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Domaine Laureau, Savennières, Cuvée des Genêts, 1999

As a well-behaved historian I can tell you that traditions are fake. Or, if you want it in more professional language: invented. That doesn't mean to say that they can't be fun though, and so today it is time for me to indulge in a tradition we invented for the Wine Rambler a few years ago: the first wine to be reviewed in any year would not come from Germany - to remind us, as far as that is necessary, that there is so much more to the wine world than us krauts.

This year my choice is a little conservative at first glance - that fits the historian cliché nicely - as it is from France. However, not a Claret or Burgundy, no, it comes from the beloved Loire.

The Loire is one of my favourite French wine regions, and that is partly due to what they do with Chenin Blanc. With some notable exceptions I find the Loire interpretations of this grape variety the most exciting, and considering how much I love a good Chenin Blanc that says a lot. I am particularly in love with the Vouvray, but I also learned to appreciate the dry, more substantial, sometimes even austere, style that comes from the area around Savennières. As a rule these wines can be a bit of a turn-off in their youth, although these days some producers, like Damien Laureau, work to make them a little more approachable - but also a little less capable of long ageing. Every once in a while I like a more substantial, no nonsense white, so when I opened my bottle of the 1999 with some hearty food I wasn't too worried either way.

I had heard that the 1999 had already gone past its peak, and a darker yellow gold colour with touch of orange brown seemed to confirm that. The nose had clear signs of age too and was overall quite muted at first, but after a couple of hours and served a little less cold the Chenin seemed to remember it still had some life in it: ripe fruit, peach and apple, with sharp honey and rich wax aromas are blended with dried apricot, a touch of furniture polish and some almost fermented notes - not quite opulent but certainly rich. On the tongue the Savennières feels quite dry and almost tannic but also carries on the rich fruit from the bouquet and is very flavoursome. Dried raisin, some pine tree and honey feature alongside a well rounded richness and a waxy texture that is livened by lots of freshness. So much so that despite the roundness the wine tastes fresher than it smells - in particular with food when the fruit flavours come out more and the wine feels very much alive.

There is something in the texture and attitude of these wines that makes a lovely contrast to the German whites I usually review here, and that makes it a great choice to kick off the wine year 2014. Unless you too happen to be a German wine blogger with a non-German tradition for the first wine of the year you of course won't care about this - but it matters not as the Savennières is good enough you should have some anyway.

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