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The beautiful 2019 Chenin Blancs from François and Manuela Chidaine have recently arrived in NY - time for a CheninFest including the superb Vouvrays from Domaine François and Julien Pinon!
Wines arrive by Tuesday 9/28. All still wines discount 10% on a case or mixed case.
François and Manuela Chidaine, Husseau, Montlouis-sur-Loire
François and Manuela Chidaine have been pioneers in organic and biodynamic farming in the Loire Valley, and were instrumental in the resurgence of quality in Montlouis-sur-Loire. After taking over from his father in 1989, François converted to organic agriculture in 1992 and to biodynamics in 1999. I remember walking in the vineyard with François 20+ (?) years ago, fascinated by his explanations of the life of the soil and the important role of other plant species growing amidst the vines. Today, the Chidaines embrace "regnerative agriculture," a no-till farming approach where permanent cover crops of indigenous and sown plants coexist with the vines, improving the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted into plant material and soil organic matter.
While the Loire Valley has experienced a string of very good vintages beginning in 2014, the 2019 whites are remarkably vibrant and balanced - an assessment by the Chidaines:
"Because of the frost, the drought and the heatwave, conditions for the harvest were in doubt. We had the feeling that things were not going to be easy with a forecast for a small crop. But we picked under sunny skies and voila - Nature helped us to have beautiful healthy grapes with balanced, intense and even surprising juices. Wines we never imagined! It's just magic and above all the feeling of having made the right choices in our vines." And indeed the wines are bright and refreshing with gorgeous fruit - the wines are dryer than the 2018s, with moderate alcohol and very good acidity - all in all an exellent vintage!
On offer today are three of the Chidaine's dry and vibrant 2019s from Montlouis-sur-Loire: the "Clos du Breuil" from a single vineyard of 60 year-old Chenin Blanc vines, next to the Clos Habert; the "Les Choisilles" from numerous parcels of 30 to 90 year-old vines, and the extraordinary "Les Bournais," certainly one of the most unique and delicious of all Loire Chenin Blancs! François planted the vines in 1999 on a small plateau bordering the Loire river with a special limestone/clay soil called 'Bournais,' similar to a Vouvray terroir and without the silex present in most Montlouis vineyards. We have puchased every vintage of this wine which seems to get better every year - the 2019 "Les Bournais" is a bit dryer and brighter than past vintages, just a superb and vibrant Montlouis!
We are also happy to offer the Chidaine's wonderful 2018 Montlouis "Clos Habert" from a single vineyard of old vines on a high plateau near the winery, on soils of clay, mixed with fine pieces of flint over the white limestone "tuffeau." 2018 is a superb vintage for this wine, which, at 10 g/L RS could be called Sec-Tendre rather than Demi-Sec - however you categorize it, it's a beautiful wine that will cellar for 20 years or more and is highly recommended.
In Vouvray, the Chidaines ressurected the famous "Clos Baudoin," certainly one of the greatest sites in Vouvray and the 2019 is a perfectly balanced, etremely elegant wine that will drink well over the next twenty years.
Domaine François and Julien Pinon, Vallée de Cousse, Vouvray
(We are proud to have played a role in bringing the wines of Domaine Pinon to the US, as we met François's parents in 1981 and subsequently arranged a meeting with Francois and importer Joe Dressner after François took over the estate in the mid 1980s.) The hard work and deep intelligence of François Pinon transformed this domaine into one of the most important and most respected properties in Vouvray. François' son, Julien, is very capably continuing the great efforts of his father.
Although there are similarities in terroir with Domaine Chidaine, both in Montlouis and in Vouvray, the Pinon's estate is at a higher elevation in Vallée de Cousse, thus with cooler temperatures and a bit more acidity in the wines. François thus picked later and preferred to have 10 to 25 g/L residual sugar in his wines to balance the acidity. The estates vineyards are on soft lower Turonian limestone (or marl) which in some vineyards have worn away over the last 90 or so million years to reveal veins of black flint ("silex."), others have a thick layer of clay over the limestone. The "Déronnieres" and "Silex Noir" cuvées are from the flint terroirs, the "Trois Argiles" and Sec are from clay terroirs.
We're happy to feature the estate's dry and demi-sec cuvées in this offer, along with the Pinon's beautiful Vouvray Brut and Brut Non-Dosé, which are certainly among the very finest sparkling wines of the appellation. Unlke most growers in Vouvray who use young vines for their sparkling wines, the Pinons use 45 year-old vines on good terroir and do successive pickings and rigorous sorting to make sure that the grapes are fully ripe and in perfect condidition. The Vouvray Brut, which is lovely in 2017, receives a dosage of 10 g/l, while the Non-Dosé (Brut Nature in Champagne) receives none and is a sensational ripe and complex Brut that will cellar for 30 years. (We tasted a 1976 Brut at about 30 years of age that was astounding, and to this taster, better than most mature Champagnes.) François and Julien recently re-released their 2012 Brut Non-Dosé after 7 years sur-lie - it's an extraordinary wine, and is sold out at the estate but we're fortunate to have a few last cases...
We love all the Pinon wines in this email, but would like to particularly mention the "Le Seize," the only wine made by the Pinons in this storm-ravaged vintage. The wine's vibrant acidity is balanced by 22 g/L RS - it's wonderfully complex and will age beautifully - as will the perfect 2018 "Les Déronnières" from the Pinon's best parcel on limestone with clay and silex - it's dry and perfectly balanced at 8 g/L RS and 4.7 g/L total acid.
We offer our thanks and congratulations to the Chidaines and the Pinons for their conscientious farming and beautiful wines!
Francois Chidaine has been one of the leading proponents of organic and regenerative agriculture in the Loire valley and has had a profound influence on the resurgence of Montlouis. Les Choisilles is vinified dry, from parcels of 30 to 90 year-old vines on clay and silica soils over limestone "tuffeau." The soils are kept "green," beneficial plants grow in the rows and only organic composts are used. Fermentation of Les Choisilles can last up to six months, with wild yeasts, no malo-lactic, aging on the lees in large barrels. The 2019 is a very beautiful "Les Choisilles" with ripe aromas of lime-flower, pineapple, lemon and pear. The palate is silky and well-structured with chalk and mineral flavors underlying creamy pear and citrus fruit, finishing dryer than expected with firm minerality in the very long finish. Though delicious now, served with grilled fish, fish and chicken in sauce and shellfish, the Les Choisilles will open nicely over the next ten to fifteen years and should be considered for the cellar. 4.7 g/L RS, 13.5% alc, 3.85 g/L total acidity. David Lillie
This is usually our favorite wine from François and Manuela Chidaine, long-time champions of organic and biodynamic farming in the Loire Valley. Named after the soil type "Les Bournais," a unique clay topsoil over limestone (tuffeau blanche) also found across the river in Vouvray and without the silex present in most Montlouis terroirs. First made in a sec-tendre style, recent vintages have been dry, with the 2019 showing perfect balance at 2.6 g/L RS, 13% alc and 4.51 g/L total acidity. The 2019 shows the wine's normal astonishing aromatic complexity with hints of red fruits (raspberry), lime flower, pineapple, lemon zest, stone, white peach and almond. The palate is very elegant and a bit austere in it's youth, showing firm acidity with earth and mineral flavors predominant over white fruits, bitter lemon, almond and stone. Very long and very bright citrus and mineral finish. This is a beautiful Montlouis that will pair with mildly flavored fish, ceviche and goat cheeses in it's youth, with age serve with lobster, white meats and fish in sauce, Asian foods.... It's delicious now, and should be very interesting after ten to fifteen years in the cellar. Highly recommended. David Lillie
Francois and Manuel Chidaine have led a revival of quality in Montlouis over the last twenty-five years and are now making outstanding Vouvrays from the former Poniatowski vineyards in Vouvray. The Chidaine's vinyeard work is among the finest in France and the disaster they took over from Poniatowski has happily come back to life, being a mix of old vines and new plantings. The Clos Baudoin is certainly one of the greatest sites in Vouvray and the 2019 is a perfectly balanced, extremely elegant wine that will drink well over the next twenty years. (It's bone dry at 1.9 g/L RS, 13% alc and 4.62 g/L total acid.) The aromas are bright and floral with lemon peel, pineapple, quince and stone with herbal, minty hints. The palate is vibrant with firm acidity and chalky minerals with citrus, quince, stone and almond, finishing with citrus and mineral flavors. Refreshing and delicious now, it will really sing in 2031! David Lillie
The re-release of the Pinon 2012 Brut Non-Dosé is drinking beautifully now, after 7-plus years on the lees. Even at my advanced age, I plan on cellaring a case of this very special wine for another ten to twenty years. Here is our original review: François and Julien Pinon make some of the finest sparkling wines in the Loire Valley. The superb Brut Non-Dosé comes from 45 year-old Chenin Blanc vines on Turonien limestone with topsoils of clay with silex. The fermentation lasts 4 to 6 weeks without added yeast or sugar. 2012 is a beautiful year for this wine as the bright fruit and firm acidity of the vintage contribute to the elegance and structure of this cuvée. The wine shows aromas of creamy lemon, pear, brioche, fines herbes and stone, with pear, green apple. mineral, herbal and bitter lemon flavors on the palate. The mousse is fine and refreshing and there is fabulous length of dried herbs, citrus pear and stone flavors on the finish. This very young wine will develop nicely in the glass and will cellar beautifully for twenty years or more - a few years ago we tasted a 1976 that was sensational. David Lillie
François and Julien Pinon make some of the finest sparkling wines in the Loire Valley. The superb Brut Non-Dosé comes from 45 year-old Chenin Blanc vines on Turonien limestone with topsoils of clay with silex, from four parcels; Les Haut de Terne, Les Hauts de Mortiers, Chopet and Les Planches Favettes. The 2017 was hand-harvested at the beginning of October in three passes in order to select the best grapes, with two additional selections - on a "table de tri" and again before the press. Thus the best and ripest grapes are selected, enabling this cuvée with no addition of sugar, as in a Champagne Brut Nature. (Two to three year elévage sur lies.) The robe is a pale greenish yellow hue. The nose offers an attractive mélange of stone fruit, green tea, pear skin, and flint on the nose.The palate is layered and lithe, with a fine bead, and soft mousse, featuring flavors of stone, orange oil, and quince, culminating in a sapid, mineral finish. This has fine balance and energy with compelling saltiness underlying the pretty fruit; in a word: superb! John McIlwain
Our friends Francois and Julien Pinon produce sensational Vouvray at their estate in Vallée du Cousse and the 2018 Silex Noir is another superb example. From approximatley 40 year-old vines on soils of clay and flint over limestone in the vineyards of Terné and Batailleries. The wine shows beautiful aromas of white fruits, citrus, wildflowers earth and honey. Chalky white fruits, earth, lemon and stone on the palate with a creamy texture typical of 2018, with nice finishing acidity and mineral flavors. A bit of residual sugar brings out all the best in this lovely Chenin Blanc, delicious now - decant a few hours in advance if possible - or cellar 20 to 30 years. Serve with rillettes and rillons, fish in sauce, lobster, langoustines and scallops, chicken in cream sauce, too. (26 g/L RS, 4.1 g/L total acid.)
The grapes for this new cuvée from Francois Pinon (first made in 2014) used to be included in the Silex Noir, but this wonderful vineyard, the Pinon's best parcel on a hill-top directly above their cellar, much deserves to be bottled on its own. The soil is clay over Turonian limestone, and the beautiful exposure gives ripe fruit that is normally vinified as a demi-sec. In 2018 it's fabulously ripe, dense and complex, and finished dry (for Vouvray) in 2018, with a technically sec level of 8 grams RS and a very firm 4.7 grams acidity. The wine shows elegant aromas of lime-flower, dried pear, lemon zest and stones. The palate is very supple and ripe, saline and mineral with round white fruits, citrus and herbal notes with impressive density and length. A great Vouvray with fantastic minerality that will age beautifully! Normally thought of as a fish wine, the flavors and texture of this wine will make it pair beautifully with poultry and white meats as well. Highly recommended. David Lillie
The Pinon 2019 Vouvray Sec is from vines in organic farming on clay soils over Turonian limestone. The fermentation lasted for three months, with no added yeast or sugar, and was stopped by chilling the juice, followed by five months of aging in old barrels, on the lees. While 2019 was troubled by frost in spring and periods of drought and heat, in the end the vintage produced balanced whites in Vouvray with good acidity and moderate alcohol. The Pinon 2019 Sec is indeed dry at 8 g/L RS and 12.5% alc and shows aromas of citrus confit, almond, green tea, stone, anise and white fruits. The palate has vibrant acidity with saline mineral flavors, and good density, with green apple and lemon zest, finishing with firm acidity, citrus, apple and wet stone. Give this young wine some aeration (!) or a few years in the cellar then serve with shellfish and oysters, grilled fish, vegetable terrines, seafood choucroute, rillons and rillettes (you may have to go to Touraine for those..) David Lillie
The Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire "Clos du Breuil" is from a great parcel of 60 year-old Chenin Blanc vines, next to the Clos Habert, sloping to the northwest, on soils of clay with silex stones ("perruches") over the white limestone "tuffeau." Always a dry and very crystalline Chenin, equal in quality to the "Les Bournais" but in a more austere, mineral style more typical of Montlouis. The 2019 has just arrived and the wine is quite dense and earthy, very marked by the silex soils. The wine will need a few years to really open up, but is showing subtle aromas of stone, citrus, almond, lemon and ripe pear, with elegant white fruits on the silky, round palate with a slightly bitter, mineral character, with citrus zest and saline, earthy notes in the finish. delicious now with cod, sole or flounder, but this will be interesting in ten to fifteen years, (Beatifully balanced at 4.4 g/L RS, 13% alc, 4.07 g/l total acidity.) David Lillie
Francois Chidaine's "Clos Habert" is from a single vineyard of old vines on a high plateau near the winery, on soils of clay, mixed with fine pieces of flint over the white limestone "tuffeau." The fruit is picked late in successive "tries" with the aim of producing a demi-sec which usually has 12 to 20 grams of residual sugar per liter. Fermentation is with wild yeats in 600 liter barrels and can take six months. The 2018 "Clos Habert" is one of the great "sec-tendre" of the Loire, with about 10 gr/L RS. Tasted last winter, the wine showed a brilliant bright gold color and was elegant and closed - retasted on arrival in NY, the wine shows a wonderful melange of mandarin and lemon peel, ripe green apple and pear, honeysuckle and white pepper, just beautiful. The palate shows very ripe white and yellow fruits, with citrus confit and very firm flinty, calcaire flavors with anise and spice in the long, silky finish, showing fabulous length and energy. This should develop beautifully over the next 20 - 30 years and is highly recommended. David Lillie
Many of you may instinctively reach for the Pinon Vouvray Non-Dosé, and while that is an excellent and refreshing example of sparkling Chenin Blanc, you should absolutely not dismiss the utter deliciousness of the Brut! The Chenin's of Pinon are some of the best in Vouvray due to their impeccable farming, diversity of clay, limestone, and silex soils, and deliberate, albeit low-intervention, cellar work. The Vouvray Brut comes from ~45 year-old vines that are hand-harvested during the first pass of the season. It is made in the traditional method with two to three years resting on the lees before disgorgement with 10 g r/s. On the nose is a just baked pie with pear and apricot, a bit of honey and dried chamomile, and on the palate are soft, persistent bubbles (it even stayed alive after two days in the fridge!) and a textured mineral-driven finish. Perfectly balanced to be just the slightest bit off-dry owing to the vibrant acidity, it will be delightful as an aperitif or with a selection charcuterie and cheese. Michelle DeWyngaert
100% Chenin Blanc. Pinon's only white wine in this very difficult and short vintage in which the estate lost 75% of its harvest. The "Le 2016" replaces the usual Trois Argiles, Silex Noir and Les Deronnières bottlings, with fruit from a range of those and other parcels. The vines average 40 years in age, are certified organic and were hand-harvested from October 10-18. Fermentation took place spontaneously with natural yeasts and lasted 2-3 months in wood vats. The wine was aged 4-5 months on its fine lees in old tonneaux (large oak barrels) and gently filtered before bottling in April 2017 with 22.4 grams/liter of residual sugar and 5.5 g/L total acid. Total production of Le 2016 was 1600 cases (a yield of only 11 hl/ha). The wine shows lovely aromas of lime-flower, honeyed citrus, dried white fruis and earth. Firm lemony acidity and mineral flavors underlie ripe white fruits and lemon confit. The finish is very long with citrus,honey, pear and stone . Technically a Demi-Sec, the wine is balanced by the bright citrusy acids and will pair well with charcuterie, fish in sauce and white meats. Cellar for twenty to thirty years to create a fabulous mature Vouvray. David Lillie
Another outstanding Vouvray from our friends François and Julien Pinon in Vallée de Cousse, the 2018 "Trois Argiles" shows subtle, complex aromas of lemon, pear, earth, lime-flower, wet stone and almond. There is a hint of sweetness on the palate, perfectly balanced with firm acidity, with mineral flavors, white fruits, lemon peel and herbal notes. The finish is very long with citrusy acids and saline minerals. this is a beautiful young Vouvray that is delicious now with fish or chicken in sauce, Asian cuisnes, vegetable patés, asparagus and mild cheeses. This will gain complexity and become dryer with age, drink at least until 2050. 22 gr/liter RS., 4.1 g/L total acid. David Lillie