Two Bottles Domaine Du Bel Air

For the blog anniversary, we are appropriately drinking a bottle of Jour de Soif 2022 and a Les Marsaules 2019 from Domaine du Bel Air in the Loire Valley.

Normally, one would probably toast to an anniversary with sparkling wine. But despite my love for all kinds of bubbly, the opportunity to celebrate five years of Saufwein with a wine named “Jour de Soif” (very close to Saufwein) was far too tempting. So, we did reach five years of Saufwein. I briefly considered compiling statistics on how much white wine versus red wine, which regions, and how many times bubbles have danced in our glasses. However, since I spend Monday through Friday shoveling data from point A to point B and processing it, it felt too much like work and too little like fun. Perhaps for the tenth anniversary then. And when reflecting on the history, one naturally wonders if more could be done. More social interaction, more event hopping, more visibility. That would surely boost the blog’s reach. But it would also be exhausting to me. The approach here has remained unchanged over the years. The blog is primarily a personal wine diary, an extended part of my memory that I use as a reference tool, and its public accessibility is incidental as much as it is intentional. I can decide what to write about without any ulterior motive. I can praise things I find cool and simply ignore things I don’t like. This doesn’t have to be my job, I don’t have to earn money from it, appear on any map, or be widely read. But what it must do is be enjoyable. And solely for me. Okay, maybe for the better half across the table too, because her grumbles enrich the tasting experience a lot. But otherwise, really for no one else. And yet, I’m extremely grateful for every bit of feedback and every interaction that has emerged from this endeavor over the years. Because that, and expanding my own horizons, were more than worth starting this journey for. And they’re worth continuing.

It’s no big secret that I’m currently enjoying Loire a lot, after the past few weeks. These two bottles also caught my attention on the Perspektive Wein expo. Pierre Gauthier and his family, now with organic certification, produce wine on about 20 hectares of land. They grow primarily Cabernet Franc in the Bourgueil appellation. And as one reads through the wine world, the estate’s Clos Nouveau is often mentioned in the same breath as wines from Clos Rougeard and similar esteemed producers. I can’t contribute much to this comparison, as the prices now demanded for Clos Rougeard are far beyond what I’m willing to pay for wine, and we only briefly tried the Clos Nouveau at the fair. And that’s far too little time and content in the glass for such a wine, of course. Today, we’re starting from the bottom of the range with the Jour de Soif from 2022. It grows on the estate’s younger vines and stays in the barrel until the following spring. The vines for Les Marsaules, here from the 2019 vintage, are around 70 years old, and it spends about 2 years in used oak barrels.

The Jour de Soif has a lot of fruitiness, a bit of wildness on the nose with vanilla and cherries in the background. The amount of pressure and tannins that land on the palate is somewhat unexpected but actually fits quite well. Overall, I find that the wine tastes much better than it smells right after opening. The nose is almost too generic red wine for my liking. Sure, it’s very good red wine, but somehow lacking in distinction. However, what happens in the mouth can already tell you early on that it won’t stay like this for long. There’s tannin and a lot of tension, some eucalyptus and cherry. And given all the grip, you might find it hard to believe that this wine is labeled as easy drinking.

A night does wonders for this wine. It becomes fruitier, more berry-like, darker. There’s now a nutty scent, and overall, it’s more enjoyable to keep your nose in the glass. Where on the first evening, there was mainly pressure while drinking, now more fruitiness has arrived as well. The tannin is softer and lingers longer. The slightly generic red wine smell is completely gone. For me, the wine needed the night and air. To me, there are worlds between the first evening and now. But as tastes vary, who knows. However, if you have a bottle, for educational reasons alone, you should save some for the second evening.

Les Marsaules only needs a second to make it clear that there’s a different vibe coming from the glass. More blueberry, more spiciness, and more structure. And at the same time, the wine is finer, more serious, and somehow cooler. Despite having three more years of age, it smells younger. And here too, there’s a good amount of pressure on the palate. The tannin is abundant but somewhere between soft and the kind of roughness that makes me love Cabernet Franc so much. I’m tempted to order more immediately to be able to try the wine with a few more years of aging. It becomes spicier and more aromatic both on the nose and on the palate. The blueberry gradually transforms into red berries that you wouldn’t really want to eat straight, like rose hips or something in that direction. The wine becomes more rebellious but at the same time develops more tension.

And here too, the night changes the wine. It becomes more complex, ethereal, and even more elusive. Blueberries, dried plums, and dried herbs. Nutty with fruity sweetness and balsa wood. I find that the wines, which were completely different on the first evening, have somewhat approached each other, feel more similar. Sure, you can feel that this one here is a step up, but still, there’s a sense of similarity.

Both wines manage surviving with a small remainder into the third evening. When working the orchard on Saturdays and sawing branches, your thirst for wine really suffers in the evening. But in this case, it’s not a problem because both the Jour de Soif and Les Marsaules kick it up a notch more. The balance of fruit, spice, and herbs, of wood and juiciness, of finesse and rusticity, is simply brilliant. They’re so good you could dive right in, and I couldn’t wish for better wines for this occasion. Here’s to the next five years.

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