The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon

Winemaker Thibaud Boudignon looks me straight in the eye and says, “I want fresh vitality in my wines and an almost brutal minerality,” and I honestly have to catch my breath for a moment, since it’s been some time since anyone spoke to me so directly in my love language.

I gulp and take another sip of his electrically bright Chenin Blanc and concentrate on scribbling notes in my notebook, all the while thinking that I can’t imagine a better description for the kinds of white wines that I find most arresting.

I can say without question that Boudignon’s efforts are, in fact, truly arresting. This young man, a relative newcomer to the tiny Loire appellation of Savennenièrs, is setting a new standard for what Savennenièrs can be.

Boudignon never set out to be a winemaker. In fact, what he wanted more than anything was to be an Olympic champion in Judo. With his bearded, muscled frame and massive hands, Boudignon certainly looks like he’d make a formidable opponent in any contest of strength, but dreams and reality don’t always match up.

“By the time I was 21 I realized I was never going to be a champion,” says Boudignon with a shrug, “so I headed to the south of France to get some work.”

Boudignon’s Clos de la Hutte vineyard with its fractured schist soils.

Boudignon, who lost his mother Françoise when he was only 17, had spent some of his childhood playing in his paternal grandfather’s vineyards in the South of France, and also grew up in Bordeaux drinking Medoc wines at lunchtime with his mother’s father, François.

So when he headed south, he naturally fell into work first in the vineyards, and then in the cellar. Boudignon would eventually make his way to Bordeaux, where he worked at Château Olivier and Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, and then to Australia where he worked at De Bortoli, followed by a stint at Domaine Charlopin-Parizot in Gevrey-Chambertin.

“Eventually I arrived in the Loire, where I was put in charge of Chateau Soucherie,” says Boudignon, who arrived at that Savennières producer in 2007 and soon after realized that he and the estate’s owners had a different vision for where the wines should go.

“I decided in 2009 that I needed to work for myself,” says Boudignon, “but I knew I needed to have money to start something. I stopped being an employee in 2015, worked as a consultant until 2018, and since 2018, I have been focused only on my production.”

A Blanc Slate

After making that fateful decision in 2009, Boudignon began buying grapes in Anjou to make roughly 3000 bottles of Anjou blanc.

“I had three barrels that all tasted different in that first vintage, and I decided to blend them and make it a tribute,” says Boudignon, describing the creation of the Anjou Blanc he named ‘a François(e).’

“When you decide to write your mother and your grandfather’s name on the bottle, you don’t cheat on quality,” he says.

That wine would go on to win Boudignon his first notable acclaim as a vigneron and was snapped up by top restaurants across France. Boudignon took the money he received and reinvested it in his operation, something he has been doing ever since.

Within a couple of years, Boudignon had begun sourcing small amounts of Savennières, prompting him to learn as much as he could about the appellation.

“Do you know that there are roughly 300 hectares of land in Savennières, but only half are planted?” he asks. “I began to think to myself, ‘I wonder what the potential is here?'”

As he was doing research on the appellation, he came across an old reference to a walled vineyard named Clos de la Hutte. “I said to myself ‘where is this place?’ and I began to search.”

Resurrecting a Clos

He would eventually find the wall, but it no longer surrounded a vineyard. So Boudignon used the majority of his savings to buy the land and put a vineyard back in what he is convinced was one of Savennières’ historically significant lieux-dits, or named vineyard sites.

He got his first harvest off the vineyard in 2015.

“Clos de la Hutte is the culmination of everything I’ve done,” says Boudignon. “It is our grand cru, and it is always a monster. Whatever the year, what it produces is unbelievable. It is not impressive but it has power. It is like the gentle swipe of a tiger’s paw. He is not punching you, but you feel the power.”

The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon
A view across the Clos de la Hutte with the stone wall in the distance.

Like most of Savenniéres, the six acres (2.5 ha) of Clos de la Hutte consists of shallow topsoil of light clay chock full of bits of the fractured dark schist (known locally as Anjou Noir) that sits beneath it.

This schist represents the metamorphic remains of something called the Amorican Massif, what was once a large Paleozoic mountain range that has been ground down to nearly nothing in the roughly 300 million years since. But the roots of this mountain range remain, offering up the sparkly, flaky rock of their buckled and compressed foundations as places for vines to grow.

These rocky shallow schist soils are the defining characteristic of the Savennières appellation, which is planted almost exclusively to Chenin Blanc (though there are some secret pockets of Verdelho, which is a tale for another time).

Investing In a Legacy

Continuing with his theme of reinvestment, Boudignon built himself a small winery in 2016 to exacting specifications, heavily focused on maintaining conditions in the cellar while keeping the carbon footprint of his operation to a minimum. Because the winery sits on the same schist bedrock as his vineyards, Boudignon couldn’t dig an underground cellar and has settled for a custom system that pulls ambient air into a buried pipe to reduce the energy required to cool it as well as allow precise control of humidity.

Boudignon has structured the building to require what he sees as the absolute minimum of handling from fruit to bottle. “I want to take 100% of the potential of the vines and put that into the wine,” explains Boudignon. “As soon as you cut the grapes you are losing potential. That is why I invested so much in this winery.”

Boudignon works biodynamically but seems content to dispense with all the dogma associated with the approach.

“When Steiner was looking at biodynamics it was about yield and quality, but really, biodynamics is about life,” says Boudignon. “For us, the vineyard is the most important thing. My goal is a healthy vineyard without stress, where the grapes can reach complete maturity. I like relaxed fruit. When the vines suffer things get out of balance.”

“It’s not just the grapes you want relaxed,” says Boudignon, “It’s also about the team. We respect the soil, but we also respect the people we work with, it’s an entire system. These kinds of wines are possible because of the work we all do in the vineyard.”

Boudignon does no analysis of his grapes or his wines through the winemaking process, choosing instead to pick when he thinks things are ripe, which for him is mature but not overripe. He assiduously avoids botrytis, which he believes makes the wine much more prone to oxidation.

Like many winemakers, Boudignon believes the single most important decision he makes every year is when to pick, a moment that is informed by his desire to express everything that his schist soils are capable of showing.

In Service of Minerality, In Search of Emotion

“Since 2018, all I do is eat, think, and sleep Chenin,” says Boudignon, “and the wines have started to be different.”

“I don’t want to produce a wine that has a lot of flavor,” he goes on to explain. “I want a wine that might sometimes be closed when it is young, but which ages well and more than anything else, expresses minerality. Minerality is key.”

“I don’t want the wine necessarily to be impressive on the table,” he continues, “I want the wine to keep the mouth fresh, to make me want to drink and want to eat. Acidity, yes of course, but also minerality. There is a difference. Acidity is vertical. Minerality is ongoing. It pushes and makes the wine long. These days it’s trendy to be focused on pH and numbers, but I don’t believe you can see minerality in terms of a number. You can see minerality when you walk through the vineyard and look at the fruit.”

The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon
Another view of the Clos de la Hutte vineyard

Boudignon prefers to harvest as quickly as possible, and get the fruit into the cellar as cool as possible. He presses whole clusters into steel tanks chilled to 37˚F/3˚C, and then moves some of the wine to old oak barrels (and recently some concrete eggs) for fermentation with ambient yeasts. He likes to let the wine do its own thing in the cellar, though he prefers to inhibit malolactic conversion, keeping as much acidity in his wines as possible.

“I haven’t done malolactic fermentation since the beginning,” says Boudignon.  “The Chenin I like doesn’t have malo, and I want to make the wines I like to drink. I think a lot of people pick too early to preserve the acidity they lose during malo, and they aren’t getting full maturity. We keep things cold and then add sulfur in February or March. If the wine happens to go through malo, it’s not a big thing,” he shrugs.

The wines are never fined or filtered.

“I work for the taste,” continues Boudignon, “For the emotion of the thing. I am not afraid of what will happen. It’s like when you are in love with a girl. If you spend all the time being afraid that she will leave you for someone else, you can never really be with her. Maybe I’ll make mistakes, but mistakes are a part of the winemaking process. To make a mistake is not a problem. To keep making the same mistake, that is the problem. I learn from each vintage, and now I have the capacity to see what will happen.”

Farming in the Face of Disaster

From the 18-or-so acres (7.5 ha) he farms, Boudignon produces roughly 3000 cases of wine each year, all Chenin Blanc with the exception of a tiny amount of rosé.

That is when he gets a harvest at all.

In 2017, he and many fellow growers lost their entire crops to frost and hail. In 2019, he harvested merely 30% of his normal yield.

“When you go into your vineyard and see it all destroyed, it is like a bomb going off—in your vineyard and in your mind,” he says. “That is why I had to invest in frost protection. If I cannot protect my young vines, I think I should just stop doing this.”

Boudignon spent 30,000 Euros last year for an electronic frost protection system—a wire that runs along the length of each cordon that emits enough warmth when turned on to keep young spring buds and leaves from freezing. It’s not foolproof, but he showed me tender young leaves that were still clinging to life on vines that had the wires and desiccated dead leaves on those that didn’t.

The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon
The warming wire of Boudignon’s electric frost protection, and an emerging bud that was saved.

Boudignon has planted his vineyards with 10 different massale selections of Chenin Blanc, some from Domaine Huet in Vouvray, and others from elsewhere around Savennières. Most of the vines are trained in the guyot-poussard method, a bi-lateral pruning that supposedly increases sap flow and prevents vine disease, but which Boudignon likens to training a bonsai.

In Clos de la Hutte he has also planted half an acre of his vines on their own roots, rather than using rootstock, in an experimental search for more mineral expression.

“I just wanted to see what the difference would be,” says Boudignon, who has started bottling those vines separately, as they do indeed express themselves differently.

Boudignon has also recently begun a new vineyard project in another walled site just down the road from Clos de la Hutte, in a sunnier, windier spot with more sand and even less soil between the sunlight and the schist. These 4.5 acres (2 ha) will be known as Clos de Vandleger.

The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon
The recently planted Clos de Vandleger vineyard.

Anticipating Greatness

At 40 years old, Boudignon is entering the prime of his winemaking career, having already turned many heads. Indeed, his success as a young vigneron has brought renewed attention to the Savennières appellation, which he has mixed feelings about.

“People are arriving now in the wine business with Instagram and a lot of money,” he says with a shake of his head. “We have our 7 hectares and we are simply focused on nothing else but quality.”

Boudignon is pleased that he has gotten to the point where the economic pressure to make sales and support the business can take a back seat to the wines and his sense of what they need to show their best.

“Now I can say that people will not taste the wines until they are right,” he says proudly. “It is a responsibility rather than a pressure now.”

Right for Boudignon seems to mean chiseled wines, with resonant complexity, incredible expressiveness, and mouthwatering brightness. And yes, a more than an occasional dose of brutal minerality.

Please sir, may I have some more?

The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon
Thibaud Boudignon

“When you are young,” says Boudignon, “You think having experience is something that older people hold over you like it helps them to say that they are important. But when you get older you realize experience is important for understanding, to anticipate. I am not living in fear. When you start your life in sport, you realize your career is very short. The same in wine. Maybe at the end of my life, I will have only 20 or 30 vintages. I don’t want to regret something. That is why I do everything with 100% passion and 100% investment. Everyone will tell you they want to produce the best wine possible, but the question is what do they do in the service of that? What you do is what makes the difference, every moment that you are ready to do what you have to do to get the kind of wine you believe in. When I do that, this doesn’t feel like work at all. In fact, when I do that, everything makes perfect sense.”

Tasting Notes

I don’t think I can recommend these wines highly enough. They now are among my absolute favorite renditions of Chenin Blanc.

In addition to the wines below, Boudignon makes a rosé, which he did not have available to taste when I visited, and which I am quite keen to try. Keep an eye out for it.

The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon

2020 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon oil, quince, and flowers. In the mouth, explosive acidity offers lemon and grapefruit flavors tinged with acacia blossom and a bit of quince and pear. Mouthwatering, fantastic crushed stone minerality. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2020 Thibaud Boudignon “Clos de Frémine” Savenniéres, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of flowers, lemon oil, wet stones, and a hint of guava. In the mouth, bright juicy lemon, white flowers, and acacia blossoms all swirl with a silky texture and slightly softer acidity. This wine is detailed, deeply stony, clean, and bright with a long finish. Gorgeous. Aged in 600-liter barrels, with a total of about 10% new oak. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2020 Thibaud Boudignon “a François(e)” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of wet stones and lemon pith with a hint of unripe pear. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon and a hint of banana mix with pear and beautifully chiseled acidity. Gorgeous lemon pith and lemon oil flavors emerge with hints of flowers that linger in the finish. Silky texture and beautifully saline. This is now a selection of only free-run juice and only the best fruit from the La Gare vineyard from which Boudignon sources his Anjou Blanc. Sees 20% new oak. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2020 Thibaud Boudignon “La Vigne Cendree” Savenniéres, Loire Valley, France
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of quince and lemon pith. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon pith, pear, grapefruit, and lemongrass have a fantastic juicy brightness. The wine features a long, stony finish with a hint of a chalky texture. Deeply mineral. This wine comes from a 1-acre parcel of vines that Boudignon has contracted. No new oak used. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $95. click to buy.

2020 Thibaud Boudignon “Clos de la Hutte” Savenniéres, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stone, tree blossoms, lemon pith, and grapefruit. In the mouth, incredibly silky flavors of lemon pith, lemon oil, unripe pear, acacia blossom, and quince have a cistern-like minerality with deep stony depths. Incredible acidity, great length. One of the best mouthfuls of Chenin Blanc I have had in a long time. This wine ages in 30% new oak of various sizes for 18 months before spending another year in the bottle before release. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $110. click to buy.

2020 Thibaud Boudignon “Clos de la Hutte – Franc de Pied” Savenniéres, Loire Valley, France
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and wet stone. In the mouth, gorgeous stony lemon and grapefruit pith flavors are silky and deeply stony. Essential, stripped down, and ethereal, with some hint of greengage plum along with citrus and unripe pear. Stony, stony, stony. This is a special bottling made from only own-rooted vines planted in the stoniest sections of the Clos de la Hutte vineyard. The wine is aged in glass demijohns, “to go straight to the minerality,” says Boudignon. Only 300 bottles are made. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $??

The Emotion of Savennières: The Wines of Thibaud Boudignon

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The Simple Deliciousness of Anjou Blanc

I have long counted myself a fan of dry Chenin Blanc and of Loire Valley Chenin Blanc in particular. However, my experiences with the grape have largely been limited to its most prominent incarnations: the wines of Vouvray and Savennières in particular, with lesser exposure to Saumur Blanc.

That experience quite notably leaves out one of the grape’s main homelands, the rolling green hills of Anjou. So imagine my delight when, on my recent press trip to the Loire Valley, our hosts arranged an afternoon’s tasting of Anjou Blanc held in the courtyard of the beautiful Château de Passavant, a stone castle built in the 10th century (whose walls are shown at top and below).

The main gate at Château de Passavant

The Birthplace of Chenin

Because they emerge from mutations, which then must be propagated by humans who appreciate their unique qualities, determining the birth date of a grape variety proves largely impossible. The best we can manage involves using insights from DNA in combination with historical records to define a range of time in which a grape variety might have been selected and established.

For Chenin Blanc, this range is apparently sometime between the middle of the 9th Century and the beginning of the 16th Century, when we have a definitive mention of the grape’s names (both Chenin and its local moniker of Pineau de la Loire) in historical texts.

Beyond any doubt, however, is the place of Chenin’s birth, and that is in the region we now call Anjou, or more frequently Anjou-Saumur, though each side of that hyphen should be considered a distinct region in its own right.

The Simple Deliciousness of Anjou Blanc
The Anjou AOP, marked in red. Map courtesy of Interloire.

Situated south of the city of Angers, the Anjou region first became famous for its sweet wines made from Chenin Blanc, which were much celebrated in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The Light Side and the Dark Side of the Soil

Anjou sits just at the edge of a major geological transition in France. Most of the region is characterized by the metamorphic dark schist rocks of the Amorican Massif, the eroded remains of an uplifted Paleozoic mountain chain ground down by time and weather to the point that it barely makes a ripple across the face of France these days.

Where the dark soils of the Amorican Massif end, they are replaced by the white, sedimentary limestone soils and tuffeau of the Paris Basin, the remains of an ancient shallow sea.

The wandering border between these two formations zigzags through eastern Anjou and is responsible for the two most common soil types in the region, confusingly referred to as “Anjou Blanc” and “Anjou Noir.” It takes some effort to remember that the wine Anjou Blanc is grown on both types of soils, each of which has its proponents among Anjou winegrowers, perhaps with the majority believing that the darker schist soils make for more complex wines.

For a long while, the dry wines of the Anjou region were mostly an afterthought, both for producers (who made them with grapes that weren’t good enough for their sweet wines), and for consumers.

Indeed, the humble dry white wines of the region still rarely get a mention in any wine textbook, guidebook, or reference volume. That may be because these wines have been, to quote their brief reference on Jancis Robinson’s website, “distinctly variable.”

But things are changing.

Hipster Dry White

As in many lesser-known wine regions around the world, younger independent producers have managed to find vineyards in Anjou that they can buy or rent without breaking the bank. These young aspirants have set up shop and started to make some very interesting wines, many of them with sustainable and/or low-intervention approaches. Likewise, many historical family estates have seen their younger generations make a distinct shift towards quality and away from quantity.

The result of this evolution can be tasted.

Anjou Blanc now represents a dependably tasty source of dry Chenin Blanc, and the producers in the region are moving on to explore a more detailed conversation about their terroir.

Or, to put it a little more bluntly, producers in this somewhat generic winegrowing region are grappling with questions of their identity and relevance.

The Simple Deliciousness of Anjou Blanc

Some have proposed the definition of “crus” within the roughly 1200 hectares of Chenin that are grown in the Anjou appellation. In fact, the tasting I experienced on my recent trip was designed to showcase these crus, which are not enshrined yet in wine law, but which apparently have local, anecdotal support.

The wines we tasted were grouped together under the following crus: Montchenin, Ronceray, Saint Lambert dont Bonnes Blanches, Secteur Ardenay, Faye d’Anjou, Bonnezeaux-Burnizellius, Saint Aubin de Luigné, Pierre Bise, Aubance Calcaire, Aubance, Martigné Briand, la Tuffière, Huillé, Le Coudereau, Les Rouillères, and Le Puy de Mont.

Unfortunately, far too few wines were available to taste from each of the crus (in some cases a cru was represented only by a single wine), and we weren’t provided enough information about the nature of each of these sites to assist in drawing any distinctions among them. We weren’t, for instance, even provided with the insights as to whether the soils of each cru were of the blanc or noir variety, though the inclusion of words like “calcaire” (the French word for limestone) or “blanches” (i.e. white) in some of the cru names provided something of a hint.

My evaluation of these wines from the perspective of quality and taste resulted in no clear thematic winners or losers among these crus or presumed soil types, which led me to believe that it would be of little help to you in organizing my notes below by cru. I’ve instead just listed the wines that I thought were worth paying attention to, and as I often do, I have not bothered to share with you the wines that scored below 8.5 on my approximate scale.

The ideas for how to make distinctions among the white wines of Anjou clearly need some further definition, but in the meantime, it’s safe to say that Anjou Blanc is better than it has ever been, and still improving. The best examples have the vibrancy and energy (though perhaps not the richness) of Vouvray, and some offer the complexity and cut of good Savennières.

Anjou Blanc offers good value for the money at the moment, especially in Europe, where bottles often sell for 12 to 18 Euros. With transportation costs, import duties, and Three-tier markups, they seem slightly less affordable here in the US, though compared to top-end Savennières, which now can top $80 a bottle, they are a relative bargain.

I encourage you to seek them out. I certainly will be.

The Simple Deliciousness of Anjou Blanc

Tasting Notes

Many of these wines are hard to find online, but I have provided buying links for those few I was able to track down.

The Simple Deliciousness of Anjou Blanc

2014 Chateau de Passavant “Montchenin” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, butterscotch, and lemon. In the mouth, extremely saline flavors of lemon pith, candied lemon rind, and a touch of butterscotch have a very nice bright acidity and a stony underbelly. There’s a hint of chalkiness in the finish. Farmed and made biodynamically, Demeter certified. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2020 Château de Plaisance “Ronceray Zerzilles” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of struck match and sweet yellow flowers, with a hint of vanilla. Bright candied lemon and wet pavement flavors have a bright floral quality and deep stony backdrop. Good acidity and length. Farmed and made biodynamically, Demeter certified. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2020 Raymond Morin “Ronceray Château Bellerive” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, yellow flowers, and lemon zest. In the mouth, bright zesty lemon juice and pith dominate, with excellent acidity and softer, but still-present underlying minerality. I love this wine’s salinity. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2018 Domaine Patrick Baudouin “Le Cornillard” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
pale gold in the glass, this wine smells beautifully of acacia blossoms. in the mouth, bright and juicy lemon rind and acacia blossom flavors are alive with intense acidity and gorgeous minerality. Very bright, delicious, and suffused with what I can only describe as “yellow” flavors. Organically farmed. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2020 Domaine des Fontaines “Cuvée Landry” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of salty lemon and white flowers. In the mouth, salty lemon pith and grapefruit flavors mix with a hint of Asian pear and a light tannic grip. Excellent acidity and brightness, with that saline quality lingering in the finish, make for a totally mouthwatering package. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30.

2020 Domaine des Forges “L’Audace” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck flint and lemon rind and wet stone. In the mouth, lovely saline flavors of candied lemon rind, grapefruit, sweet flowers, and deep stony minerality swirl and tingle across the palate. Bright with acidity and totally mouthwatering. Outstanding. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30.

2020 Domaine de la Clartière “Terres De Paillé” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of acacia blossoms, citrus zest, and wet stones. In the mouth, bright citrus pith and candied citrus flavors have a nice salinity, bright, juicy acidity, and a wonderful stony minerality. Score: around 9. Cost: $25.

2020 Domaine des Hardières “Les Petits Gars” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of wet stones and citrus pith. In the mouth, zippy lemon and lime juice mix with citrus peel and a touch of pear. Excellent acidity. Organically farmed. Score: around 9. Cost: $30.

2018 Chateau de Fesles “La Chapelle” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and white flowers, with hints of lime zest and pomelo. In the mouth, pomelo and green apple flavors mix with pear and citrus zest. Excellent acidity and a hint of tannic grip. In organic conversion. Very tasty. Score: around 9. Cost: $40.

2019 Domaine Drost “Franc De Pied” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wintersweet blossoms and candied lemon. In the mouth, bright lemon and wet stone flavors mix with floral notes over top of a nice stony underbelly. Good acidity and length. Delicious. Farmed and made biodynamically, Demeter certified. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2018 Château Pierre-Bise “Les Rouannières” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and candied lemon. In the mouth, bright lemon rind, candied lemon, acacia blossom, and stony minerality make for a delicious package. Good acidity and a nice silky texture, plus a hint of tropical fruit. In organic conversion. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2018 Domaine de Huillé Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of honey, wet stones, and buckwheat. In the mouth, softer, filigreed acidity enlivens flavors of citrus pith and zest with some nice floral overtones. Very nice minerality. Pretty. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2020 Domaine du Belvédère “Le Puy De Mont” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and citrus pith. In the mouth bright citrusy flavors mix with wet stones and vibrate with excellent acidity. There’s a light tannic grip to this wine as well. Very tasty. Score: around 9. Cost: $50.

2019 Chateau de Brossay “Les Neprons” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, guava, and a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, the wine is round with sweet aromatics. Softer acidity, with hints of nougat lingering in the finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??

2020 Domaine Ogereau “Bonnes Blanches Sec” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and citrus zest. In the mouth, bright citrus and apple flavors have a nice zippy brightness thanks to very good acidity. There’s a nice citrus tang through the finish. Organically farmed. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??

The Simple Deliciousness of Anjou Blanc

2018 Le Clos Galerne “Moulin Brûlé” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and some tropical fruits and blossoms. In the mouth, bright lemon and pineapple flavors have a nice bright acidity and minerality behind them. The Pineapple flavors bring with them a hint of that pineapple tingle on the tongue along with a touch of bitterness and a hint of alcohol. In organic conversion. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60.

2017 Château de Bois-Brinçon “Les Saules De Montbenault” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lime and green apple and a hint of oak. In the mouth, lime zest and grapefruit mix with Asian pear and wet stones. Nice minerality along with a hint of chalky texture and very good acidity. Farmed organically. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2018 Domaine Bodineau “Héritage” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of oak and nougat. In the mouth, vanilla and crème anglaise mix with pear and wet stones and a touch of bitterness. Good acidity, but some heat in the finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2020 Château du Fresne “Chevalier Le Bascle” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus and sweet cream. In the mouth, soft and round citrus and sweet cream flavors have a nice zesty citrus finish. Decent acidity but on the softer side. I’d like this to have more cut. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35.

2020 Domaine de Saint Maur “845” Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lime blossom, wet stones, and honey. In the mouth, round lime and lime blossom flavors mix with Asian pear and grapefruit. Softer acidity. Surprisingly greenish in character. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

The post The Simple Deliciousness of Anjou Blanc appeared first on Vinography.

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

I don’t suppose that it’s an uncommon experience, but I definitely came back from my recent press trip to the Loire knowing that I’m not drinking enough Chenin Blanc. Before leaving, I counted myself a fan of the variety, often ordering it off of wine lists at restaurants, but I don’t own that many bottles from the Loire, and I haven’t been in the habit of buying them regularly. But that’s going to change.

Vouvray and Savennières are two of the Loire’s appellations dedicated only to Chenin Blanc. While a number of Loire Valley appellations feature both red and white wines from different grape varieties, Vouvray and Savennières make only white wines, and only from Chenin. While Savennières is best known for (and is dominated by) its dry wines, both regions produce dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines, while Vouvray also makes sparkling wines.

Vouvray from the air

They share the same grape variety, but these two regions on the northern bank of the Loire River produce dry white wines of a distinctly different character, in part due to their very different geologies.

It’s always tricky to generalize, but I would say that the wines of Vouvray come across as slightly richer, with a little more weight and heft in the glass, while Savennières has a stonier, lighter quality. Whereas I tend to taste pear, quince, and lemon in Vouvray wines, I tend to get more grapefruit notes and less quince in Savennières.

The trip I attended in late April for the Val de Loire Millésime event afforded me the opportunity to taste a number of wines from each appellation side-by-side. Also, because I arrived a little early for the junket, I got the chance to spend a day wandering around Savennières and make a couple of producer visits, which I’ll end up writing about in due course.

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs
A walled Savennières vineyard

In the meantime, I thought I’d share my notes on some of the better wines I tasted from each region as part of my official visit, and a little bit about these two unique centers of Chenin Blanc production.

Vouvray

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

The long, long, Loire Valley is typically divided into four primary regions, the largest and most central of which is Touraine, which is centered around the city of Tours. Nestled just to the east and north of Tours is the appellation of Vouvray (marked in orange above).

Vouvray (and indeed, much of the surrounding region) is characterized by its sedimentary soils that the French refer to as tuffeau, or chalky limestone. Formed 90 million years ago when the region was a large shallow sea, the sandy, fine-grained limestone of what is known as the Paris Basin is slightly different than the true chalk found in Champagne or England, but has many of the same properties when it comes to water retention and overall chemistry.

Vouvray sits right at the farthest edge of what might be considered any real marine influence sweeping up the Loire Valley, and tends to therefore have more of a continental climate, with warm summers, colder winters, and sometimes rather inconvenient storms. The variability in the climate tends to result in significant vintage variation among the wines. When the weather is fine, the region’s wines sing, from the complex dry and sparkling wines to the botrytis-richened sweet wines.

The region probably hosted vines in Roman times but has definitely been growing wine more or less continually since the Middle Ages. According to Interloire, the trade association representing the breadth of the Loire Valley, there are approximately 160 different producers of Vouvray, farming around 5000 acres of vines.

Most producers make their dry whites according to a similar protocol: pressing whole clusters of grapes (picked earlier before the grapes shrivel or botrytis sets in) into steel tanks to ferment, usually with ambient yeasts, and then often aging those wines in older oak barrels. Some producers choose to block malolactic conversion, but most let it happen naturally.

Tasting Notes

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

2020 Careme Vincent “Clos de la Roche” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of wet stones, white flowers, and lemon pith. In the mouth, saline flavors of lemon pith, white flowers, and Asian pear have a deep stony depth, and a wonderful lemon pith and lemon oil finish. Long and juicy and delicious. Certified organic. Score: around 9.5. Cost: €27.

2020 Jean-Marc Gilet Domaine De La Rouletière “Les Perruches” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, lemon pith, and pear skin. In the mouth, lemon pith, white flowers, a touch of quince, and deep stony minerality are bright with deliciously juicy acidity and a faint salinity. Very tasty. Certified organic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2018 Domaine Du Petit Trésor “Belle au naturel” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon oil, white flowers, and pears. In the mouth, wonderfully saline flavors of lemon pith, lemon oil, quince, and white flowers have a faint tannic grip and a deeply crystalline stony minerality. There’s a long pear-skin finish with a bit of a grip to it. Sadly bottled in a much heavier bottle than it needs to be. Certified organic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: €12.

2019 Domaine Champalou “Le Portail” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and lemon oil. In the mouth, lemon oil and Asian pear have a nice bright grip to them, welded to a deeply stony wet chalkboard minerality. Just a hint of salinity lingers in the finish. Certified organic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2020 Vignoble Alain Robert “Les Charmes” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, lemon oil, and a hint of white flowers. In the mouth, lemon oil and Asian pear mix with a hint of quince and grapefruit with fabulously bright acidity and deep stony quality. Light tannic grip, long citrusy finish. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: €7.5.

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

2020 Domaine Huet “Le Haut-Lieu” Vouvray Demi-Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and quince. In the mouth, faintly sweet flavors of lemon and quince mix with white flowers and wet stones. Certified organic and Demeter biodynamic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2020 Vigneau Christophe Et Stéphane “Silex” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon zest and a touch of white flowers. In the mouth, lightly sweet flavors of lemon, grapefruit, quince, and wet stones have a nice long finish with just a touch of heat. Certified organic. Score: around 9. Cost: €12.

2019 Earl Damien Pinon “Le Clos Tenau” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
A light greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of quince and lemon curd. In the mouth, flavors of quince paste, lemon curd, and a touch of vanilla are rich but with excellent acidity and a nice stony minerality to match, making for a silky, weighty, but still-freshly-bright package. In organic conversion. Score: around 9. Cost: €13.

2020 Domaine De La Robinière “Bel Air” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of honey and candied lemon rind. In the mouth, bright lemon and pear flavors have a lovely tannic grip and deep stoniness to them. Citrus pith lingers in the finish with a hint of salinity. Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2020 Breussin Denis Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of oak and vanilla, wet wood, and lemon peel. In the mouth, lemon peel and ripe quince flavors are welded to a deeply stony quality with a light tannic grip and excellent acidity. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19. click to buy.

2017 Domaine du Viking Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and pear. In the mouth, deeply stony lemon and grapefruit flavors are tinged with quince and the strongly tannic grip of pear skin. Stony and bright. Needs some time to open up. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: €12.5.

2020 Brisebarre Philippe “Vignoble Brisebarre” Vouvray Sec, Touraine, Loire Valley, France
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon, vanilla, and a hint of pear. In the mouth, lemon, grapefruit and a pear-quince flavor also has a hint of buttery pastry. Good acidity and stoniness. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

Savennières

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

Roughly 80 miles to the west of Vouvray, and just west of the city of Angers, lies the tiny village of Savennièrs (pronounced sauce-en-yay). Home to only a few dozen producers, Savennières spans only about 740 acres in total, with roughly only half of that planted to vines.

Its geology couldn’t be more different than that of Vouvray. Savennières is known for its soils of shiny mica-schist, a metamorphic rock that is part of the Amorican Massif, a large area of uplifted stone that resulted from upwellings of magma from the earth’s crust. As this magma swelled upwards somewhere between 400 and 600 million years ago, it heated the rock above it, turning the sandy ocean-bottom sediments into schists.

Since its uplift, the massif has been eroded down so that the landscape doesn’t look much different than that of Vouvray, but the underlying soils are quite separate, and undoubtedly have some influence the character of the region’s wines.

Most Savennières winemakers follow a similar winemaking protocol to their colleagues in Vouvray, with some younger winemakers experimenting with aging only in steel or in concrete eggs.

Tasting Notes

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

2020 Domaine Thibaud Boudignon “La Vigne Cendree” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon and grapefruit and a hint of resinous butterscotch. In the mouth, intensely bright lemon and grapefruit flavors mix with a hint of pear and deep stony minerality. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $92. click to buy.

2019 Patrick Baudouin “Bellevue” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel, nut skin, and a hint of flintiness, and a touch of quince. In the mouth, fantastic saline flavors of citrus oil, grapefruit, and wet stones have a gorgeous brightness and citrusy snap thanks to excellent acidity. That resinous struck flint note lingers for a long time in the finish Outstanding. Certified organic. Score: around 9.5. Cost: €35.

2019 Domaine Belargus “Gaudrets” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of struck flint and lemon oil. In the mouth, saline flavors of struck flint, smoky, grapefruit, pear, and long stony finish. Fantastic acidity, salty deliciousness. Deeply crystalline. In organic conversion. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2019 Domaine Du Closel “Clos Du Papillon” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of grapefruit oil and a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, bright pear and citrus oil flavors are juicy and delicious and very stony, with a light tannic grip and long mineral finish. Certified organic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

2019 Fournier-Longchamp Domaine FL “Chamboureau” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of nutty citrus and a hint of pear. In the mouth, bright lemon and grapefruit flavors mix with a touch of nougat and deep stony minerality. Fantastic acidity and freshness. With a light tannic grip. Certified organic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $33. click to buy.

2018 Terra Vita Vinum “Bigottière” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale yellow gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of wet stones, citrus pith, and white flowers. In the mouth, deeply stony notes of wet chalkboard mix with citrus pith, white flowers, and very delicate aromas of pear flesh. Lovely filigreed acidity and deep mineral purity. Certified organic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2020 Château De Plaisance Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus pith, grapefruit, and a flinty smoky quality. In the mouth, bright citrus pith, grapefruit, Asian pear, and light daikon flavors have a clean stoniness that is quite deep. There’s a light chalky tannic quality to the wine, with a pomelo pith finish. Demeter biodynamic certified. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2019 Raymond Morin “Chateau De Varennes” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers with a hint of struck flint. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of citrus oil, grapefruit, pear, and pear skin have a nice flintiness and tannic grip. Deeply stony and bright. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: €15.

2019 Château du Breuil Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and pear. In the mouth, grapefruit, pear, and lemon oil flavors are juicy and bright with deep stony qualities, wet chalkboard minerality and texture, and a long citrus oil finish. Delicious. Certified organic. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

2018 Domaine Des Baumard “Clos Du Papillon” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus oil and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, bright tangy pear and pear skin flavors mix with citrus oil and a hint of quince paste and nuttiness. In organic conversion. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2020 Domaine Taillandier Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale yellow-gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of vanilla and candied grapefruit with a hint of Asian pear. In the mouth, Asian pear and lemon oil mix with a hint of dried honey and notes of dried citrus peel lingering in the finish. Score: around 9. Cost: €21.

2020 Domaine Du Petit Metris “Clos De La Marche” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of grapefruit oil, grapefruit pith, a hint of flintiness, and a touch of apple. In the mouth, green apple, grapefruit, and Asian pear flavors mix with a touch of pear skin and a nice wet stone underbelly. Good acidity. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2020 Domaine Des Forges “Clos Du Papillon” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of a touch of oak, pear, and citrus oil. In the mouth, citrus oil, vanilla, pear, and grapefruit mix with a nice stony underbelly. Light tannic grip. Long finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2020 Domaine Ogereau “Clos Le Grand Beaupréau” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of pear and citrus. In the mouth, citrus and pear and a touch of quince mix with a nice stony underbelly. Certified organic. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2019 Chateau Soucherie “Clos Des Perrières” Savennières, Anjou-Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon oil, Asian pear, and grapefruit. In the mouth, silky flavors of grapefruit and wet stone have a delicate filigreed acidity. The flavors are a bit soft and imprecise, but still pleasurable. In organic conversion. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs

The post Same Chenin, Different Pleasures: Tasting Vouvray and Savennièrs appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 2/28/21

Welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

Maybe because it’s Spring. Maybe because I need a little electricity in my life these days. Maybe because it kicks ass? I’ve been having some truly excellent Chenin Blanc experiences lately, both of my own choosing as well as thanks to spring sample shipments. This week I received two recent Chenin releases from Lang & Reed, the Loire-inspired producer in Napa that’s been making Cabernet Franc for longer than most in the valley. Six or eight years ago proprietors John and Tracy Skupny added Chenin to their portfolio, and they’ve been getting better and better. These two new bottlings are great, but the Mendocino County wine is positively fantastic. Run, don’t walk, to get thyself a bottle of electric pink grapefruit and quince goodness.

One of the chiefest virtues of any wine lover is a sense of curiosity. The wine world is so wide and varied, life is too short to just keep drinking the same grapes over and over again. That’s why I’m always thrilled to taste one I haven’t before. This week I got to taste Voskehat, an indigenous Armenian grape variety, courtesy Zulal wines, a brand developed by the WineWorks enological consulting firm in Armenia. Zulal means “pure” in Armenian, and Voskehat is a pure delight. Their renditions of the much more familiar (to me) Areni Noir grape are also worth checking out.

Speaking of mountainous wines, other than the few I regularly buy myself, I don’t get to taste a lot of wines from the spectacular Valtellina region of Italy, so I was quite pleased to get a couple from producer Tenuta Scerscé this week. Both are worth seeking out for their high-acid, savory, berry qualities.

And while we’re in Europe, let’s not overlook the phenomenal value of the Adega de Borba Reserva, a blend of local Portuguese grape varieties that hits all the right notes of savory, fruity, rich, but still with wonderful freshness. At $20 in some locations, it’s a steal. While it might be tricky to find, it’s not hard to spot, sporting a label made out of natural cork.

Closer to home we can close out this week’s tasting with three wines from Paso Robles. The first is a surprisingly light-colored Cunoise, Mourvedre, and Grenache blend from Kukula winery, which has a very pretty lift and brightness that belies its rather substantial alcohol level. The other two wines are from Dinner Vineyards. Of the two, I prefer the Cabernet-dominant blend, which has a bit more balance, but also a bit more wood. The neutral-oak aged Syrah has great flavors but doesn’t quite have the zip I wanted it to have.

Notes on all these wines below.

Tasting Notes

2018 Lang & Reed Wine Company Chenin Blanc, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and membrillo. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and crisp flavors of quince, pear, and yellow herbs have a fantastic citrus pith and pink grapefruit zing, thanks to excellent acidity. Delicious and completely mouthwatering. 13% alcohol. 269 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Lang & Reed Wine Company Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County, California
Pale blonde in color, this wine smells of crème anglaise, poached pear, and pink grapefruit. In the mouth, gorgeous grapefruit and pear flavors are positively mouthwatering as they gush with acidity. Faint aromatic sweetness suffuses the wine as a membrillo note lingers in the finish. This is a pitch-perfect rendition of Chenin and perhaps my favorite that this venerable producer has ever made. Comes from 40-year-old vines in the Talmage Bench area of Mendocino County. Outstanding. 13% alcohol. 261 cases produced. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Zulal Voskehat, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of Fuji apples, white flowers, and a touch of citrus pith. In the mouth, crisp and bright apple and pear flavors have a lovely floral overtone, as crisp acidity makes the mouth water. There’s a faint wet chalkboard minerality vibrating underneath it all. Quite pretty. Voskehat is an indigenous Armenian grape variety. This is my first taste of it, but I count myself as a fan already. Reminds me of Vernaccia. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2018 Zulal Areni Noir, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest berries and dried flowers. In the mouth, wonderfully bright boysenberry and mulberry flavors have a beautiful dried herb backdrop and lovely faint tannins that gently add structure to the rather boisterous wine. Quite tasty, with fantastic acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30.

2018 Zulal “Reserve” Areni Noir, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and cherries, and cranberry. In the mouth, bright cherry, cedar, cranberry, and a darker brown-sugar flavor are all lively and bright thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tannins linger with a hint of candied fennel seeds in the finish. The wood is very well integrated here, and offers some nice structure and texture along with the bright fruit flavors. Aged in Caucasian (yes, from the Caucasus region that is modern-day Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) and French oak for 18 months. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Tenuta Scerscé “Nettare” Rosso di Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, almost rosé-like in hue, this wine smells of vegemite and dried roses, with a hint of asphalt. In the mouth, wonderfully taut, powdery tannins wrap around a core of strawberry and dried flowers, herbs and a bit of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. 100% Nebbiolo aged in concrete. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 2/28/21

2016 Tenuta Scerscé “Infinito” Sforzato di Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of potting soil and dried flower petals. In the mouth, intense strawberry and sour cherry flavors mix with cedar and burnt orange peel. Fantastic acidity and faint, tacky tannins round out a very pretty, yet powerful wine. Alpine Nebbiolo in all its elegance. Made with grapes dried for two months prior to fermentation. Aged in large format oak barrels. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $64. click to buy.

2015 Adega de Borba “Riserva” Red Blend, Alentejo, Portugal
Medium garnet in the glass, headed towards ruby, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully stony flavors of blackberry, black cherry and a hint of cedar mix with notes of forest floor and dried herbs. Lovely, balanced, and very juicy thanks to excellent acidity. A blend of 30% Trincadeira, 30% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Aragonez (Tempranillo), and 20% Castelão. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2017 Kukula “Aatto” Red Blend, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and cola. In the mouth, juicy strawberry, rhubarb, and some green herbs have a nice zip to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a muscular, powdery web of tannins that gains firmness as the wine finishes with very little trace of its 15.4% alcohol. A very pretty blend of 45% Cunoise, 35% Mourvedre, and 20% Grenache. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Denner Vineyards “Dirt Worshipper” Syrah, Central Coast, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of meaty black olive, black cherry, and blackberry pie. In the mouth, rich blackberry and blueberry flavors fall somewhat flat on the palate, needing more acidity to keep them fresh. A thick “weighted blanket” of tannins descends on the palate and lingers with blueberry notes and a faint bitterness in the finish. Good flavors but I think perhaps just a touch too ripe for my taste. Includes 1% each of Viognier and Roussanne fermented with 45% whole cluster. Aged for 21 months in 15% new French oak, 7% new Hungarian oak, and 78% neutral oak barrels. 14.8% alcohol. 1294 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2018 Denner Vineyards “Mother of Exiles” Red Blend, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, plush flavors of black cherry and blackberry are nestled into a fleecy blanket of tannins. Good acidity keeps the wine bright and juicy, though that’s not enough to keep this from feeling a little thick in the mouth. Nonetheless, the oak is well-integrated and the overall package fairly seductive. Lovers of big, dark wines will enjoy this immensely. A blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Aged 23 months in 75% new French oak. 14.4% alcohol. 1210 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.      

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Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

I went to a “Meet the Makers” Visit Seattle event at Filson’s flagship NYC store in Union Square  and soaked in the idyllic and nostalgic Pacific Northwest vibe. One of the highlights, of course, was the selection of Washington State wines available to sample. And I have to say, I was fairly gobsmacked by many intriguing and delicious bottles.

Here are some highlights.

6 Washington State Wines to Covet and Drink

Orr Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc (2016)

Save the Washington Chenin! There’s very little left, and a lot of it is old-vine goodness. Kudos to winemakers like Erica Orr, creating Loire-esque wines with the grape.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Two Vintners O.G. (2017)

Morgan Lee must have been the first person to make an orange wine in Washington State. If you know who beat him to it, LMK. This is the 6th (!) vintage of this wine. Oh, O.G.=Orange Gewurztraminer. The color comes from the grape skins spending extra-special time with the juice. This is killer!

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Smockshop Band Pinot Noir (2016)

Whoa, a stunner! (The label and the wine.) This winery is new to me, part of cult-y Hiyu Wine Farm. This Pinot comes from a single vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA. There is simply no more exciting region for wine in Washington State than the Gorge.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Savage Grace Côt (2016)

I’ve been a fan of Michael Savage’s wines for a while now. They have an appealing light touch. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this Malbec. He calls it Côt as a nod to how the grape is referred to (and the style of the wine) in the Loire Valley: elegant, not jammy.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Gramercy Cellars Forgotten Hills Syrah (2015)

Greg Harrington is firing on all cylinders and nowhere is this more apparent than his Syrah. It’s a very gulpable, old-world influenced bottling. A great synthesis of grape, site, and winemaker.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah Stonessence (2015)

In contrast with the Gramercy Cellars, the Reynvaan is a meaty, smoky, gamey affair. The first whiff you take  places the fruit from the extremely distinct “Rocks” area of Walla Wallla Valley. (Which is actually in Oregon, but that’s another story.)

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Also thanks to these folks representing the city and state:

The reps from the Space Needle providing an update on the, well, major updates there. Chihuly Garden and Glass for the tiny, precious piece of glass I have purposed for salt-keeping. Hama Hama for the amazing oysters. Chef Jeff from No Anchor for the creative veg and salmon bites. Boo and Christophe from Hedges Family Estate, an always entertaining duo. (Check out their biodynamic Cabernet in magnums.)

Finally, Washington State Wine for all the eye-opening bottles.

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Corks of the Forks: A Look at the “Other” Local Grapes

A couple months ago, I devoted my column space to what has become the de facto “signature variety” for Long Island wine country: merlot. There are approximately 700 acres of merlot planted on Long Island — roughly 30 percent of the total vineyard acreage — and there are reasons for that. It grows and ripens dependably and consistently, even in all but the most horrid of vintages. That’s important here and why it’s the backbone of the industry.  But the East End isn’t like many parts of Europe where regulations dictate what grapes can be grown where. Long Island growers…

Long Island Wine Press: Paumanok’s chenin blanc was an ‘interesting accident’

Paumanok Vineyards’ chenin blanc is one of the great mysteries of the North Fork wine world. Why? Because despite all the success the Massoud family — which owns the Aquebogue vineyard —  has had with it, they remain the only Long Island winery to grow or make it. By all accounts, it’s not tricky to work with — at least no more so than any other grape in our sometimes challenging maritime climate. It ripens and performs consistently in the vineyard and doesn’t unique or special treatment or protocols. Paumanok’s winemakers — first Charles Massoud and now his son Kareem —…

New York Cork Club: November 2015 Selections

The November 2015 wines for the New York Cork Club will be shipping out to our members soon — so it’s time to give you peek at the picks. Harvest 2015 has mostly wound down across the state with many winemakers pressing off the last of their reds over the next couple of weeks. I’m looking ahead — to Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday and it is that holiday that inspired this month’s wine picks. Both are great picks for a diverse, turkey-focused dinner and they will both be served at the dinner I’ll be hosting with my family. Paumanok Vineyard 2014…

Weekly New York Wine News — August 31, 2015

Photo courtesy of Cayuga Ridge Winery What’s old is new again, the Finger Lakes leave their mark on bloggers, baseball and bookies, tannin vanishing acts, and an upstate beverage summit… NEWS New York Times – 8/18/2015 Paumanok in Long Island and Bloomer Creek in the Finger Lakes ( with help from Pascaline Lepeltier ) play their parts in a plan to revive American appreciation for Chenin Blanc. Star Tribune – 8/26/2015 Bill Ward reminisces about his recent trip to the Finger Lakes, and what Minnesota vintners might learn there. New York Upstate – 8/27/2015 Video review of the New York Yankees…

A California Chenin Blanc That’s a Rare Creature

A California Chenin Blanc That’s a Rare Creature

I really dig these Forlorn Hope wines from California. All the ones I’ve had have been satisfyingly weird thrill-seekers. The latest I consumed (with pleasure) is no exception.

2012 Forlorn Hope Story

This is a California Chenin Blanc from a vineyard called…wait for it…Story. It’s located in Amador County, which is way east of Napa and practically in Yosemite. This Forlorn Hope wine could also be from outer space. (Unconfirmed.)

A scant twenty five (!) cases were made so this is most definitely Another (Very) Rare Creature from Winemaker Matthew Rorick. It’s got (well, HAD as the bottle’s in the recycling bin) a lovely golden color. And some texture that makes it almost savory. Like consuming a wine that manifests itself in a guise beyond known liquid forms. (Hmm…maybe it is extraterrestrial?)

The Story is really good with roasted walnuts you break out of the shell. The visceral experience of working the nutcracker (ahem) seems apropos for a wine that works on you. Also, as this Chenin warms up nutty notes emerge. It’s a circular loop between food and wine reminiscent of the mysterious ways of Saturn’s rings.

WINE COSMOS, Y’ALL!

THE END

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