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Many years ago, the first Dive Bouteille wine fair took place in 1999 in a cellar of Catherine and Pierre Breton. From what I can tell, there may have been two Americans there: our own David Lillie, and legendary wine importer, Joe Dressner. Jenny Lefcourt can't remember if she was at the first or second Dive, so there is a chance there were 3 Americans! Now, 25 years later, the fair has grown from the original 20 Loire winemakers and 20 "étrangers" winemakers from other regions, to reach a list of about 236 producers from France and beyond. Far too large for the dank cellar of the Bretons, the fair has been held in a variety of interesting locations, including a former (Roman?) prison with no heat (remember those trash can fire warmers?), and most recently at Cave Ackerman, a sprawling cellar of a rather large and industrial sparkling wine producer in Saumur. With so many producers to taste with, and very limited time to do so, it may come as a surprise that I took an hour break from the Dive last February to walk down the street to the quaint apartment of a young local named Théo Blet, to taste a few wines and discuss a possible collaboration. To be fair, if you've been to the Dive in recent years and seen the literal throngs of people (half of whom do not sell, import, distribute, or write about wine), you'd understand the feeling of over-stimulation that makes some fresh air and a break from the noise quite desirable.
To make a long story short, on the recommendation of a longtime customer of CSW, I took a walk down Rue Leopold Palustre on a calm, gray day in February 2023, and tasted a few wines with Théo Blet, a native of Saumur (and nephew of our friend and winemaker, Benoit Blet). Théo's family has been situated in Saumur for many generations, and his father has always been a grape grower, with the family selling their harvest to the local co-op, like many other farmers in the region. A few years ago, Théo's father told him to come home and learn from him before he retired, so he headed home to Saumur! Though he had the dream of making his own wines, he also understood his family's longstanding relationships with the co-op, so he embraced tradition by maintaining this relationship, and also started a small project by taking over a tiny part of the family's surface for "personal use." Focused on two small parcels totalling 1 hectare (roughly 2.5 acres), and with a little help from his uncle Benoit, and Michel Cheveray (who worked for many years at Domaine des Roches Neuves), Théo has converted these parcels to full organic viticulture and started to make wines from his family's vines. With 2021 as his first vinatge, Théo produced two wines, a Saumur Blanc from Chenin Blanc vines, and a red from Cabernet Franc. Though the Cabernet Franc showed promise, Théo did feel like he was still learning with his first bottling, and was more proud of the Chenin Blanc. We both agreed that 2021 (being a cold and high acid vintage) was perhaps a tough year to make Cabernet Franc, which was admittedly lacking a bit of richness and dark fruit. The Chenin Blanc, however, was impressive, especially considering this was his first vintage!
Today we offer "La Peyanne," Théo's first vintage of his Saumur Blanc, from the brand new Domaine Théo Blet! We understand that with his represenation in England through Berry Brothers & Rudd, and the attention he has already garnered, that we may not be offering his wines exlusively for very long, but we nonetheless feel honored to introduce this young and promising winemaker to the American public.
"La Peyanne Blanc" Tech notes from Theo Blet:
Appellation : Saumur Blanc
Cépage : 100% Chenin
Vendanges à la main
Parcelle sur le lieu-dit la Peyanne sur la commune de Courchamps.
Sol argilo-calcaire, rangs exposés nord-sud
Quantité : 2000 bouteilles
Pressurage direct après vendange en grappe entière et débourbage à froid
Pas de fermentation malolactique, 10 mois d’élevage en barrique 3-4 vins
Direct press after whole cluster harvest and natural cold clarification, with no malolactic fermentation, and 10 months in barrels of 3-4 wines (3-4 year old barrels)
The young Théo Blet is gradually taking over parcels in the family estate, located in Courchamps, southwest of Saumur. The grapes had always been sold to the local coop. The "La Peyanne" vineyard is on shallow clay over limestone soils which give a unique personality to this delightful wine. Hand harvested of course and ferrmneted with wild yeasts, the vineyard is in conversion to organic. The wine shows a bright pale gold color with intriguing aromas of pear and white peach with hints of citrus, verveine, white pepper and spice, really quite lovely. The palate is silky and vibrant with firm lemony acidity and mineral flavors underlying the subtle white fruits, finishing with citrus and minerals in the very long refreshing finish. Highly recommended - espeially given the reasonable price! David Lillie