As the availability of Loire Chenin is close to zero here in Finland, his itch started to become too bad not to scratch it as time passed, so in late summer he bought a mixed case of Chenins from an online shop (without knowing anything of the producers) and threw a small tasting.
It turned out that even by just shooting randomly he managed to pick quite a nice lineup of different wines, including some terrific, classic producers (I actually commented positively on this when I saw the lineup, but he didn't have any idea which producers I was referring to)!
Anyways, without any further ado, these were the wines we had:
- 2018 Domaine Les Chesnaies (Béatrice et Pascal Lambert) Chinon Le Droit Chenin - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon (15.9.2020)
A biodynamic Chenin Blanc from Chinon sourced form vineyards 10-20 yo vineyards. Fermented spontaneously. Aged for 6 months in stainless steel tanks. 13,5% alcohol.
Pale, youthful yellow-green color. Very youthful, fruity and primary nose that is slightly closed at first, but opens up quite quickly. Aromas of candied pear tones, some stony minerality, a little bit of quince, light rubbery tones and a hint of leafy greenness. The wine is ripe, broad and youthful on the palate with very primary flavors of sweet apple-driven fruit, some pear, a little bit of salty liquorice, light crunchy notes of quince, a tangy hint of salinity and a touch of tart lemony citrus fruit. The acidity feels medium-to-moderately high. The finish is fresh, vibrant and medium in length with bright flavors of tangy salinity, some lemony citrus fruit, a little bit of tart green apple, light crunchy notes of quince, a candied hint of pear drops and a touch of stony minerality.
A balanced and tasty little Chenin Blanc, although still very primary in taste and surprisingly modest in acidity - at least for the variety. The wine shows quite a bit of ripeness, but not excessively so: the overall feel is still pretty balanced and the alcohol doesn't get too high. All in all, this is a fruity and accessible everyday white, but very little beyond that - for the time being, at least. Perhaps the wine will gain more depth and character once it loses its noticeably primary fruit-forward quality in a cellar, although it feels more like a fruity, early-drinking Chenin than one to be aged for particularly long periods of time.
- 2018 Nicolas Joly Savennières Les Clos Sacrés (Les Vieux Clos) - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières (15.9.2020)
Les Vieux Clos is the "entry-level" Joly wine, if you will. Made from very ripe, biodynamically farmed Chenin Blanc grapes. Unlike Coulée de Serrant and Clos de la Bergerie, which are aged entirely in oak barrels, Les Vieux Clos is aged partly in old oak barrels and partly in stainless steel tanks. 15% alcohol. Annual production approximately 15,000 bottles.
Medium-deep, somewhat concentrated and still rather youthful lemon-yellow color with subtle lime-green overtones. The nose is big, wild and waxy with opulent aromas of pineapple, beeswax, some primary notes of banana, a little bit of leathery funk and a hint of honeysuckle. The wine is dry, concentrated and quite weighty on the palate with a full body, oily mouthfeel and somewhat extracted flavors of honey and beeswax, some cantaloupe, a little bit of tangy salinity, light cloudberry jam tones and a hint of mineral bitterness. Although the wine is very big and concentrated, it is also remarkably high in acidity, making the overall feel quite structured despite the size. The high alcohol feels quite pronounced, lending some obvious warmth to the palate along with a touch of boozy alcohol taste. The finish is big, very ripe and moderately warm with long, extracted flavors of beeswax, some honey, a little bit of tangy salinity, light apple jam tones and a hint of mineral spice.
An impressively big, powerful and voluminous Chenin Blanc. The wine would otherwise be quite balanced, as the high acidity manages to match to big body of the wine, but the alcohol feels just way too high for a white wine, punching through the fruit quite badly. Overall the wine is still very young - even slightly primary for a Joly - and most likely the wine will develop much more depth and complexity over the years in a cellar. However, no amount of aging will make the high alcohol go away. This is a good Joly wine and it will become better in a cellar, but it is not going to be among the great vintages of Les Vieux Clos.
- 2018 Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray (15.9.2020)
Made with organically farmed grapes. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts, aged in old oak barrels. 13,8% alcohol.
Youthful yellow-green color. Cool and steely nose that is quite light in the fruit department. Delicate aromas of ripe golden apples, some stony mineral notes, a little bit of crunchy quince and a candied hint of gummy bears. The wine is clean, focused and light-to-medium-bodied on the palate with bright flavors of ripe citrus fruits, tart green apples, some steely mineral tones, a little bit of crunchy quince, light gravelly tones and a tangy hint of salinity. The high acidity lends good freshness and firmness to the wine. The finish is ripe, quite long and pretty acid-driven with bright, clean flavors of quince, some tart green apples, a little bit of cantaloupe, light notes of meyer lemon, a hint of stony minerality and a touch of tangy salinity.
A very balanced, fresh and sophisticated dry Vouvray. So pure and classically styled. Starting to drink quite well already, but shows tons of potential for future development. Not a big or flashy wine - just an enjoyably mineral, thoroughly well-made and wonderfully harmonious Chenin.
- 2017 Clos du Gaimont Vouvray Demi-Sec La Monaco - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray (15.8.2020)
A single-vineyard Chenin Blanc. Fermented slowly in stainless steel for 1½ months, then racked off the lees and aged for 4 months in stainless steel tanks. 13% alcohol, 16 g/l residual sugar, 6,8 g/l acidity and pH 3,06.
Youthful lemon-yellow color with lime-green highlights. Classic and subtly sweet-toned Chenin nose of stone dust, some acacia honey, light woolly notes of lanolin, a little bit of white peach and a hint of juicy Golden Delicious apple. The wine is clean, moderately full-bodied and slightly oily on the palate with off-dry flavors of ripe cantaloupe, some steely mineral tones, a little bit of honey, light apricot tones, a hint of chalky stone dust and a touch of overripe peach. The overall feel is juicy and quite round, but the moderately high acidity keeps the wine really nicely in balance. The finish is long, ripe and slightly sweet-toned with vibrant off-dry flavors of apricots, some acacia honey, a little bit of stony minerality, a hint of ripe pineapple and a touch of wool.
A very balanced, vibrant and classically built Vouvray with a touch of residual sugar. Normally, in a classic Vouvray, the acidity and the residual sugar play so well to each others' strengths, but I think that here the sugar seemed to dominate the acidity a bit. Most likely the wine was just opened too young, since both the fruit characteristics and the sugary sweetness were quite much to the fore. Perhaps with some more cellaring the primary fruit flavors and the most obvious sweet edge from the residual sugar will take a step back, letting the acidity and mineral tones enjoy a more prominent role. Nevertheless, this was a quite terrific wine already now. A real killer with aged, salty cheeses or salads with a bit of fruit.
- 2017 Clos de Nouys Vouvray Sec - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray (15.9.2020)
A Chenin Blanc from 30 yo vineyards. Fermented in stainless steel and oak fermenters. Aged in old, neutral oak barrels for - depending on the source - either 4 months or 18 months. Go figure. 12,5% alcohol, 2,3 g/l residual sugar, 4,78 g/l acidity and pH 3,15.
Pale grassy green color. Remarkably restrained and understated nose with closed aromas stone dust, some wool and a slightest hint of white fruit. Occasionally the nose shows something dull and musty. I wonder whether the wine is just remarkably closed or suffering from the mildest case of TCA. The wine is dull, understated and medium-bodied on the palate with vague flavors of steely minerality, tangy salinity, some mealy apple tones, a little bit of dusty chalk and a sweet hint of cantaloupe. The bright, high acidity keeps the wine firm and structured. The finish is short and acid-driven with somewhat dull flavors of tangy salinity, some tart green apple and a dusty hint of chalky minerality.
A very understated and borderline mute Vouvray. I wonder if the wine was just in dire need of aggressive decanting, in an extremely dumb phase or just suffering from a mild case of TCA that really doesn't come across as corked aromas, just dulls and mutes the fruit flavors. It's really hard to get anything from here, apart from the high acidity. Leaving this unrated for now.
- 2016 Domaine de Juchepie Le Sec de Juchepie Les Monts - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Anjou (15.8.2020)
An organic Chenin Blanc from vineyards farmed according to biodynamic principles. Vinified according to a hands-off philosophy, fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts, aged for 12 months in once and twice used barriques, bottled with a small dose of SO2. 14% alcohol.
Medium-deep honey-yellow color with faint lime-green highlights. Big, creamy and slightly sappy nose with complex aromas of toasty oak spice, some steely minerality, a little bit of leafy greenness, light oxidative notes of caramel and chopped nuts and a crunchy hint of quince. The wine is broad yet firm and focused on the palate with a full body and dry flavors of steely minerality, creamy oak, tangy Granny Smith apple, some tart lemony citrus fruit tones, a little bit of buttery richness, light oaky notes of caramel, a hint of pineapple and a touch of beeswax. The high acidity lends terrific sense of structure to the wine. The finish is long, precise and quite acid-driven with somewhat oak-driven aftertaste of creaminess, spicy red apple, some savory woody tones, a little bit of caramel, light lemony citrus fruit notes, a tangy hint of salinity and an oxidative touch of chopped nuts.
A complex and surprisingly oaky Chenin Blanc that feels quite atypical for a Loire Chenin with its heavy - but not overdone - oak influence. The overall feel is very balanced and you can easily taste the class and high quality of the fruit. However, the oak is a bit overwhelming, lending sweet, creamy and oxidative overtones to the wine and obfuscating some of the fruit flavors. However, the wine shows great potential for future development and I can imagine this will be terrific if given enough age so that the oak integrates with the fruit. Not really my cup of tea right now, but most likely this will be just beautiful after 10-12 years. Drinkable now if you enjoy crisp yet quite oaky wines, otherwise I heartily recommend to let the wine age.
- 2016 Couly-Dutheil Chinon Les Chanteaux - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon (15.9.2020)
Youthful, grassy green color with a lemon-yellow core. Youthful, very fruity and somewhat perfumed nose with attractive, layered aromas of apple blossom and other floral tones, some sweet pineapple, light primary fruit notes of sweet pear, light lemon marmalade nuances and a hint of dried aromatic herbs. The wine is lively, crunchy and medium-bodied on the palate with quite youthful flavors of fresh white fruits, some primary notes of pear drops, a little bit of steely minerality, light stony mineral notes, a hint of ripe citrus fruits and a sappy touch of herbal spice. Terrific high acidity. The finish is ripe, fresh and crunchy with lively, acid-driven flavors of white peach, some ripe golden apple, light steely mineral tones, a little bit of dried herbs and a hint of tangy salinity. The relatively high alcohol remains out of sight throughout.
A very fresh, attractive and wonderfully nuanced white Chinon that isn't as lean and straightforward as so many young Chenin Blancs are, but instead shows surprising depth and complexity despite its youth. The overall feel is still very youthful and borderline primary, so I can imagine the wine will become less fruit-driven and more savory with age. It's hard to say whether the wine is so attractive because of its vibrant, youthful character or will it retain its appeal with age - at least based on the fruit concentration and acid structure this wine seems to be built for aging as well. While difficult to say how this will age, this is just terrific right now. A charming white Chinon, highly recommended.
- 2015 Marie Thibault-Cabrit Premier Nez - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau (15.9.2020)
An organic Chenin Blanc from a low-yielding 50-yo vineyard. Fermented spontaneously and aged for 15-18 months in old, neutral 600-liter oak demi-muids. Bottled unfiltered. 12% alcohol.
Medium-deep lemon-yellow color with a burnished gold core. Complex and subtly oxidative nose with attractive aromas of lemon marmalade, some waxy funk, a little bit of chopped nuts, light smoky tones, a hint of caramel and a sappy touch of minty herbal greenness. The wine is dry, lean and slightly bitter on the palate with a medium body and quite acid-driven flavors of apple peel some steely minerality, a little bit grapefruit, light caramel tones, a hint of creaminess and a touch of green almond. The bright, racy acidity lends tremendous intensity to the taste. The finish is long, sharp and acid-driven with bright, complex flavors of tart green apples, some zesty citrus fruits, light oxidative notes of nuttiness and caramel, a little bit of green almond, a hint of apple peel bitterness and a touch of tangy salinity.
A very distinctive, precise and quite complex Chenin Blanc that feels both very youthful and relatively evolved at the same time. I guess the subtly oxidative winemaking is what makes the wine feel somewhat more evolved than it really is, but for that exact reason it is very hard to assess whether the wine is evolving prematurely or just made into this style, which would mean the wine is really built for the long haul. It's neither fish nor fowl and thus a bit hard to assess, but what's important: it's pretty enjoyable. It might leave one scratching their head, but there's nothing wrong here. I'm interested to see how this wine will evolve over the years.
- 2014 Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières (15.9.2020)
Aged for 9 months in stainless steel. 14% alcohol, 2,8 g/l residual sugar and 5,0 g/l acidity. Bottled under a screwcap. Decanted for less than one hour.
Youthful, luminous whitish-green color with a completely colorless rims. Starts for develop small bubbles on the inside of the glass. The nose is remarkably closed and quite reductive with aromas of smoky gunpowder, some rubber and a faint, fruity hint of quince. No amount of swirling in the glass seems to help the wine open up. The wine is very powerful, concentrated and oily on the palate with a full body and a rather extracted and noticeably ripe overall feel. However, the taste is remarkably closed and somewhat dull with somewhat reductive flavors of smoke, some phenolic bitterness, a little bit of mineral spice, a hint of sweet white fruit and a touch of gunpowder. The acidity feels moderately high. The finish is long, concentrated and quite extracted with moderately bitter flavors of stony minerality, some gunpowder smoke, a little bit of phenolic spice, a hint of robust wildhoney and a touch of zesty citrus fruit.
I warned beforehand that this wine is most likely going to be very reductive and needs copious amounts of air to open up, but the person serving the wine paid no heed to my warnings and the bottle was opened only as the tasting began. Thus, the wine was very, VERY reductive and offered very little if any pleasure. You can taste the ridiculous sense of power, concentration and ripeness here, but as the fruit flavors and any finer nuances were completely obliterated by the smoky notes of reduction and rubbery funk, it's very hard to assess the wine properly. My score reflects how the wine performed soon after opening, but I can imagine the score would be much higher if the wine is decanted properly (i.e. left to breathe for 6 hours or more). However, the wine really isn't made for early consumption, so there is very little sense to open this wine before its 10th birthday. Knowing how ridiculously long-lived these Baumard wines can be, I'd suggest not to open the wine within the next 15 years.
- 2013 Domaine de Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Cuvée Silex - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray (15.9.2020)
Dry Chenin, maximum 9 g/l residual sugar. 12,5% alcohol.
Pale and quite neutral, almost colorless whitish-green appearance. Restrained and somewhat closed nose with aromas of chalk dust, some white fruit, light woolly notes, a little bit of crunchy golden apple and a sweeter hint of cantaloupe. The wine is dry, firm and crunchy on the palate with a medium body and bright, clean flavors of tart green apples, tangy salinity, some floral notes of apple blossom and other white flowers, a little bit of quince, light notes of gravelly minerality, a hint of pithy pomelo and a touch of cool, steely minerality. Wonderfully fresh, high acidity. The finish is firm, quite long and pretty steely with precise flavors of tart green apples, some lemony citrus fruit, a little bit of tangy salinity, light floral notes of apple blossom and a hint of apple peel bitterness.
A crisp, fresh and precise Vouvray that is still remarkably youthful for its age, not showing really any signs of age yet. Very linear and incisive style that works wonderfully both on its own and with dishes that call for a mineral, acid-driven wine. Seeing how seemingly young the wine is at 7 years of age, it's easy to promise lots of aging potential for this. If you prefer your Chenin Blancs with tertiary complexity, I'd let the wine wait for another 10 years or even more. Very lovely and hands-down classic stuff, expect the score to go up with age.
- 2014 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec Le Mont - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray (15.9.2020)
Made with biodynamically farmed Chenin grapes from the Le Mont vineyard. 13% alcohol.
Moderately concentrated yellow-green color. Clean, somewhat restrained and quite fine-tuned nose with delicate aromas of fresh pear, some wool sock, light nectarine tones, a little bit of wet stone minerality and a sweet, floral hint of honeysuckle. The wine is dry, lively and quite light-bodied on the palate with fresh, youthful and somewhat linear flavors of lemony citrus fruits and key lime, some tart green apple, a little bit of wet stones, light floral notes of apple blossom, a hint of beeswax and a touch of steely minerality. The racy acidity keeps the wine wonderfully fresh, precise and structured. The finish is crisp, lively and steely with firm precise and quite youthful flavors of tart green apples, some honeyed richness, a little bit of cantaloupe, light bitter notes of chalky minerality, a hint of pithy grapefruit and a touch of tangy salinity.
A very pure, precise and classically built dry Huet that exhibits the very mineral nature typical of Le Mont, yet not at the cost of fruit. The overall feel is quite light and delicate, but the high acidity lends enough freshness and intensity so that the wine never once comes across as thin or underwhelming. Even though the wine is clocking at 6 years of age, the overall feel is still very youthful and showing very little development. Although the wine is quite drinkable already, it is still miles away from its peak. Definitely not for the fans of flashy and fruity whites - this wine is very understated and delicate that sings in whispers, not with a shout. Seeing how youthful and relatively linear the wine is now, I'd heartily recommend letting the wine age - preferably for another 10 years or so, if not more.
- 2013 Nicolas Joly Savennières Les Clos Sacrés (Les Vieux Clos) - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières (15.9.2020)
Les Vieux Clos is the "entry-level" Joly wine, if you will. Made from very ripe, biodynamically farmed Chenin Blanc grapes. Unlike Coulée de Serrant and Clos de la Bergerie, which are aged entirely in oak barrels, Les Vieux Clos is aged partly in old oak barrels and partly in stainless steel tanks. Annual production approximately 15,000 bottles. 13,5% alcohol. Decanted off the deposit and left to breathe for an hour.
Deep and concentrated burnished golden color with a bronze core. Quite sweet-toned and very distinctive nose with layered aromas of ripe damson and cherry pits, some cherry juice, light notes of waxy funk and leather, a little bit of acacia honey, a hint of cantaloupe and a rich touch of maple syrup. The wine is broad, quite concentrated and moderately oily on the palate with a full body and very intense flavors of tart green apples, steely mineral tones and wet stones, some herbal bitterness, a little bit of honeyed richness, light crunchy notes of damsons, a hint of cherry pit and a touch of waxy funk. Remarkably high acidity, especially for a wine with this much body and ripeness of fruit. The finish is long, dry and very concentrated with firm flavors of waxy funk, tangy salinity, some tart green apples, a little bit of cherry pit, light plummy notes of damson, a hint of phenolic bitterness and a touch of honeycomb.
A firm, characterful and very powerful Chenin made in the idiosyncratic style of Joly, combining extreme ripeness with remarkable sense of focus and structure along with the spicy, phenolic notes from slightly botrytized grapes. Unlike some vintages of Joly, this wine does not come across as overdone nor does it suffer from excessively high alcohol, making it feel remarkably balanced and enjoyable for the style. Although the wine doesn't feel young in any way, it seems to have evolved relatively little in these 4 years (since my previous TN), making me think this wine is probably going to age like crazy, only if allowed to. Performing really well already now, so either drink or keep - as long as you remember to decant the wine off the deposit and let it breathe, preferably for several hours. This wine is going to need all the oxygen it can get.