2020 Forteresse de Berrye, Saumur Rouge “Corps pour Corps” Loire Valley, France.
The Loire Valley is filled with undiscovered treasures and historically sites with unique vineyard areas still being found, like this newly resurrected estate in Saumur, which is just beginning to ship wines to the United States and of which I was able to taste recently at a low key mini portfolio tasting by The Source Imports, who bring in many cool under the radar producers from this ancient French wine growing area. The Forteresse de Berrye, near Berry (hence the name), in Saumur is set on a high elevation site with complex soils that includes silt, sandy and clay over classic yellowish tuffeau limestone, which is awesome for Chenin Blanc and Cab Franc, like in this wine. This bright garnet 2020 Saumur Rouge is ripe, concentrated and deep in color, but lively, earthy and transparent in style with a graceful medium bodied palate of crushed blackberries, red currants, plums and cherries that are accented by violets, bell peppers, a touch of leather, chalk dust and licorice. The (soft) tannins are easily to deal with and nice mineral elements add elegance along with the nice acidity that keeps things fresh and heightens the experience. The terroir really comes through here, and as The Source suggests, the tuffeau, which was formed about 90 million years ago, is one of the wine world’s great terroir enhancers with its chalky sandstone being naturally high in calcium carbonate content which keeps the vines cool during the heat and adds intensity to the wine’s aromatics, to name a few benefits. I also, must mention, Forteresse de Berrye does an excellent Crémant de Loire sparkler made from Chenin Blanc exclusively that sees cement vat fermentation, and I highly recommend it.
The Forteresse de Berrye winery, a historical French castle from the twelfth century, began organic viticulture in 2021 and they expect full certification by 2024, this along with planting better clones within their hillside vines look to really raise the quality here, which is already pretty damn good, especially this 2020 Saumur Rouge. It’s noted that Saumur is one of the driest areas of the Loire Valley with lower humidity overall due to the rain shadow of the Armorican Massif to the west, which makes the organic farming easier here. Forteresse de Berrye took over an old property with neglected vineyards and deeply quarried tuffeau limestone caves and are at an early stage as a label, but the potential and promise is looking good, especially for those Loire enthusiasts that like old school Cabernet Franc and Chenins with a more rustic character. Interestingly, the Saumur Rouge “Corps pour Corps” mainly Cabernet Franc also has a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the cuvée, though macerated and fermented separately as to not bring heavy tannin to this wine. All the grapes were 100% de-stemmed with the Cabernet Franc macerated on skins for close to 21 days, while the Cabernet Sauvignon saw only 8 days, which the winery says, (is) to add fruit, not grip. Just two pump overs were done in the first week and some gentle hand-pressing of the cap to keep it wet, again allowing for color and depth without harsh phenolics. The aging period is short and includes no overt wood influence (with some concrete and used oak I believe in this vintage) to preserve the Corps pour Corps’ freshness, it drinks nicely now, no patience required, though I think it will mature well for another 3 to 5 years, have it with food for best results.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive