and focus, with a tangible extract beneath, broad and substantial. It is filled with yellow plum fruit, smoky and minerally, with a long, charged and energetic finish. An impressive wine. 95/100 thewinedoctor.com