Variety: Chenin Blanc
Country, Region: France, Loire
This is not so much a new cuvée, rather it represents an expansion of the former La Petite Roche cuvée with the inclusion of young vine material from Le Fresne, adjacent to La Petite Roche, and from bush vines planted in 2014 in the Le Pitrouillet lieu-dit (located high up near the Moulin de Beaupréau further up the hill from Coulée de Serrant). This vintage also marks the first vintage where Damien's wife Florence had entered into the business with him, another nod to the name.
The fruit is pressed slowly over four hours and then wild-yeast fermented in stainless steel tanks, where it is matured on lees for 10 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered and with a minimum of sulphur. 13% alc/vol; 3.06 pH; 6.58 g/l TA; 0.4 g/l RS; 30 ppm total sulphur.
’In the glass the 2019 Savennières L’Alliance from Damien Laureau has a rich colour, with the faintest tinge of onion skin to the shimmering straw-coloured hue, suggesting some concentration. It takes half an hour or so to open up and get going, but when it does it has obvious appeal, more so than I was expecting bearing in mind the mixed origins of the fruit and the young age of the vines. The nose unfurls to release notes of honeysuckle, lightly baked apple, vanilla flower and orange zest. And the palate is not shaped in the big, bold and burly image of Savennières, instead it is wonderfully approachable; it has the grip and substance of Savennières, which feels appropriate, setting it apart from Anjou, yet it also feels light-footed, with a gently polished texture, releasing delicate floral fragrances as it glides across the palate. With some grip and a little warmth to the length this is a lovely wine of charm and approachability, and seems to me to be exactly how Savennières should be at this level.’ 92 points, Chris Kissack, The Wine Doctor, March 2021.
'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 2018.
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 after just 20 years of winemaking and not having been born into or inheriting any vineyards, 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.