These are some of the finest Chenin Blancs produced anywhere on the planet. Already a domaine with a cult following, demand for Chidaine’s wines has become greater still in recent vintages, thanks in part to rave reviews from Antonio Galloni and Rebecca Gibb MW.
You may remember we offered a selection of 2018s in October, but the first tranche of 2019s has become available a little earlier this year. If such timing seems idiosyncratic, it is easily explained: the sweeter wines are typically bottled after the dry wines, and the sweetness of a given cuvée can vary from one vintage to the next, so maintaining any kind of schedule is close to impossible.
François Chidaine established the domaine in 1989, with just a few hectares in Montlouis to his name. At that time, Montlouis was an unfashionable appellation, overshadowed by Vouvray, which lies on the opposite bank of the Loire. Montlouis has since undergone what David Schildknecht (The Wine Advocate, Issue 172) describes as ‘one of the most amazing and exciting wine revivals of modern France.’ Alongside Jacky Blot, François Chidaine has been the main impetus for that revival.
The domaine today amounts to 37 hectares, including 10 in Vouvray, yet the emphasis remains on single-parcel wines, ranging in sweetness from bone dry to moelleux (medium-sweet, with around 25g/L residual sugar). Farmed biodynamically, the vineyards are rigorously worked with a shallow plough to enable the roots to penetrate deep into the tuffeau limestone soil – sandier and lighter in Montlouis than in Vouvray, and strewn with distinctive, black flint pebbles known as choisilles.
Chidaine’s Moelleux hails from Vouvray – where the vineyards are prone to botrytis – but must be labelled Vin de France, since it’s vinified not in Vouvray but in Montlouis. The fabulous Clos Habert, from old vines on clay-rich soils in Montlouis, is off-dry or tendre, while the remaining three wines offered today are dry, and showcase the differences in terroir across the domaine.
François has now been joined at the domaine by his daughter Alice, who honed her craft working at Dagueneau, Clos Rougeard, and with South African Chenin specialist Chris Alheit. Didier Dagueneau was a mentor to François, and parallels have been drawn between their wines. Chidaine’s 2019s are characterised by a knockout combination of succulent, ripe fruit and shimmering acidity (despite a fiercely hot, dry summer, which resulted in exceptionally low yields).
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