One family have managed and owned this vineyard since two years before the French Revolution which, considering the French laws of inheritance, is a feat in itself. Situated in the heart of the Coteaux du Layon, south of the Loire below Angers, this is a wine well-known for its sweetness and, surprisingly Richard liked it!
The Chenin Blanc grapes are harvested early (20%) for acidity, the balance being picked when the grapes have developed sweetness and it this superb balance of the sugars and acids which makes the wine so attractive. The wine is kept – in bottle – for 10 years before release thereby maintaining freshness as it slowly matures over the long period. The result – a beautifully balanced wine of 14% ABV which is a delight to drink.
Colour? Think Lucozade, deep orange, but bright as a button and with minimal viscosity.
Aromas? Slightly oxidised, slightly toffee, not particularly complex.
Taste? Sweet honey, long, acidity for freshness, light weight and relatively simple, beautifully made.
Absolutely superb with the salty andsweet Dolcellate which brings out its richness. Not so good with salty Roquefort as it makes the cheese appear acidic.
Great experience. A dessert island wine.
[Richard: from the WS, £30, not unreasonable for a 34 year old wine. Sold out unfortunately. Can’t add to Geoff’s comments except to emphasise that the wine really comes to life with a blue cheese. There is still plenty left so I’ll try with another variety next time.]
Namely Touraine Chenonceaux. Actually created in 2011 but in French wine bureaucracy terms that is as yesterday. The link has lots of useful information if, like me, you had never previously heard of this area or tasted their wine.
Speaking of which: a French style sauvignon blanc, that is to say lacking the sharp, sometimes piercing nose of a New World equivalent. Quite shy in fact with some melon or similar – a rather ‘sweet’ nose which led you to expect an off-dry taste. In fact, on the palate and wine was rich, slightly raw with some good acidity and length. Not tasted blind which was just as well as I’m not sure I would have picked the grape. Geoff found it not to his taste so I took the bottle home where Angie liked it a lot.
The wine: Domaine des Caillots 2014 ‘pur sauvignon blanc’.
[Geoff: The hospitality of three French vineyard owners (husband and wife teams) in Chenonceaux was infectious. All essentially rivals, but also keen to promote their new AC, they provided a tasting of a selection of their wines and then gave us two bottles each to take away! They’d have liked us to stay longer but we had a tunnel time to meet. We did feel guilty about not doing them justice – only 90 minutes for 9 wines.
I’m glad Angie liked it. For me it had the hallmarks of Sauvignon – albeit much muted – namely acidity, lack of richness and breadth with little complexity. However, I did appreciate its difference to the vast majority of Touraine wines which can be rather anonymous. A Chenonceaux white is stocked by Majestic.
We’ll try a Chenonceaux red soon which is the AC’s standard blend of Cabernet Franc and Cot (Malbec). I enjoyed these more than the whites.
I wish the new region well.
I have just spent four days in the Loire wine region of France with five fellow wine-educators, three of whom are currently studying for their Master of Wine exams. We visited seven wine makers who gave us tours of the vineyards and wine-making facilities as well as arranging tastings of their wines. We tasted about thirty wines per day and asked technical questions about the wines.
It was my maiden AWE trip; my thoughts are below.
When tasting for commercial reasons, it must be difficult for a wine buyer to remain objective and not ‘go native’. In a cellar, in front of an enthusiastic grower and trying the twelfth Cabernet Franc of that morning, the wine can taste and smell wonderful. “It’s so much richer than Cabernet number three, not as mineral as number one because it is grown in clay, hand harvested and kept in oak for twelve months”. However, will all this be experienced by Mr Jones taking it from the shelf at Asda on a Friday night? Probably not. How do buyers (and I’ve never bought commercially) remain ‘end-user focussed’?
The enthusiasm – not to mention their generosity – of wine growers is contagious. Proud of their produce and eager to share knowledge with an interested audience, small vineyard owners must be the hardest workers in the wine business. Their tasks are endless, very repetitive and often physically demanding. We’ve got the easy job – drinking it and then writing and talking about it.
There seems to be a lot of wine sold direct to the public who live close to vineyards. That would make a great study for a budding MW’s dissertation “Compare and contrast the local sales profile of vineyards?” The Parisian on-trade got mentioned a few times but all the vineyards had payment and collection facilities for customers. Are there any local wine shops in wine regions? Why would someone go to a wine shop rather than the vineyard to buy their wine?
Lastly, what’s in it for the growers? Why spend time, money and resource on putting on tastings for wine educators? There were a few times when I felt guilty about not buying some wine after the time spent on us by a grower. Maybe it’s just my naivety of the whole experience but I wondered what the grower’s private response was as they saw the minibus pull out off their premises without a few cases of their produce.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed the experience and would jump at doing it again.
This beauty is twenty-one years young; Chinon Cornuelles Domaine Sourdais 1996 was sold by the WS for £20 along with the same wine’s elder sibling, the 1993 vintage. Understandably, the WS sold out very quickly. Richard and I each bought two bottles of both vintages.
Pure Cabernet Franc, the wine weighs in at a good, old-fashioned 12.5% ABV – as was generally the case before the days of red bruiser-weights between 14 – 15%. In my opinion, the lower alcohol give the wine’s more subtler flavours to shine and this was certainly true in this tasting.
Of medium intensity and with some evidence of viscosity, the wine’s core colour was ruby but had a slight brick coloured rim – as would be expected. But the redness of the core said that this wine was still young at heart. On the nose, a gentle sous bois aroma was overladen with pepper, dusty-notes and the developing cherry-tartness which reminded me of Italian wines.
The long taste was a wonderful blend of unripe damson fruit, grippy tannins and earthy notes. What was remarkable was the freshness which shone through after twenty-one years. Research tells me that CF, when grown on limestone – prevalent around Chinon, has the best capacity for ageing because of its tannins and acidity. It certainly proved itself here.
The wine was served at just the right temperature (thanks Richard), i.e. slightly cool. It was one of those wines that stick in the memory. I’ve got a 1993 to try – I’ll probably drink that in another ten years!
[Richard: photo is of the ’93 but they are identical, apart from the date. A lovely wine, still fresh and certainly not tasting – or looking – 21 years old. Can’t add anything to Geoff’s note except to say the it was a pleasure to finish the bottle over the evening.]
We thought the Suenen tasted on Friday had lots of acidity – this had more.
An intense, bright, mid-yellow colour lead into a sweet Muscat like nose which became more sherry-like over time. The taste was long, quite rich but with a piercing acidity. I got as far as France/Loire but it didn’t taste like any Chenin I’d ever tasted – but Chenin it was. A Savennieres which is a relatively rare AoC – albeit one I’ve tried twice before, (from the WS and the Co-Op – neither blogged). Will it smooth and and/or improve with age? Over to Geoff.
[Geoff: No is the short answer. I decanted the remainder of the wine left after our tasting in an attempt to soften some of the searing acidity. I reasoned that the wine would mellow in all aspects and develop the richness that typifies older Chenins. I was wrong. The oxidation became more pronounced, it maintained the acidity level and did not become more rounded. So much so, I labelled the wine as ‘faulty’ or at least out of balance. No wonder the retailer (Laithwaites) were getting rid of a few bottles.]
Sans Ricard, I tried one of my favourite grape varieties over the Christmas period, namely Cabernet Franc. I’d bought a couple of bottles of Frederic Mabileau’s ‘Racine’ Bourgueil 2012 which the WS were selling off. Cabernet Franc has never really caught the public’s imagination, maybe because of it’s lack of beefy sweetness. In fact, it is the antithesis of those adjectives and can be rather green and lacking in generosity. But, rather like the little girl in Longfellow’s poem “When she is good, she is very, very good”.
Pale red in colour, it still retained the slight blue qualities of youth in the glass and this was carried through on the nose of primary fruit aromas, bitter cherries and a slight herbaceous quality. The mouth feel was smooth with well-integrated tannins. Dry in taste it had both a very farmyard quality and a slight grip – youth and age in a mouthful – with some gentle red fruit flavours. It was medium in length.
When in the Loire, I went to a vineyard to try the wines of the owner, a M. Gay. Amongst the many we tried, he asked for my opinion on a pure CF and a CF blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. I think he expected me to prefer the latter and was surprised to find I chose the pure CF. I explained that I thought the CF in the blend was eclipsed by the blackcurrant notes of the CS which masked the delicacy of red fruits. He understood me but seemed disappointed that his blending skills hadn’t succeeded.
The books tell us that good vintages of CF in the Loire can take ten years to mature and to lose the ‘grippiness’ of youth. I agree but, possibly because of that, it is way undervalued. Good.