Looking back at my short but intense stay in the Loire region, I realized that I haven’t talked enough about Chenin Blanc, despite my love for it. Only one wine was put into the spotlight, 2009 Les Choisilles by Francois Chidaine (of which I incidentally drank my last bottle just a week ago, still fantastic). There are some changes coming up on The Wine Analyst, but given my adherence to self-imposed deadlines in the past, I’ll refrain from making big declarations. For now, I can only say that there will be more attention paid to Chenin Blanc in the future, starting with Domaine Huet’s Clos de Bourg Demi-Sec 2001!
Very blunt but true, people are idiots if they think that residual sugar should be dismissed in assessing a wine’s quality. I get the point if you were presented with a glass of something that is basically a very expensive syrup, but as I mentioned when I talked about Germany’s Pradikat wine, the wines that get it right, the wire walkers between acidity and sweetness are among the best you can encounter. Like Riesling, Chenin Blanc is one of the rare grapes with this capability. Vibrant, shining fruit and an energizing acidity that is ever so rightly countered by a hint of opulence added by the residual sugar are all you need for a thrilling wine.
Off all the Loire subregions, Vouvray most likely has the highest reputation when it comes to producing wines with residual sugar. Domaine Huet has played a pivotal role in establishing the region’s fame. It is a benchmark of what chenin blanc can be, proving its versatility and longevity. A combination of obsessive, meticulous attention to details, a focus on top-vineyards and an early adoption of biodynamic viticulture have guided its ascent to the top and despite a change of ownership in recent years, continues to do so. Clos de Bourg is one of the most acclaimed vineyard sites in Vouvray, with the vines having the most direct access to the tuffeau bedrock (soft type of limestone) thanks to a relatively thin topsoil, which is credited for the deeper, more complex character of the wines in comparison to the other sites.
It is a tricky wine, in the sense that at first it does not really stand out or shine. Clear evolution in the nose, honeycomb, waxy notes and a toasty, fresh-marmelade-and-bread type of fruitiness. Initially the palate does not deliver what the nose promises, moderate in weight but no real presence. I was initially a bit disappointed, so I finished my glass, stoppered the bottle and forgot about it for a couple of days. Retasting it later on was simply joy. The wine was much more fleshed out, really more savoury now without even giving a lot of sweetness at first. It was only in the finish that the influence of the residual sugar kicked in, not in sweetness, but in length and intensity while remaining oh so delicate. A stunning wine for it’s 16 years of age, and something to cherish.
Other Loire wines talked about: