The Art of Being Adventurous
I own a house about sixty kilometres north of Limoges and I'm making it a mission to see what wines are being made nearby. I've actually called my village, 'The Three Hours Village' because it's about three hours from Paris and Bordeaux, but I'm lucky that it's only one and a half hours if one wants to get to the southern Loire and the wines of Reuilly. In a country where it takes seven hours to drive to my house from Calais this is nothing, and it almost feels as though Domaine Mabillot is on my doorstep.
I’m heading about an hour and a half north until I’m in the heart of the Centre-Val de Loire region and approaching Domaine Mabillot. This is farming country, and as one drives over rolling flat farming land one wonders where the vineyards are located!
The family are second generation of winemakers and third generation of farmers, and this must surely mean that they know the lay of their land quite well, and here in Berry, there is a reputation for great produce, mostly cereals and wine, so there's a lot to live up to!
The Mabillot family moved into producing wine in the 1990s, and it was Alain Mabillot who passed on his enthusiasm to his sons; Matthieu and Renaud.
The aim has always been to produce wines of quality with great finesse. A little later I’ll be leading you through a tasting and letting you in on their secrets.
The two brothers took a little time to realise their destiny, but when they returned from exploring possible passions it was with an added enthusiasm to grow wines that could grace any occasion. If that isn’t enough for you, they also produce a high-end French whiskey (not being a whiskey specialist I cannot truly judge, but the taste I had certainly put it positively on my radar!). Most of us would be happy to farm or grow grapes, but here they do both and have added a distillery just in case they are at a loose end. This is French determination, ingenuity and knowledge at its best!
The vineyards lie firmly in the Reuilly AOC, and this is one of those areas that is a gem to view and to taste, and the expression of the AOC comes through in each glass that I'm served. If your knowledge of the wines of the Loire leans a little bit more northerly, then do yourselves a favour and search for these wines!
Now, as I wrote earlier, this is an area of France that really excels when it comes to farming and as I drive on my merry way, it is through miles and miles (or should I say kilometres of softly undulating farm land that is easy on the eye and a little resemblant of East Anglia, except for the great scale.
The roads are often long, straight and cut through this land like grey scars reminding nature that humans are never far away. A creep of worry enters my mind as I continue my plodding drive towards Domaine Mabillot; the location of the vineyard. The land is generally quite flat with nothing on this autumnal day to interrupt the horizon, not even the familiar sight of a proud vineyard trying to tempt me onwards.
The sat-nav suddenly informs me that I’m less than a kilometre away. and there’s still not a vineyard in sight. Now I’m in a village of single story houses and I begin to ponder the fact that I might be the brunt of some French joke. In moments, the car leads me to a solitary building standing by itself with a sense of modernity. A dog trots playfully over from a nearby property, and as I exit the car I see the words ‘Domaine Mabillot’ on the side of the building.
The dog is friendly enough that you want to pat it, and as I do so a man of about my age comes gently walking up with a welcoming look and keys ready to unlock the building. Through smiles, and broken French, I find out that he is the father of Matthieu, the gentleman I’ve come to see. We attempt to chat and it is mostly successful and enjoyable, and there’s an honesty to this man that I rather like. Small talk is made and I’m just pleased that he understands the positive things I’m telling him about Mabillot, and that I’m not trying to cause an international incident.
Before too long, Matthieu turns up and is full of that laidback energy the French have perfected so well. We make small talk about the nature of the business and the fact that the absence of his vineyards is linked to their location in the Reuilly location.
He also tells me about the view that he makes wines for everybody and that the key to their strength is a simplicity that is easy to appreciate and easy to underestimate.
He is worried about his 2021 wines and feels that the last few years have made his red wines a little lacking, and are generally built to be drunk quickly. Having tasted them, I tend to agree but still found them to be the sort of drinkers that are very enjoyable sharing wines.
As we chat his enthusiasm for all things wine comes surging to the fore, and we chat about wine experiences we've enjoyed. One cannot help but like Matthieu because of his passion for wine, life and fun.
Like a lot of the wine world, Domaine Mabillot faces a constant challenge of climate change, and this means that winemakers have to be alert to constant change, and ready to apply their talents to wherever they might achieve the greatest yields.
As we taste and talk, Renaud drops by to say hello. It is now that we move on to their newest venture; the production of French Whiskey! They are interested to know my views, and I have to let them down by explaining that this is an area where I'm as much use as a one-legged man in a bottom kicking contest. What I did taste was most enjoyable, and lacked the harshness I seem to remember from my past meetings with this spirit.
After the tasting, Matthieu takes me to the area where the distillery is located and I've got to say that it's a thing of beauty that lies before me. It's a mixture of shiny Heath Robinson, cyberpunk and warm brass that greets the eye, and makes you want to experience the machineries tactile nature. The brothers are obviously proud of the potential that lies within their grasp, and I'm not going to argue. Why should I with two chaps who I consider new friends.
I must say that the Whiskey was a revelation, but what about the wines?
Reuilly Blanc - Mont Cocu
I love the fact that Mont Cocu where the grapes are grown means cuckold and it makes me wonder what the ground was actually first used for.
It’s aged for ten months and is gathered from a single vineyard.
It’s a creamy bundle of fun that brings forward pears in syrup, grass in the mix and a bed of creamy joy in the mouth. This is a wine that should be worth a taste by anybody.
5 out of 7
Reuilly Blanc - Le Haut de la Pente
Le Haut is next off the starting block, and is a mixture of three vineyards. These are allowed time together is oak barrels that enhance the body of the wine without jumping all over it.
On the nose there’s bagful of perfume and green fruit.
The taste is very bold, attention seeking and expressive as heck. There’a a lovely Tarte aux poires, and I think this is such a lovely food-friendly wine that I'm going to search out more of the stuff.
I later had a glass with a curry and found that it more than held its own in such spicy company. A joy to behold and taste!
6 out of 7
Pinot Gris – Reuilly. 100% Pinot Gris.
Matthieu calls this his Rosé, and it’s so confusing because the colour is almost like an onion's skin. That doesn’t mean it’s lacking in anything, because this is a wine that is full of pungency. I was getting forest vegetation, floral notes and a nose that hinted at floor polish. All very enticing.
There’s viscosity to spare and I’d recommend you find a bottle of this quickly because it’s got so much to recommend it.
5 out of 7
The colour is lighter than one might really like, but it’s been a difficult year and it’s almost a cerise/light cherry colour.
On the nose I’m getting a slight candy of red fruit, toffee apple and this continues with the taste becoming almost sticky, but not cloying. It's a very quaffable wine that Matthieu thinks is good but not showing at its best, and who am I to argue with him!
3.5 out of 7
Mont Cocu Red 2021
This wine has been aged for the tannins and I found it fresher than I expected with a predominance of youthful red fruit. In the mouth this becomes really expressive and there’s an abundance of red cherries and plums. That are enticing and enjoyable. The potential for this wine to evolve over the next few years might surprise a few people.
5 out of 7
So, as I say goodbye to Matthieu, I promise him that I will return. The Whiskey was enticing, but for me, it wasn't as enticing as the various wines we tasted. The enjoyable conversation that seemed laced with snippets of humour, and the knowledge that all this was only an hour and a half up the road from me!
I feel that this is one wine story that is worth following, and the unusual location (for the tasting room) all make this somewhere that one wants to succeed because of the enthusiastic passion that emanated from both Matthieu and Reynaud.