While Fred Filliatreau was over visiting last month, we had the pleasure of a staff tasting at Mere of six of his wines from recent vintages all of which were showing really well. We're not the only ones to think so judging from the recent press accolades for Cuvée Domaine Filliatreau 2008 and Vieilles Vignes 2007 in the Spectator and Telegraph Weekend magazines respectively.

Fred's illuminating commentary as we tasted helped put the wines in the context of a formidable winemaking lineage. Fred joined his father Paul in 1990, who himself was largely responsible for modernising the Saumur Champigny appellation in terms of winemaking practices in the 70's as well as creating a strong sense of community in the local winemaking fraternity. Robin Yapp first bought his wines in 1976. Fred has continued to be a driving force in the Appellation, championing organic methods of cultivation: Saumur Champigny was the first French appellation to promote a biodiversity programme in the vineyards, including forbidding the use of herbicides and encouraging the study of weather patterns.

He is rigorous in his insistence on low yields and produces beautifully balanced, well-crafted and elegant wines. Fermented between 15 and 30 days, depending on the cuvée, in thermostatically-controlled stainless steel vats, the aim is to produce light, fruity and refreshing wines that are designed primarily for enjoyable drinking now but which have distinct style differences between the cuvées. All the wines lend themselves to chilling but perhaps the Cuvée Domaine Filliatreau especially.

Here are my notes from the tasting:

Château Fouquet 2009

13% abv (alcohol by volume). Vines planted in 1987 east of Saumur in the commune of Brézé on chalky-clay soil and one of the best terroirs of the appellation. Organically produced, well-balanced, with medium body and length with excellent concentration of ripe fruit (brambles) and supple tannins. Very well-balanced and drinking now but has potential to age up to10 years. With age it will become spicier. A great food wine creating a fresh sensation in the mouth. More forward drinking than the 2008.

Château Fouquet 2008

Delicious aroma of violets and ripe dark berries. More vegetal and savoury on the palate than the 09. Will age up to 5 years. As with all cuvées the grapes are hand-harvested and with Château Fouquet, the limit per basket load is 20 kgs so that the grapes don't get crushed allowing the juice to oxidise.

Cuvée Domaine Filliatreau 2008

12.5% abv. From parcels of vines, approx. 20 years old on chalky-clay soil around the village of Chaintres. Biggest selling wine by volume to the restaurant trade-especially Paris. Fruit from 25 year-old vines. Grapes macerated for 15 days in stainless steel. Versatile, peppery, fresh and fruity, supple tannins. Drink young and between 12˚ and 14˚C.

La Grande Vignolle 2008

12.5% abv. Grapes are harvested from 45 year-old vines on chalky subsoil. Macerated for 20 days in stainless steel. Spicy on the nose. Medium body with great silky texture. Great balance with integrated fruit, tannins and acidity. Big seller in both the UK and the US (where they like it unfiltered).

La Grande Vignolle 2007

12.5% abv. 2007 was a complicated vintage with lots of rain in the summer. Savoury on the nose and quite restrained on the palate but extremely well-balanced with copious ripe bramble fruit and acidity and tannins to match. Well-matured, medium-weight and not too concentrated. Vestigial green pepper aromas but well-integrated with a pure fruit core.

Vieilles Vignes 2007

12.5% abv. Fruit from 80 year-old vines. Sherry, raspberries, pepper and spice on the nose. Delicious velvety texture and well-integrated fruit on the palate. Mid-weight and good length. Drinking very well and would be excellent with roast lamb but steer clear of the mint sauce!