Discover Chenin Blanc!
When you ask anyone in the wine business to name the wines they get really excited about, you can put even money on a Chenin Blanc appearing on the list. The historical greatness of Chenin from the Loire is well established but the future is just as bright as the past, with a wide array of young, innovative, and immensely talented vinegrowers fighting the good fight. In terms of quality, array of styles, longevity, and shear deliciousness, it belongs in the same conversation with Chardonnay and Riesling. Every year we hope against hope this will be the time the general public discovers Chenin Blanc.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a Master Class in Chenin Blanc. 6 bottles from some of the greatest producers of the Loire Valley for your edification and enjoyment!
The Lords of Chenin 6 Pack — $195.00
La Grange Tiphaine Nouveau Nez
“Not many people think of Sparkling wine to pair with Thanksgiving but when it’s something like La Grange Tiphaine’s Nouveau Nez, you might want to reconsider. This is 100% natural (nothing added, nothing taken away) Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley which is bottled before fermentation completes (a very traditional style called Petillant), leaving effervescence in the bottle (as opposed to Champagne where they add additional yeast/sugar to induce a secondary fermentation). There are citrus and orchard flavors, to be sure, but they’re deeper and richer than your traditional sparkling, making this an ideal candidate for all the heavy, autumn foods of Thanksgiving. There is also an authentic earthiness along with a mid-palate richness which will keep in the race with all the gravies and sauces.”
La Grange Tiphaine is well over a century old but it is Damien and Coralie Delenchenau who have put it on the world-wine map. Damien took over his family’s vines when he was 23 and swiftly converted to an all-natural program. The Delenchenau’s are a great example of the new generation of Loire Chenin producers who are changing the game. Their philosophy is nothing added, nothing taken away. At no point in the process do they use chemicals, on the vines, soil, nor juice. Natural wine is a bit of a flashpoint in the wine world right now but La Grange Tiphaine is undoubtedly one of the leading lights.
Chateau De Fosse-Seche Arcane Saumur 2011
“At once linear and expressive, today the floral notes are really emerging on the nose, though in past bottles the extreme pear and wet rock have been the dominant tone. Candied lemon, rich melon, more pear, and a consistent and very pleasing undertone of scorched mineral swirl around a beautifully oiled mouthfeel before culminating with fresh, rainwater acidity. Idiosyncratic, brimming with terroir, and utterly lovely.”
Established by Benedictine monks in the 10th century, Fosse-Seche is, today, farmed by two brothers, Guillaume and Adrien Pire. Located in a small knoll surrounded by a forest which serves a bird sanctuary, Fosse-Seche can credit its singularity from the rare Eolithe soil, which is silex embedded in oxidized iron. The Pire brothers farm biodynamically and, uniquely, age the wine in a large former beer transport tank for 17 months!
Nicolas Reau Victoire Anjou Blanc 2011
“Remarkably rich for a Chenin Blanc, notes of almond, buttery melon, and pear crème. The texture is positively mouth coating with an initial raciness replaced by an almost extravagant tropicality with exposure to air. A Chenin with broad shoulders!”
A former Rugby player and Jazz Pianist, Nicolas Reau was not born under vine. One of the reasons the Loire Valley is such an exciting place these days is the vineyard land is not magnificently priced. Someone with passion, like Mr. Reau, can scrape together the money to buy 12 acres of prime vineyard land. Like Grange Tiphaine, Reau is a natural winemaker.
Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg 2012
“Excellence! Intense aromas of lime zest, passion fruit, and apricots, with just a dash of cinnamon apple. Dry but not austere, with a chalky spine, a velvetine texture, and notes of sea salt on the back end. The fruit component is more primary on the palate than on the nose, with strong mentions of candied pear and apple skin, but for all the power there is an exactness here which marks it out as a truly exceptional wine. Drink now or wait 20 years. Either will yield a fantastic drinking experience. “
Ah..Huet. We were fortunate enough to taste the 2012 Clos du Bourg with the winemaker, alongside a 1986, and both were striking. Clos du Bourg must be on any list of the top vineyards of France and Huet on any list of its top Domaines. This is one of the most long-lived Chenin produced in every vintage. Since its founding in 1928, Vouvray’s Domaine Huet has been the standard-bearer for great, ageworthy Chenin Blanc. And to this day, year after year, the estate produces some of the world’s most compelling white wines—and in a remarkable range that spans sparkling, dry, semi-dry, and breathtaking dessert styles.
Pithon-Paille Anjou Blanc Coteau Des Treilles 2011
“Richly scented and layered. It is unctuous and lingers long on the palate. It is a great wine today but whatever you do, drink half your stash and forget about the rest as it will age harmoniously in your cellar for years to come.”
Where to begin with Jo Pithon and Coteaux des Treilles? Jo Pithon has been a legend in Anjou since the late 1960s. Through the turn of the century, his sweet wines were considered some of the greatest in France. Unfortunately, he had some rocky business relations and lost his domaine. Bouncing back, he formed Pithon-Paille with his stepson with their first vintage in 2008 and a new focus on dry expressions of Chenin Blanc.
The Coteaux des Treilles is his top bottling. It comes from a small hill with a big history. It was one of the most famous sites for growing Chenin before World War I but time in neglect had left it wild. The slope is so steep it is impossible to use any sort of machinery (nor horses or donkeys for that matter) so what had once been a famous vineyard was now practically a forest. Isabel, Jo’s wife, wanted to buy it as gift to her husband but it took nearly a year of digging through records in the town hall of Angers to find the vineyard was owned by 30 different people. Another year of haggling finally led to the hard work of clearing the land and replanting the vineyard. In 2002, this famous parcel was reclaimed for the vine!
Francoise Chidaine Clos Du Breuil Montlouis Sur Loire 2012
“Joyous and complete, the Clos du Breuil simmers with mineral pear and dried tropical fruits, hinting at pineapple and tangerine whilst maintaining a core of lime zest which balances flamboyance with sour restraint. Quite full on the palate, there is very little sugar but the expressive fruit components rend the racier elements invisible. Long after it’s gone, the Clos du Breuil lingers, with mouthwatering acidity and the afterthought of a ripe orchard.”
Francois Chidaine is a personal favorite. Beyond the exceptional grapes and winemaking, there is a life, soul, and joy in his wines which belie any technical achievement. He prefers a leaner, racier style of Chenin Blanc, actually favoring colder, more challenging vintages because he feels in such times the true soul of the Loire can shine. His work in the vineyard is exceptional, being certified biodynamic since 2003, and taking on the massive task of rehabilitating the famed Clos Baudoin vineyard, which had fallen into disrepair under its former owner.
Writing for the Wine Advocate, I think David Schildknect stated the case perfectly:
“You have to look to the historical collections of regional leaders Foreau and Huet to find comparable consistently high quality, making it clear that Chidaine is one of the world’s finest craftsmen in the medium of white wine, not to mention a continuing source of amazing value.”
To purchase, call 212-924-6999, or click here. For our entire selection of Chenin Blanc, click here.
Le Du’s offers 15% on purchases of 12 bottles or more, free delivery in Manhattan on orders over $150, and shipping to 42 states!