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We received a small allocation of new cuvées from Benoit Courault, whom everyone in the Loire just knows as Beni. A warm, rustic vigneron originally from the area, Benoit traveled to other regions before returing to the Loire to farm some very small parcels in Anjou. I've visited Benoit several times at his home in Faye D'Anjou, and had the chance to see how he works and lives and become a friend in the process. He's a humble guy, who lived in an airstream trailer among his vineyards for upwards of a decade, before finally building a proper home by hand (with the help of a small bulldozer and some friends). His vineyard work is meticulous and tender, with great care and attention given to each parcel. His team seems to consist of him, two friends, and his horses. All vineyard work is without pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers.. Wines are aged on the lees in old barrels, usually for a year, and bottled by hand (Benoit has a fair amont of vintage equipment, including a fully functional manual bottling apparatus). Most of the vineyards he works are around his home, with the rest scattered closeby. He learned the importance of vineyard work and healthy soils from several winemakers whom he worked with, and hence dedicates most of his time to working his vineyards. The belief, which is common among natural winemakers, is that the most important work is in the vineyard, and should allow the winemaker to be 'hands-off' in the cellar. To the point, he spent over 5 years reviving previously herbicided soils from a small parcel he obtained, before feeling confident that the soils had ample microbial life and healthy root systems to yield quality grapes. Further to the point, SO2 levels in his wines are all quite low, usually just 1 mg/l of added SO2. Occasionally he will bottle without any additions.
Though Benoit is not originally from a winemaking family (his father was a horse trader), he wanted to make wine, and so left the Loire Valley to study oenology in Beaune. While studying, he was impressed by the wines of Yvon Metras and Dominique Derain, and was convinced that these were the types of wines he wanted to make. His practical studies led him to the south of France, where he met Eric Pfifferling while working for an estate close to Tavel. He joined Pfifferling for over two years, and then moved back to the Loire Valley. Here he spent some time working and learning with Olivier Cousin, and the Menard family at Domaine des Sablonnettes. Finally, he heard of a small parcel going up for rent and he started his project. Now, more than ten years later, he seems quite content with his life, and is making some remarkable wines!
We've never had this wine before but are very excited to try it! Importer Geoffroy Ducroux writes "the 2021 Ephemeres Petillants is 100% Chenin Blanc, un-disgorged but lightly filtered before bottling, with beautiful acidity!"
Empreinte is a Chenin Blanc from vineyards close to Bonnezeaux. It's not a cuvée that we have had before at Chambers Street, but I have had it in France and it delivers the quintissential Chenin purity and Beni Courault mystery that always marks his white wines. Unlike the Petit Chemin, which is a type of entry level Chenin Blanc, this is a special bottling, aged in wood typically for 12 months before bottling.
Gilbourg is a beautiful Chenin Blanc, with fruit coming from several parcels. As our friend Pascaline Lepeltier explains, the core of this cuvée comes from the Clos des Mailles, which is an exceptional terroir near Benoit's home. She always finds there is nice flesh and mid-palate weight. There's ample minerality but it is almost hidden behind roundness and viscosity that develops in the mouth. It's much like the Petit Chemin in terms of approachability, but with a much longer finish and unparalleled depth. Bravo, Beni! EL
70% Cabernet Franc / 30% Grolleau. Tabeneaux is a straightforward and cheerful red from Benoit Courault, exhibiting some of the vibrant bright red fruit one might associate with a partial carbonic maceration wine, but with nice weight, ripeness, and subtle tannin. This bistro cuvée shows a side of Cabernet Franc that is unique from the expressions of Chinon/Bourgeuil/Saumur Champigny, or the more classically made Cab Francs from Anjou. Enjoy with a slight chill. EL
50/50 Cabernet Franc and Grolleau in 2021, this vintage of Beni's Tabeneaux is lithe, fresh and ethereal. What a lovely vintage for this wine! It's a straightforward and cheerful red from Benoit Courault, exhibiting some of the vibrant bright red fruit one might associate with a partial carbonic maceration wine, but with nice weight, ripeness, and subtle tannin. Enjoy with a slight chill. EL