We are delighted to work with Domaine François Chidaine. François Chidaine is one of France’s most exciting white winemakers, and many argue that he has achieved for Chenin what Didier Dagueneau achieved with Sauvignon: wines of exceptional texture and complexity (in fact, Benjamin Dagueneau worked with Chidaine when he looked for work experience in his youth). Domaine Chidaine’s Chenin Blanc embodies all that is great about the variety. In the words of Vinous’ David Schildknecht, ‘You have to look to the historical collections of regional leaders Foreau and Huet to find comparable consistently high quality, making it clear that Chidaine is one of the world’s finest craftsmen in the medium of white wine, not to mention a continuing source of amazing value’.
We are thrilled to be able to source these direct; and for those unfamiliar with the wines, we are offering a mixed case for delivery now. The wonder of Chenin Blanc is that it can be drunk young, yet it is worth putting a case down for the long term as the transformation with ageing is magnificent.
Montlouis remains the ‘Chenin Secret’ of the Loire. Sold initially as Vouvray (until it received its own appellation in 1938), it is located on the opposite side of the Loire river (like Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé). The wines are exclusively made with Chenin Blanc and like Vouvray, produces a range of styles depending on the conditions of the vintage. Again like Vouvray, the subsoil of Tuffeau is key to the region, and many of the cellars are carved into the cliff walls, but the soil in Montlouis has a little more sand and pebbles giving slightly leaner wines, which many consider a bonus for the crisper sec styles. The true distinction between Vouvray and Montlouis is that the most famous examples of Vouvray are usually sweet, while Montlouis prides itself on producing fully dry Chenin Blancs.
It comes as no surprise that the two regions have been battling each other for years and in 2013 Vouvray announced that anyone producing Vouvray had to vinify the wines within the appellation’s boundaries. This caused quite a scandal as two of the appellation’s greatest producers, François Chidaine and Jacky Blot of Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups, have vineyard land in Vouvray, but since 2014 their profound Vouvrays carry the lowly “vin de France” label.
There are those that argue that Vouvray’s glory days are confined to the past and that they are sleeping on their laurels while Montlouis is focused on the present… It is certainly true that 40% of Montlouis is farmed organically, compared to just 5% of Vouvray. While Montlouis’ small 385ha are farmed and vinified by small growers, most of the grapes produced in Vouvray’s 2200ha are bought and distributed by large farmers.
Domaine Francois Chidaine
François Chidaine is referred to as ‘The Master of Montlouis’. François Chidaine is the second generation at this estate and today works with his daughter Alice, who has worked with Dagueneau, Clos Rougeard and South African Chenin specialist Chris Alheit. The domaine pioneered biodynamic viticulture (and taught many young winemakers in the region) as well as building a reputation for single-vineyard wines (like Huet in Vouvray). Yields are naturally ultra-low as there are many old vines (many over 80 years and young vines are 30 years old). All the vineyards are managed by hand as tractors would interfere with the complex mycorrhizal network (fungi network), and he encourages cover crops. In the cellars, there is a gentle pressing, only natural yeasts and ageing in a combination of old French barrels, demi-muids and stainless steel. The wines are the zenith of Chenin Blanc.
We have chosen four wines that we feel really represent the estate. Please note that other wines are available, so please contact us if you have specific questions.
2018 Montlouis Les Choisilles, François Chidaine @ £115 per 6 bottle case in bond
Choisilles is a dry Chenin and the name of a cuvee rather than a single vineyard wine, made with a blend of the old vines (30-90 years) and aged on fine lees in demi-muids. It’s named after a type of black flint called choisille. Les Choisilles is a concentrated, focused dry wine that often needs several years to develop.
2017 Montlouis Les Bournais, François Chidaine @ £150 per 6 bottle case in bond
This is a dry single vineyard wine. Originally an abandoned vineyard (they planted vines there in 1999), François and his father feel Bournais is the best site in Montlouis. The name refers to the type of limestone found here and the soil here is different to most of the appellation. The wines are usually dry and very full-bodied and closest in style to Vouvray.
2017 Montlouis Clos Habert, François Chidaine @ £136 per 6 bottle case in bond
This is an off-dry wine (16.5gr/l residual sugar) from a vineyard located next to Clos du Breuil, and this 3ha plot is divided into two parcels; one with 25-year-old vines and the other with 60-80-year-old vines. The harvest takes place in tris, and there is a really low yield (about 24hl/ha).
2017 Les Argiles, François Chidaine @ £124 per 6 bottle case in bond
This dry Vouvray is a result of French bureaucracy and one wonders if it is also neighbourly envy. The vines are in Vouvray, but since 2014 you are not allowed to call a wine ‘Vouvray’ unless the vines are grown in Vouvray AND the wine is vinified in Vouvray. In Burgundy, this would never work (imagine Domaine Dujac not being allowed to call their Bonnes Mares, Bonnes Mares because it is being vinified in Morey-St-Denis). This is a Vouvray (labelled as Vin de France) from a number of different plots with an average vine age of 40 years. Les Argiles, literally means ‘the clay soils’. Vinified dry (3.5grl/l), always aged in demi-muids, 13%).
Six bottle Sample Case @ £178.50 including all taxes and free delivery in mainland UK.
- 2017 Montlouis Les Bournais – dry
- 2018 Montlouis Les Choisilles – dry
- 2018 Montlouis Clos du Breuil – dry
- 2017 Les Argiles (the Vouvray labelled as Vin de France) – dry
- 2017 Montlouis Clos Habert – off-dry (superb with smoked fish or as an aperitif)
- 2016 Montlouis Moelleux – a gentle Moelleux (made with staggering low yields of 5-6hl/ha. Though the residual sugar levels are around 20-30g/l, you would hardly notice it. It gives a sense of ripeness and lusciousness but feels almost dry).