Guide to the Loire regions

Chinon

Grower Profiles

Philippe Alliet
Meeting Philippe Alliet for the first time, one wouldn't automatically assume that he'd be considered by many commentators as one of the most influential growers of his generation; the man is quiet, reserved, guarded, serious and, more than anything, a little shy. But unlike many of his peers, Alliet is well travelled (including time spent in Piedemonte) and is a self-confessed Bordeaux fanatic, visiting the region several times a year; mostly in pursuit of barrels. He set up his eponymously named domaine in 1985, reuniting the parcels of vines that had been previously divided by his maternal grandfather on his retirement. Today, he works with a small team which included his son and wife, Claude. 

The eight hectares he inherited through the Boissinot side of the family (some of which he still rents from his uncle) are all located on the plain around the hamlet of Briançon, an area not renowned for the longevity of the wines it produces. Now approaching an average of 50 years old, Alliet handles these grapes in pretty much the same was the rest of his range; committing the wines to his Vieilles Vignes cuvée which forms a major part of his production (around 40,000 bottles a year). It was this wine that helped to secure Alliet's reputation in the appellation from the start, although the obsession with Bordeaux and its wines ensures that the style is more akin to modern Claret than anything that could be considered typically Chinonnais. 

With such ambition, it was clear to Alliet that at some point he would need to expand his vineyard holdings beyond the plain and start to exploit the more serious slopes. The opportunity came in the early 1990s when, with the help of a beneficiary, he purchased land in the Coteau de Noiré. Although one hectare had been established in the early 1980s the remainder of this steep south-facing slope was planted in 1996. The winemaking here echoes the techniques used for modern Bordeaux: a 4-5 week cuvaison in tank followed by malo-lactic fermentation in barrels; four-fifths of which are new and the balance second-fill. The wine remains in wood for between 12 and 18 months, depending upon the style of the vintage. 

By 2000, Alliet was working nine hectares of vines. He added to this with the acquisition and planting of the two hectare L'Huisserie on the argilio-silicieux soils that adjoin Le Clos Guiollot on the Chinon-Cravant border and not too far from the Coteau de Noiré in 2001. The first vintage was 2004 and the wines have typically been raised for 18 months in demi-muid (of which 15% are new) before release. These are obviously young vines and Alliet elects to syhon off a certain proportion for the production of a generic Chinon which he labels as Tradition

In addition to the four reds there is also a little rosé from younger vines which Alliet planted in 1998 (although there was none produced from the 2010 vintage as there was too little juice in the hard-skinned berries). As with his other wines, it's a serious example that deserves some bottle age to allow it to show some character. 

There are now a total of 17 hectares and the wines have historically been produced in three separate cellars, although there was a period of consolidation in 2005 with the construction of a purpose-built warehouse-cuverie on land owned by Philippe's uncle in Briançon.  

Philippe Alliet has built up a loyal following over the past 25 years with many of his supporters being high profile commentators from the English speaking world as well as the French. His objectives have changed little since he started out; to make wines that share the same concentration and density as those produced in his beloved Bordeaux, although he claims to have changed his wood regime between the 2007 and 2008 vintages to tone down the toasted character of the wines he produces. Detractors, of which I have to confess I am one, argue that the wines are not capable of supporting such oak ageing and that the resulting wines tend to be too over-extracted, dry and tannic. One cannot deny that Alliet is a serious producer or that his wines are impressive. Personally though, I find them atypical and I don't enjoy the style. In addition, I have also found that some older wines (not noted below) have been tainted by Brettanomyces, although this is less evident in the more recent examples I've tasted. I have to respect what Alliet has achieved to date, even if I don't necessarily agree with end result or enjoy (or buy) his wines. Despite this, I would include him as one of the reference points of the appellation even if to my mind the wines are not at all representative of the Chinon appellation. 

2008 Tradition
Earthy, reductive, farmyardy, sous-bois nose. Very firm and structured palate. Taut, mid-weight with fresh acidity. Certainly not attractive at this stage. May evolve over time. (04/11) 

2008 Vieilles Vignes
18 months in 80% new and 20% second fill barrels. Clean on the nose but shows some reduction. This is currently a little simple, hard and monotone but may evolve with time. Decent fruit and balance. (08/11) 

2008 Coteau de Noiré
Good depth and concentration, but smothered with an obvious blanket of oak on the nose. Vanilla. This is very clean and pure but too international in style and lacks any real sense of place. Excellent balance and freshness to the acidity, but is it Chinon? This really needs more time. (08/11)

2008 L'Huisserie
Pure on the nose. Taut and restrained and perhaps a bit resinous (from the wood). Very fresh on entry with firm acidity and a good structure, but there is some elegance and delicacy here too. A good representation of the vintage. Good. (04/11)

2007 Vieilles Vignes
Organic nose that shows some distinct brett, although is within my own personal tolerance currently. Farmyardy. Suppressed by oak and already starting to loose its fruit - a result of both the oak and the brett. This is a light - even elegant, perhaps - and a good representation of the year, but it needs drinking quickly as it will dry out. (04/11) 

2007 L'Huisserie
Very clean and pure on the nose. Lively red fruits with a great sense of terroir. This is serious and complex with some attractive 'organic' aromas. Serious and barely marked by the wood. Juicy and fresh on the palate with more complexity showing through. Earthy and chalky textured palate that builds well. This is full of character. A good long finish. This is drinking well now. Very good for a minor vintage. (04/11)

2007 Coteau de Noiré
Marked on both the nose and palate by the powerful oak handling: coffee, toast and vanilla. Supple if grippy tannins, well structured but sadly lost behind the wood. Hopefully this will come together over time. (04/11)

2006 Coteau de Noiré
This is really just a minor version of the 2008 vintage. Dense appearance. Good concentration. Broad, ripe fruit, if a little confit. Still showing the mask of oak, although this appears to be integrating well. This is fresher and cleaner but with more noticeable tannins at this stage. Grippy and unresolved on the finish; I am not sure at this stage if the tannins will fully harmonise with the wine and there is a danger this will start to dry out soon. (08/11)

2005 Vieilles Vignes
Dense and concentrated nose of black fruits. This shows the depth and character of the vintage. Slightly stalky on the nose. The palate shows some grip; tight and lacking some flesh. Taut and mineral and clearly a serious wine. It may evolve with time, although the tannins are still a concern for me. (04/11)

 

Philippe Alliet
L'ouche Mondé
CRAVANT-LES-CÔTEAUX

T: + 33 2 47 93 17 62
F: + 33 2 47 93 17 62
philippe.alliet@wanadoo.fr

 
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