The evening before our visits with newly-installed Anjou vigneron Cédric Garreau and the rest of the Angevin clan back in January, my friends J, M, and I found ourselves at Angers natural wine bar Le Cercle Rouge, sharing a nightcap with some US importers with whom J and M were discussing working. It was during the time of La Dive Bouteille, La Renaissance des Appellations, and the various satellite tastings, and we'd assumed we'd run into a few vignerons and fellow industry folk at La Cercle Rouge that night. But we'd evidently missed a memo, because the place was quiet as the grave. If I concentrated, I imagined I could actually hear echoes from the wild bacchanal in the surrounding hills where all the vignerons and the more clued-in buyers were probably spraying each other with pétillant naturel and doing impressions of Americans.
If we nevertheless stayed at Le Cercle Rouge for the duration of two bottles, it was because the wine we were drinking - Cédric Garreau's 2011 "Le Lulu Berlue" - achieved the almost impossible : it was marvelously palatable to five weary palates that had endured a sequence of professional tastings earlier in the day. (Ordinarily such circumstances are the only moments in life where one craves Kronenberg.)
The "Lulu Berlue" is an odd duck, a sparkling carbonic-maceration Cabernet Sauvignon, mouth-rinsing, pure, and black-fruited, sort of like fine Loire Lambrusco. It hit the spot. The next day when we visited Garreau's tiny shed of a cellar in Chanzeaux we were able to confirm that all his red wines - all three - share the same soulful purity of fruit that made the "Le Lulu Berlue" so entrancing. They're wines that feel fundamentally healthful, and they herald a new voice in Angevin winemaking, one whose maturity of expression is surprising given its only Garreau's second vintage.
Garreau doesn't come from a family of winemakers; on his website he explains that his professors at the oenology school he attended in Bordeaux consequently encouraged him to specialise in wine commerce, rather than winemaking. (Liberté ! Egalité ! Old Money !) He nevertheless made his way back to Anjou after stints waiting tables in Ireland and WOOFing in New Zealand, and in 2010 he set about searching for vineyards to create his own domaine. The estate remains tiny, with just 2.7ha presently under production between Beaulieu-sur-Layon and St. Lambert du Lattay.
There's an Anjou Rouge of Cabernet Franc, an Anjou Villages of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the aforementioned "Lulu Berlue." In the future there will be a Chenin as well, from a vineyard called "La Soucherie." We tasted the grippy, grapefruity 2012 from barrique, of which there were a total of two: total yield it was 4HL from 50 ares of vines.
J at one point asked Garreau about the wax caps he uses on his Anjou Villages - it seemed a lot of work for what is, presently, a very inexpensive wine. Garreau explained that his semi-retired father, who was a vineyard manager for nearby estate Château du Breuil, just really enjoys applying wax caps. So Garreau fils has a source of free labour for that particular task.
When tasting them from bottles, I have trouble picking a favorite among Garreau's reds. But from barrique that day in early February, the 2012 Anjou Rouge was tasting best. From 80yr old Cabernet Franc vines adjacent to a forest in Beaulieu-sur-Layon, the wine was fulsome and bright, with a grape-soda nose and high-toned notes of licorice amid the buoyant black fruit. And again: that healthful, tilled-earth freshness, a quality I otherwise find most often in the ruggedly natural reds of Ardeche vigneron Andrea Calek.
|Cedric, we were to discover at lunch, is also a terrific baker who makes a killer tarte aux pommes.|
I wouldn't describe Garreau's wines as super-complex at the moment. But I would describe them as supremely enjoyable, and inarguably original : inexpensive, fine-grained, wild-floral reds, utterly free of the moody, green / mushroomy flavours sometimes associated with Loire Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Like Method Man's eponymous solo track from the Wu-Tang's 1993 debut, the actual lyrical content - in which the Meth basically just cycles through nursery rhymes and spells out P-A-N-T-Y-R-A-I-D-E-R - is secondary to the stylistic gesture on display, and the rapper's irresistible voice.
Next: Bertin-Delatte / L'Echalier, the Ghostface Killah of the Angevin Clan
Cédric GARREAU - Gar'O'Vins
Tel: 06 03 29 06 67
Angevin Clan Pt. 1: Mai & Kenji Hodgson, Rablay-sur-Layon
An offer on Cedric Gareau's wines by my friend Josh Adler at ParisWineCompany. (Free registration required.)
More on Cedric Garreau at WineTerroirs.