Cote Roannaise 'Oudan' 2020, Domaine Robert Serol
From a virtually unknown (in the UK anyway) region in the Southern Loire, this is absolutely superb Old Vine Gamay, with all the elegance and finesse of a top notch cru Beaujolais without the price tag!
Aged 11 months in 60hl wooden tank. Light filtration, bottled by the Domaine's team,
With 21 hectares of Gamay, Robert Serol is one of the largest producers in the small Cote Roannaise appellation with its total of around 220 hectares of vines. Planted on granite soils, this is a considerable increase on 1990 when there were only some 60 hectares in production. Like most of the wine regions of France the current area under vine is only a small vestige of the production just prior to the arrival of phylloxera in the late 19th century. In 1788 there were 4800 ha in the Haute-Loire department with 7349 ha in 1880-1889 decade marking the high point but never anything like as significant as the neighbouring Puy-de-Dome department 34,293 ha planted in the same decade.
The Cote Roannaise vineyards are mainly planted on the lower foothills of the Monts de la Madeleine that rise up steeply from the Loire Valley. Prior to promotion from VDQS status to AC in 1994, this was called the Cotes Roannaises as there were vines to the east of Roanne. The appellation is now confined to 14 communes to the west of Roanne from La Pacaudire in the north to Bully in the south. However, the main vineyards lie either side of the North-South D8 road centred on the small market town of Renaison. Gamay is the only permitted variety for the appellation. Renaison is only just over 70 kilometres by road from Quincie-en-Beaujolais in the heart of the Beaujolais and probably around 60 km in a direct line.
Unusually for the Upper Loire the Coe Roannaise has no cooperative unlike the Cotes de Forez and Saint-Pourain where the coops are the dominant force. In the Cotes d'Auvergne the Cave Saint-Verny is a significant player.
The Serol domaine, which has vines in the communes of Renaison, Saint-Haon and Saint-Andre, is now run by Stephane and Carine but it was Robert Serol, Stephane's father, who really established the domaine. Although the Serol family have been involved in viticulture and wine since 1700, it was Robert who in 1970 first bottled their wine. At that time they had two hectares of vines. Doubtless Robert's association with Pierre Troisgros, the famous chef of Roanne's three star Michelin Troisgros restaurant, helped and has made this domaine probably the best known of the appellation. There is a special cuvee Cuveee Troisgros that is selected for the restaurant from the oldest vines as well as a small parcel of old vines (1.89 ha) that is now in conversion to organic viticulture. The oldest vines here are 90 years old. Next to these vines Stephane has recently planted some Viognier that will give their first crop this year.
With the exception of the Troisgros parcel, the vineyard culture follows la lutte raisonnee (Terra Vitis). They use a mix of grassing over and contact weedkiller but no insecticides and Bordeaux mixture (copper sulphate) to control fungal diseases like mildew. Everything is is hand harvested and in their well-equipped winery there is a mix of cement and stainless steel vats. About 90% of their reds are made using semi-carbonic fermentation. Generally cultured yeasts are used but the Serols have a new wine called Incorruptible, which is fermented using indigenous yeasts.