Gilbourg is one of two “grands vins” made by Benoît Courault, who I consider one of the masters of Chenin on schistes. Made from a blend of different plots on the Coteau des Mailles in Faye d’Anjou, the heart is the vineyard of Le Prieuré de Gastines. This is a superb terroir on the top of the hill, less than 2 miles away from Bonnezeaux. Benoit started to farm that vineyard in 2009, and it took him almost 5 years of work to recreate topsoils and have a decent yield. But he knew the wine from that terroir could be exceptional: these shallow lighter silts with veins of phtanites (a silica-rich sedimentary rock) over altered schistes are fantastic for deep, powerful yet refined Chenin. The grapes are hand-harvested, pressed whole in a vertical pneumatic, settled overnight. Fermentation starts in tanks then finishes in Grenier foudre. As they lasted longer than usual (the summer drought decreased the amount of nitrogen available for the yeast to function quickly) so Benoit had to monitor very carefully. The wine was bottled by Christian Brault in October 2019. With its pale gold color, you know you are going to enjoy a deep wine. On the nose, you pick up a lot of quince, white peach, kumquat, candle wax with a hint of fenugreek, pepper and Bourbon vanilla. The nose is quite fascinating and evolves a lot with air without losing its complexity. On the palate, you understand you are dealing with a great terroir: with its tense, nervy acidity, the structure is dense, powerful but not heavy at all, the ripeness counterpointed by some discreet tannins, saltiness and an elegant salivating bitterness. There is a lot going on already, but you can cellar this wine with no problem for at least a decade - the wine will gain even more complexity. The flavors are fresher than on the nose, with a lot of tamarin, pink grapefruit, gardenia and white pepper. The finish is really long, and typical of the schist with earl-grey notes. A terrific wine! Serve it in a large glass, not too cold, and decant if possible (especially if you open it in a couple of years). It would be perfect with a Turbot on the bone with a beurre blanc, a fried heirloom breed chicken or some bay scallops served with chestnut and celery. 100% Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.
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