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(NOTE: Chambers Street Wines is extremely proud to present the third in a series of articles by our good friend and neighbor at Racines NY, Pascaline Lepeltier. In 2014, Pascaline passed the Master Sommelier Diploma, and in 2018, she won 2 more major titles in her homeland: she is now a laureate of “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France - Sommellerie” and Best French Sommelier 2018. In January 2019, the famous French magazine La Revue du Vin de France awarded her “Personality of the Year 2019”, the first woman to be given this prestigious recognition.)
At last, the dry Chenins of the Loire have started to take their rightful place among amateurs and professionals: world class white wines, capable of embodying the complex nuances of incredibly varied terroirs, with potential for aging. The arrival of Chenin among the great grapes of the world is undeniable. It is easier to admit when speaking of Chenin grown on limestone soil, but the same can be said (but, unfortunately is overlooked) of the Chenin grown on schist. My interest for Chenin on schist is not new, but it is stronger today than ever, because the quality of the production has never been so spectacular and diverse! Richard Leroy, Mark Angeli, Nicolas Joly, René Mosse are already famous for sure, but they are not the only game in town anymore, as these trailblazers have inspired an entire new wave of winemakers - néo-vignerons or heirs of historic properties. Anjou Noir is a treasure trove of talent, and we are fortunate to present to you some of them in this email whom we consider essential.
A little bit of history
Why is dry Chenin on schist gaining recognition so late? Because making dry Chenins of terroir and with aging potential is only a recent ambition that began to take root in the early 90s. We can obviously think of the iconic cuvées of La Coulée de Serrant but other examples are very rare, if not non-existent. The reason: the Chenin’s historical reputation grew thanks to its ability to make sweet wine. A native Loire variety, Chenin has medium to thick skin, high acidity and is prone to botrytis (traits inherited from its kinship with the Savagnin). During the Middle Ages, Chenin proved to be the variety of choice for passerillage but especially for the noble rot. Few places in the world are as favorable to the development of botrytis cinerea as the schistous hillsides of western Anjou where the morning fogs of autumn rising from the Loire, Layon, Aubance and Louet rivers are dispersed by the Atlantic winds in the afternoon, drying the botrytis and roasting the berries. Up until the Second World War, the priority of production lay in these world famous sweet wines, the dry being produced as an after-thought with what was left on the vines. But after 1945, a vicious cycle set in: the decline in demand for sweet wine led to an increased use of chaptalization to reduce production costs while increasing yields. Chemical fertilizers began to be used alongside harvesting-machines. The best terroirs of the slopes were abandoned. Clones were replanted on the richer flat soils. The grapes were harvested without distinction and their weaknesses were compensated by oenological tricks in the cellar. The complicated vintages of the 50s-60s-70s exacerbated the problem. In the early 1980s, Chenin plantations fell in favor of Cabernet, Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The production of still wines was in serious crisis, its value decreased to almost nothing. All attention was directed to the high volume yield of sparkling wine. Fortunately, some winegrowers fought against this movement.
The first reactions appeared in fact in the 60s. Winegrowers in Savennières, under the impulse of Mme de Jessey, grew tired of cheating perfection through the use of chaptalisation. They changed the specifications of the appellation to authorize the production of dry wine, which made the aoc a leader in the style. The second wave came on the other side of the Loire in the Coteaux-du-Layon where producers of sweet wines also rejected chaptalization. By implementing back “ tries” during harvest they were able to improve not only the quality of their sweet wine but also that of their dry wines. The third wave finally came in the 90s with the pioneers of organic and biodynamic agriculture who, deciding to intervene as little as possible in the cellar by reducing the doses of sulfur, turned almost exclusively to the production of dry wine on the historic terroirs of Anjou so famous for their liquoreux. And here we are today, with history being written: the quality production of dry chenin in volume is not even 40 years old. What is the best style? With or without botrytis? With or without malo-lactic, in barrel or vat, oxidative or reductive aging, spring or long aging? - everyone explores their terroir potential which is revealed by respectful agriculture. What a magical moment for the wine lover!
Anjou Noir, an undiscovered diversity of schists
This diversity of styles is obviously linked to each winemaker, but also to the variation in terroir. This part of the Loire, between Muscadet and Saumurois, is known as Anjou Noir due to the dominant color of its metamorphic schistous soils with volcanic veins. They are very complex: being among the oldest soil in France (some plots older than 400 million years) they have had time to be degraded, altered, covered, in addition to being deformed - the slopes of Layon are on a fault that appeared during the eruption of the Alps. The result is a multitude of microclimates depending on the proximity of rivers and hillsides, with a wide variety of soil ranging from light wind sands, to sandy clay rich on the plateaus, to slopes of purple, gray, and slate schist crossed by veins of poor volcanic rocks, charcoal, etc.. And Chenin Blanc is magnificently transparent to express the fullness and complexity of this diversity. Here too we are just discovering all these variations as more and more single vineyards are made, and parcel names claimed (some even recognized since the 18th century).
So there is something for everyone, from fresh, light chenin to lemon thiols, to powerful, root, tannic, and more terpenic bottles. There is only one catch - many bottle their wine as Vin de France, not agreeing with the current Anjou AOC’s rules. Also, unfortunately, none of these estates are producing more than a couple of thousand bottles of each cuvée, so we feel really happy to offer you some today!
A child of the region and an experienced cyclist, Stéphane Bernaudeau is a very discreet, calm and determined winemaker who spent more than ten years alongside Mark Angeli before gradually creating his domain in 2000. He now tends 2.5 hectares of old vines. His historical plots are located near Cornu (part of the commune of Martigné-Briand where the Anjou Noir meets the Anjou Blanc): Les Nourrissons, 30 long rows of legendary centenary vines; Les Terres Blanches, 45 acres of vines over 80 years-old upstream Layon on white clay; and since 2014 Les Onglés, a 2.5 ha frosty plot on schist looking at the Nourrissons on the other side of the Layon. In 2019 to remedy the problem of recurring frost, Stéphane decided to take over two plots of almost 1 ha of old vines in Bonnezeaux and to rent 1 ha of Les Onglés to a young winemaker. This way he could diminish the risk of losing his crops, while keeping the same amount of vines to tend without changing his approach. In the vineyard, Stéphane originally applied strict biodynamic but today is farming with his own, more practical philosophy.
Harvests are manual, whole bunches are pressed in a vertical press, the juices spontaneously ferment either in 228 liter barrels of several wines or in Vicard foudres (15 hl) in two small rooms adjoining his house. The malos usually happen but are not forced. The wines are aged for one year on fine lees without racking nor batonnage nor analysis. 20 ppm of SO2 are added after malo and 20 ppm before bottling. Bottling, manual until 2015 is now done by Christian Braud between October and December. On the labels, you will find the vintage at the bottom right, as well as the yields, which have unfortunately been minuscule in recent years due to frost. From 2000 to 2004, he willingly chose botrytised grapes to make his dry wines. Today there is no botrytis in any cuvée, as he thinks botrytis brings too much honeyed, heavy aromatics and structure (even though he recently enjoyed a 2001 Nourrissons). Over the years Stéphane has rightly established himself as an inescapable reference of the region with his different plot vintages with strong identities.
Bruno Ciofi - Béret et Compagnie
Originally from Alsace, Bruno is a force as a farmer, and as someone who wants to support a sustainable, socially-responsible way of managing vineyards and wineries. After working for 13 years alongside pioneer biodynamic and low-intervention masters Jean-Pierre & Chantal Frick, he managed Domaine de la Pinte in the Jura from 2008 to 2016, converting it to biodynamics. At this time, he also became involved in Le Nez dans le Vert, an association of same-minded vignerons. For four years now he has joined Mark and Martial Angeli as a partner at Domaine de la Sansonnière. But in parallel he decided in 2017 to develop an ethical negoce - Béret et Compagnie - inspired by the forgotten potential of the sweet rosés of the region, ensuring organic or biodynamic growers the right price for their grapes. The main focus is Zéro Pointé Ze Bulles, a cuvée created by Philippe Gourdon, but he also bottles a tiny bit of dry chenin under the label Tous les Ch’nins Mènent à Rome from biodynamic vines in Thouarcé (Bonnezeaux) which is almost exclusive to the New York market .
Stéphane Érissé - Domaine Andrée
Stéphane is without a doubt one of the most elegant and meticulous new vignerons in Anjou. Working for more than 15 years in the international construction business and discovering wine thanks to his in-laws, Stéphane Érissée decided in 2008 to change career and life to be closer to his daughter Jade. He learned the craft alongside remarkable vignerons like Chambers Street favorite Cyril Fahl (Clos du Rouge Gorge) and Charly and Antoine Foucault (Clos Rougeard / Domaine du Collier). In 2011, he started Domaine Andrée (named after his grand-mother) by acquiring 3.7 ha of multiple plots of vines farmed organically for the last 25 years by the previous owner, in Saint-Georges-sur-Layon, a commune between Martigné-Briand and Montreuil-Bellay, just at the edges of Anjou Noir and Anjou Blanc. There, the terroir is very special: it is a vein of charcoal crossing the Layon, inspiring the names of two of Stéphane’s Cabernet Franc cuvées, Les Mines and Carbone. He also farms organically some Grolleau Gris and Noir, and of course some Chenin with a very specific character! Stéphane is as precise and meticulous in the cellar as he is in the vines. Located a thirty minute drive away in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg near Saumur, he vinifies in a beautiful underground tuffeau cave. Fermented in carefully selected larger oak formats from different coopers (some new), he believes a great wine takes time and trusts in an appropriate length of aging (12 months for the grolleau, at least 18 months for the Cabernet and the Chenin) on fine lees. These decisions are inspired by the wines of Richard Leroy, Stéphane Bernaudeau and the Foucaults. He carefully uses sulfur, at crush (max 15-20 ppm), after settling (max 15-20 ppm, if any, depending on the vintage quality) and if needed at bottling. Stéphane is always searching and relentlessly thinking, yet relying a lot on his intuition. The wines remarkably achieve an impressive serenity for such a young domaine, with the range showing a beautiful mix between limestone structure and schist aromatics.
Within a decade, Thibaud Boudignon has became an important figure in the rebirth of dry chenin in Savennières and Anjou Noir, despite being a newcomer to the region, arriving in 2007. A top judoist in his youth in Bordeaux, he understands discipline and time are needed to reach quality and mastery, and he is very demanding with himself. After working at famous wineries in France and Australia (Lafite in Bordeaux, Charlopin in Burgundy), he came to manage Château Soucherie, a historic estate in Beaulieu-sur-Layon whose quality was not up to its reputation. He was also attracted to the region by the potential of dry chenin on schists, as he loved what his friend Antoine Foucault was able to do on tuffeau. As he implanted organic viticulture and reshaped winemaking at Soucherie (putting it back on the map), he started to look for parcels to start his own estate in 2016. Finally, since January 2020 he just works for himself at his domain.
Thibaud acquired or rented progressively the 7ha he is today working with: on the left bank of the Loire a plot called Les Gâts in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay on grey schist and rhyolite where he produces his Anjou and Anjou À François(e), and in Savennières first working with a sandy plot called Les Fougeraies on the plateau above the Clos Saint-Yves, and now with three vineyards he replanted, two historic clos in La Possonnière - Clos de la Hutte and Clos de Frémine, and a small rented plot in Savennières near le Château de Varennes, La Vigne Cendrée.
The meticulous organic work with biodynamic practices in the vineyard with his two employees Camille and Thomas is carried on in the cellar. After making the wines between a tiny cellar in Savennières and Château Soucherie’s - a twenty minute drive apart, and difficult to protect the wine, he finally built in La Possonnière, by Clos de la Hutte, an ecological, modern and very-well thought cellar using sustainable material, gravity, thermal energy and water recycling. It allows him to be hyper-precise in his vinification: hand-harvest, whole-cluster in pneumatic keeping only the cuvée - like in Champagne so no settling, the must goes directly in barrels - demi-muids, cigars, hogsheads, foudres from multiple coopers with some new with light toast, spontaneous fermentations and aging on fine lees. Because of the temperature of the cellar malo does not occur, and then is blocked with sulfur (total though is now always below 50 ppm). The wines are neither fined nor filtered unless there are more than 1.5g of residual sugar. Thibaud has a very specific vision of Chenin on schist, and even if his search for a crystalline expression may not be liked by everyone, he is a force to be reckoned with, as his style is also evolving to a more hands-off approach as the vines continue to reveal more their terroir. An impressive vigneron for sure!
Olivier Lejeune - Le Clos des Plantes
2017 was the first vintage of Olivier Lejeune, revealing right away a real talent, something quite unexpected from a young vigneron born in northern France who worked 10 years in South East Asia selling video games. Tired of the exhausting life of a salesman in polluted megalopoles, he decided to radically change his life. He moved to New-Zealand to learn viticulture at Auckland University, quickly to unlearn it by working with biodynamic estate Felton Road in Central Otago. There, an intern told him about the Loire, and as Olivier was thinking about coming back to France to start his estate (New Zealand was unaffordable), he wrote to Mark Angeli who answered him, offering an internship during the 2015 harvest (a good, easy one). Meeting all the growers of the movement was the tipping point : in 2016 he moved for good to Anjou with his family, and in 2017 was able to buy two plots (Le Clos des Plantes et Les Cailloux) in Mont Benault, a hill of the Coteaux du Layon between Faye d’Anjou and Beaulieu-sur-Layon made famous by Richard Leroy. As he was building his young domain starting from scratch Olivier had to work also full time at biodynamic Château de Passavant - locally at the forefront of non-edging techniques, and used winemaker-friends’ equipment and cellars like Benoit Courault or Nadège Herbel. He is still today impressed by the solidarity among vignerons. Despite terrible vintages due to dramatically low yields, Olivier is today keeping a high spirit, farming more hectares in Mont Benault, including a new chenin plot he just replanted. Farming with biodynamic and agroforestry practices, his winemaking is very hands off, using a vertical press, spontaneous fermentation and aging on fine lees as long as he can. The wines see around 20 ppm total of sulfur. Olivier’s wines have already great depth and texture despite coming from vineyards he had to revitalise - without the sign of a remarkable vigneron.
On another note, Olivier pays great attention to the name of his cuvées and their label. The one for Poeisis was made by Magdalena Kaczan, a Polish artist. He saw it one day and asked this artist if he could use it, with the addition of the vigneron and his vine. It is a symbol of harmony and respected biodiversity. You can find on each of his labels the name of the different artists and their contact.
And to complete today's selection we wanted to feature wines from some of our favorite producers: the new specatcular single-vineyard cuvée La Roche de Mûrs 2018 made by the trio Marc Houtin, Julien Bresteau and Gérald "Jesse" Peau at La Grange aux Belles as well the superb 2017 Savennières Roche-aux-Moines produced by Tessa Laroche.
Note: We are workiing with a greatly reduced staff - Please allow one week for pocessing and local delivery.
Normal 10% case/mixed case discount applies
The first release of this cuvée (whose name is a nod to the greek act of creation). Olivier bought Le Clos des Plantes in May only to be hit by the frost: he could only produce 3 hl/ha from these altered grey schists and quartz soil. As the volume was too low, he bought some must from biodynamic producer Jean-François Vaillant at Domaine Les Grandes Vignes - like Bruno Ciofi for his Tous les Ch’nins mènent à Rome cuvée. So this 2017 is 50% Clos des Plantes, 50% négoce, fermented and aged in used double-barrel for twelve months. Malo is done, and 20 ppm of sulfur at bottling, done by Christian Braud (the bottler of all the best producers in the region). On the nose the wine has the concentration of the vintage, a core of quince, camomille, pollen, kumquat zest and iris root. It just starts to pick a little bit of appealing bottle reduction. The attack of the palate has weight and volume while dry, with discreet tannins reminding of a liquorice stick. The finish is more steely, with its salivating, mineral acidity. It is very sensual wine, but one can guess its future potential. Green curry based dishes would be a great pairing, as well as honey-glazed ham. Enjoy it now decanted for two hours, or keep at least 5 years. On another note, Olivier pays great attention to the name of his cuvées and their label. The one for Poeisis was made by Magdalena Kaczan, a Polish artist. He saw it one day and asked this artist if he could use it, with the addition of the vigneron and his vine. It is a symbol of harmony and respected biodiversity. You can find on each of his label the name of the different artists and their contact. Pascaline Lepeltier
Olivier Lejeune’s second vintage was not an easy one, after being hit by frost the previous year. Between the mildew pressure, the frost, the heat wave, and his full time job at Château de Passavant as tractorist, it was a challenging year yet he managed to produce from his plot of Clos des Plantes in Mont Benault a very solid, complex wine (vinified and aged 8 months in demi-muids, malo done, 20 ppm of total sulfites). Fermentation went way faster after the press (whole cluster in a vertical press), creating more exotic aromas: orange oil, mango, bay leaf, yet conserving the more traditional crabapple, quince, hay notes of Chenin. The volatile acidity feels a bit higher too but it is not a problem as the wine has the flesh and the muscles to welcome it. In fact it makes the wine vibrate even more. A great terroir is always expressed by the finish and length of the palate: if today it is still protected by its baby fat, you can feel it if you pay attention. Without a doubt 6 months of bottle aging would be ideal, but you can serve it today in large glass (no decanting) with creamed artichoke cannelloni or with pan-sautéed monkfish with almond crust. Pascaline Lepeltier
Just on the other side of the schistous wall of Clos de la Hutte, on the way to the Loire, the Clos de Frémine was replanted by Thibaud in 2015, with the same massale selections diversity and rootstocks (rupestris du lot) as the Clos de la Hutte. Here the soil is sandier, with more altered sandstone and less schist, looking gently south-east towards the Loire. For Thibaud, this is the most ethereal wine of the domain - something he noticed when tasting randomly some samples made from plots located in the area at Château de Chamboureau. He knew he wanted to make wine there since then. To preserve the delicacy, roundness, exuberance of the wine on this terroir, he is using less new oak and only 500 and 600 liter barrels. If Savennières can be on the light and fruity side when coming from the eolian sandy soil of the different plateaus - like the area of Les Fougeraies or Le Moulin de Beaupréau - here it is a totally different beast, as you can sense the power of the schist below the surface. With an exuberant nose today of mandarin blossom, sea spray, freesia, the palate is more restrained, dancing with tannins (pear-skin like) felt more in the mid-palate, letting the dynamic acidity shape the finish. Without a doubt, Thibaud is picking at a riper peak than he used too, without losing the definition. Once again, this wine is still sophomoric and will keep on improving in bottle, but you may be teased by its juvenile charm if you pop the cork today. To enjoy with a sole meunière, a veal piccata or a Brie-style cheese. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Out of the 3 communes of production allowed for Savennières - Bouchemaine, Savennières (and the hamlet of Épiré), La Possonnière - the last one has been overlooked for some time, not having any benchmark producers or famous vineyards and today claiming less than 50 ha planted. Yet its potential as early as the 12th cent was recognized by the Benedictine monks. Less hilly and flatter, you can still see walls separating historical clos. But time has changed, and Thibaud, aware of the potential of the vineyards, acquired 2 of these clos, including the 7 ha of the ancient religious site, Clos de la Hutte. Only 2.5 ha were planted in 2011 with a huge diversity of massale selections from superb domaines, some ungrafted on shallow ordovicien green schist. After losing most of the crop to frost in 2017, 2018 saw a more normal crop. The wine was aged in demi muid (50%), 320 liters cigars (25%) and 500 liter (25%) for 12 months then 3 months in stainless steel tanks. For Savennières lovers, this is a different expression of the area, more subtle, lighter on its feet without losing the core density of the appellation. If a little shy or austere at first, the nose opens up to notes of lemon-drop, lemon verbena, hay, white tobacco and gun-flint. The oak is just perceptible. The structure is very sleek, with more weight than the previous vintage (the vines are getting older), and currently a leesy touch bottle aging will resolve. The typical apple-skin tannins of Savennières bring length, playing with the saltiness. The wine is a baby, and some bottle aging will definitely bring up more layers and texture. If you want to enjoy it now, decant it and don’t drink it too cold. Otherwise keep it up to 20 years. For pairing, a delicate sea bass with wilted spinach, a green asparagus risotto or a 18-month comté would be superb. Pascaline Lepeltier.
This is a new release for Thibaud. In 2011 he managed to rent a superb .5 ha isolated plot at the bottom on the Roche aux Moines on the Savennières side near the Châteu de Varennes. The land used to be planted but was taken over by wild vegetation : Thibaud cleaned it up, left it fallow and then replanted it in 2014 with the same care than the Clos de la Hutte and Frémine, using this time a riparia rootstock as there is more clay with a vein of granite amidst the purple schists. For Thibaud, this is the most angular and “typical'' of his Savennières. And it’s true, right now and despite coming from young vines, the wine has a real breadth with more tannic structure - for me a trademark of Savennières from this area. The wine does not see any new oak - to avoid bringing more unctuous sweetness - but is aged in Burgundy barrels and foudres. The nose has a lot of baking spices, gardenia, kumquat and has the less reductive notes. The palate is broader and richer, the acidity and tension hidden behind the velvety texture. Once again, aging would be a good idea to gain in definition. You can also enjoy today with hazelnut-crusted sweetbreads or zucchinis and goat cheese agnolotti, served with a chicken jus. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Domaine aux Moines is operated by an incredible mother/daughter (Monique & Tessa Laroche) team organically, and now with biodynamic practices as well, farming ~10 hectares of Chenin Blanc. The vineyards stand next to the famed 'Coulée de Serrant' on South-West facing hillsides of predominately schist soils. Since her arrival Tessa has been improving every detail to be able to make more precise, transparent, complex wines. The results are spectacular and she is now one of the best examples of Roche-aux-Moines, and of course also Savennières. 2017 though was a tough vintage, as the Domaine aux Moines lost more than 70% of the crop to the April frost. After a warm, dry summer, allowing for disease-free season, harvest happened very quickly as sugars were rising really fast. Thankfully all the vineyards are surrounding the cellar, less than 10 min drive in tractor. In a couple of days everything was harvested, pressed more carefully with a pneumatic press and champagne cycle as the skins were thick and could bring unwanted phenolic. Due to the yield and for not losing some barrels, all the wine was aged in barrel (Tessa has been changing a lot her barrels to work with light toast or vapor centered Atelier Centre France). Despite its concentration and having done its malo, 2017 is a remarkably fresh, mouthwatering wine with incredible tension. Full of lemon-verbena, tangerine zest, white pepper and salted almond, its shows more savory elements on the palate. A great success for the vintage, very precise despite its low sulfites (inferior at 30 ppm total), it is a wine to age or to enjoy with a roasted lobster with caramalized baby carrot, or hazelnut crusted sweetbreads with confit parsnip. Pascaline Lepeltier
This is a spectacular new 100% Chenin Blanc cuvée from our friends at La Grange aux Belles! Since the creation of the estate, Marc Houtin (the founder, joined after by Julien Bresteau and Gérald "Jesse" Peau) was longing for a beautiful terroir to make a single vineyard chenin - he knew the plots farmed by La Grange aux Belles could make really good but not great wines, they were too rich. One day, passing by the congress center of the small town of Mûrs-Érigné he discovered at the end of the road a plot of 3 ha uncultivated land, overlooking the Louet, a little affluent of the Loire. Before the 50s, there was a vineyard here on these blue schists He knew he had found the perfect spot! After years of talks with the mayor (luckily he was part of the green party), they finally got the right to rent 1.2 ha. Immediately they cleaned it, let it fallow and in 2013 replanted it with multiple massale selection from top producers - Lise & Bertrand Jousset, Philippe Foreau, Benoit Courault, etc., adapting the rootstocks and the pruning to the very poor soil. 2018 is the third vintage of this Roche de Mûrs named after the local name of the plot - and featuring on the label a historic monument about the Vendée wars. But already with the first release in 2016 you could tell it was going to be a special one. The terroir could be tasted, even from these young plantation! With this 2018, a concentrated vintage, if on the nose the aromas are quite subtle, more floral and fruit than savory (orange blossom, lemongrass, honeydew), the palate is so intense and vibrant with a powerful backbone of schiste combined with a bracing yet ripe acidity. Aged in 600 l Stockinger barrel, the lees help to round on the structure, and bring an attractive reduction. Bottled without fining, filtration nor sulfites, it is a model of natural wine. Bravo to La Grange aux Belles for this wine and revealing a beautiful terroir forgotten by history. A bottle worth aging, you will also enjoy it decanted and served in large glass, paired with roasted guinea hen served with a purée of ratte potato and black garlic or crayfish in cream. Pascaline Lepeltier.
A tribute to his mother, A François(e) comes from a historic plot of St-Lambert-du-Lattay previously dedicated to liquoreux. A selection of the heart of the plot and the best barrels - the rest is blended in the regular Anjou cuvée - the vines planted in 1990 grow on powerful grey schist and rhyolite with no topsoil. It is usually the most powerful wine of the domaine, and it was even more the case in 2018, a solar vintage - also following 2017, a year where Thibaud lost almost all his crop. So to balance the intensity of this wine in that vintage - “it was so powerfully violent” in Thibaud’s words, he used less new oak and worked more with larger format. 2018 is a vintage to age, with more acid and structure than the first impression you have. Here the nose has a lot of gardenia, pollen, fennel, kumquat zest with a soft smoky reduction. The wine is so dense and young in the palate, with a real tannic bit - think over brewed white tea, yet harmonious. It will be a shame to open this wine today (keep it up to 10 years), but if you can’t resist - which I understand - decant for a good hour, and serve it in large Burgundy glass. Meaty shellfish - scallop, lobster - or sweetbreads will be a great pairing, as well as young comté. Pascaline Lepeltier
Since 2014 Stéphane Bernaudeau has produced Les Onglés from an eponymous vineyard of 2.5 ha of schist and clay exposed south west, located on the right bank of the Layon between Cornu and Aubigné-sur-Layon (these are the same soils as Les Nourrissons). He has rented 1 ha since 2019 to a young winemaker - volumes will therefore decrease for this cuvée. But 2 new cuvées should arrive as he started to farm La Possonnière and Les Coqueries near the hamlet of Bonnezeaux - they should be less susceptible to frost than Onglés, a guarantee Stéphane needs in regard to the terrible previous vintages. But back to Les Onglés! The vines are between 40 and 60 years old and they are vinified in the same way as the other cuvées: the harvest is pressed in whole bunch, the fermentations are spontaneous, the malos normally occur. The wines are aged for one year on fine lees without racking, without batonnage, without analysis, in used Vicard barrels - in 2018 he begins to use the casks of the same cooper of 15 hl. 20 ppm of SO2 are added after malo and 20 ppm before bottling, which is done by Christian Braud between October and December. For Stéphane, 2017 is the first vintage where he finally feels the energy of this superb terroir and this vine that he has patiently revived. It is also a vintage of frost, producing barely 10 hl / ha. The wine undeniably has a real density without any heaviness. The nose already shows a lot of complexity, more savory than fruity - acacia, linden with delicate salty reduction, followed by more classic quince, apple and blood orange skin. The palate is precise, with ripe vibrant tension just weighted by subtle lees which lend an unctuous quality. The core is dense, yet without any heaviness and has excellent length. Enjoy it now decanted in large glass, not too cold, or easily keep it for 10 years. Shellfish like razor clam served with a warm emulsion of butter and dill or celeriac risotto would be a perfect pairing. Pascaline Lepeltier
Since 2014 Stéphane Bernaudeau has produced Les Onglés from an eponymous vineyard of 2.5 ha of schist and clay exposed south west, located on the right bank of the Layon between Cornu and Aubigné-sur-Layon (these are the same soils as Les Nourrissons). He has rented 1 ha since 2019 to a young winemaker - volumes will therefore decrease for this cuvée. But 2 new cuvées should arrive as he started to farm La Possonnière and Les Coqueries near the hamlet of Bonnezeaux - they should be less susceptible to frost than Onglés, a guarantee Stéphane needs in regard to the terrible previous vintages. But back to Les Onglés! The vines are between 40 and 60 years old and they are vinified in the same way as the other cuvées: the harvest is pressed in whole bunch, the fermentations are spontaneous, the malos normally occur. The wines are aged for one year on fine lees without racking, without batonnage, without analysis, in used Vicard barrels - in 2018 he begins to use the casks of the same cooper of 15 hl. 20 ppm of SO2 are added after malo and 20 ppm before bottling, which is done by Christian Braud between October and December.
For Stéphane, 2017 is the first vintage where he finally feels the energy of this superb terroir and this vine that he has patiently revived. It is also a vintage of frost, producing barely 10 hl / ha. The wine undeniably has a real density without any heaviness. The nose already shows a lot of complexity, more savory than fruity - acacia, linden with delicate salty reduction, followed by more classic quince, apple and blood orange skin. The palate is precise, with ripe vibrant tension just weighted by subtle lees which lend an unctuous quality. The core is dense, yet without any heaviness and has excellent length. Enjoy it now decanted in large glass, not too cold, or easily keep it for 10 years. Shellfish like razor clam served with a warm emulsion of butter and dill or celeriac risotto would be a perfect pairing. Pascaline Lepeltier
Based now in the Loire after working in Alsace and Jura, Bruno Ciofi, Mark and Martial Angeli’s partner, created Béret et Compagnie as an ethical négoce with the capacity to scale. The concept of négoce is not usually considered synonymous with quality (one generally regards small production as superior), yet his goal is to show you can produce high quality wines with a certain size structure, and pay your growers the right price. The Chenin is not the focus of the project, but he decided to bottle some as the grapes were coming from biodynamic Domaine Les Grandes Vignes led by Jean-François Vaillant, a friend and someone he very much enjoys sharing experiences with. 2017 is the second vintage after 2015. The grapes are coming from two different terroirs he knows very well in Thouarcé on the left bank of the Layon: one consisting of decomposed schists, one on faluns (a sedimentary soil rich in seashells and sands). Bruno likes the art of blending since he practiced it at La Pinte. The grapes without botrytis are whole-clustere pressed, begin fermentation in tank, then aged in 400 liter barrels. The wine is aged for 30 months untouched, and then bottled without fining, filtration or added sulfur. Malo is done. This is a very unique expression of Chenin, combining the savory tannic structure of the schist with a generosity brought by the faluns. On the nose, the wine is opulent and appealing showing mandarine flower, Anjou pear, bay leaf with faintest hint of marzipan and baking spice. The palate is tamed yet structured, the angular nature of chenin rounded by the ripeness of the grapes and a mastered oxido-reductive aging. A very serious wine you can pop up today and enjoy with a large variety of dishes, including asparagus with hollandaise sauce, spring pea tagliatelles or fried chicken. You can also keep it up to 10 years. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Stéphane is without a doubt one of the most elegant and meticulous new vignerons in Anjou, in the orbit of Antoine Foucault, Stéphane Bernaudeau, Benoit Courault or Richard Leroy. His chenin comes from a plot called Les Faraunières, a 1.2 ha of ninety plus year old vines with more clay and decomposed granitic sand than coal, located in Saint-Georges-sur-Layon at the edge between Anjou Noir and Anjou Blanc. The grapes are hand-harvested without botrytis, pressed whole-cluster, settled - some sulfur is added at this time in careful quantity if needed, then fermented in larger oak barrels (some may be new, but always in minority) in a tuffeau cave. The wine is aged for 18 months minimum on fine lees, varying depending on its needs.