Browse Tag

chenin blanc

Closel Clos

Domaine du Closel 1998 Savennières Clos du Papillon (Loire) – Looks tired and oxidized. Isn’t. But it’s not without oxidation as a complexing agent, and that will throw some. Nothing here is atypical for the grape, appellation, or producer, but knuckle-draggers who insist that “wine should taste like fruit because it’s made from fruit” should buy something else. All those caveats aside, it’s not the freshest wine in history (though I’m given to understand that day two brings a lot more energy and life), with sodden metal squeezings and wet chalk predominating. It’s a dark, broody, aging hipster sort of wine, and the right food – which I do not have during my encounter – would not be amiss. Still, given my horrendous experiences with my own bottles of Closel and other Savennières from this era, I have to welcome one that has actually performed up to expectations. (10/11)

How Bizard

Bizard-Litzow “Château d’Epiré” 2007 Savennières “Cuvée Spéciale” (Loire) – I have given up aging Savennières, and though I’m happy to drink someone else’s, the relentless early descent into oxidation and/or silage across producers and vintages has defied all reasonable explanation (aside from the scourge of the still-unsolved premature oxidation that affects wines here and there, which would explain one issue, but not the other) and completely soured me on the effort. Which is a real shame, because I’ve had beautifully aged versions from these same producers in the past, and because I don’t exactly adore young Savennières either. Here, for example, is ceramic leaf and candle smoke, a desiccation that supersedes whatever actual residual sugar (if any) might remain, and a long but ultimately pointless blank slate of a finish. There’s texture to spare, though it’s planar, and that’s what would normally give me confidence that at some point in the future there would be a blossoming. But whether due to forces external or internal – that is, the taster in question – I’m not willing to hold these any longer, just to see how many years before their drink-by date they fail in a blaze of misery. (9/11)

Arboreal Ken

Ken Forrester 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Of all the chenins I tasted in South Africa (and I tasted a lot), this was the most exciting. Not in this exact form or vintage, but in the form of an older bottle pulled as an apology for their being out of the sought-after botrytized version from this same winery. The excitement came because in a few short years the wine had veered sharply in a Loire-ward direction, developing wax, quinine, and chalk notes that I hadn’t seen in anyone else’s chenins. Now, to be fair, I didn’t taste many more with any age whatsoever, but as the two dominant methods of chenin blanc production in the country are fresh-’n’-fruity-’n’-cheap or “seriously” oaked (a terrible idea, I might add, though Ken Forrester’s “FMC” version is the least offensive of the offensive lot), I certainly don’t expect to see it very often. That said, after I tasted and liked the aged version, I realized I hadn’t paid much attention to its younger form.

So here it is, and I’ve encountered it a lot since that visit to Stellenbosch. I wouldn’t say it’s clear that there’s a bright and complex future for the wine from its initial notions, but one can at least see how that future develops. There’s a restraint and subtlety to the wine not often found in the area’s chenin blancs (or white wines in general), a fine structure, and – I think this is where the key difference lies – a gravelly texture to the wine that I think heralds the organoleptic minerality to come. It’s very appealing in its youth, but I think youthful guzzling is what the same winery’s “Petit” bottling is for. Put this one away for a while. I think you won’t regret it, if past performance is any indicator. (8/11)

She knows white, too

JM Raffault 2010 Chinon Blanc (France) – Mineral-driven (no surprise from Loire chenin), though as Chinon rather than one of the more popular chenin appellations, the rocky take’s quite a bit different. Dry – I don’t mean in the sense of lacking sugar, though it does, but in the parched sensation provided by the wine’s stony starkness – with a bit of wax and a sort dense flesh of monotonality. It’s better than that, though. I’m struggling to find the correct descriptors here, as one might notice. (8/11)

The Forrester for the treeser

Ken Forrester “Petit” 2009 Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) – Sunfruit, sweet white peach, smooth-textured and round. Such a pretty little wine, ideal for crowds (especially crowds on a budget). (7/11)

And a slightly redder B

Nicolas “Domaine de Bellivière” 2007 Jasnières “Les Rosiers” (Loire) – Closing? Dying? Bad bottle? Whatever the issue, each bottle of this has been worse than the last. At this point, there’s little reason to drink any more…so I’m going to hold, going on the increasingly conventional wisdom that one can not open Loire chenin blanc from good sites too late, only too early. (7/11)

No progressive Ls here

Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Méthode Traditionnelle Demi-Sec (Loire) – One of the most refreshing bottles of this I’ve had, juicy and frothy yet with the chalky underbelly and waxen texture that provide counterpoint to the off-dry fun. Very, very pleasurable. (5/11)

Don’t be l’Effraied of the dark

Nicolas “Domaine de Bellivière” 2006 Coteaux du Loir “l’Effraie” (Loire) – Semi-oxidized, and though chenin is a grape that can handle a certain amount of oxygen, this has gone too far in a stale, coppered nut direction. There’s still dust and softness, as there was in the wine’s youth, but both have been rendered clumsy by the oxidation. A shame. I have more, so I’m hoping cork variance is at least partially to blame. (5/11)

Just a sec

Huet 2007 Vouvray Le Mont Sec (Loire) – The oft-expressed opinion of increasingly ego-overwhelmed critics that great ageable wines taste great in youth is persistently dispelled by wines like this. It’s nice enough, with firm structure, gently chalky minerality, a lot of spine without much flesh, and a strikingly long finish that holds its poise all the way to its denouement. But really, there’s so much more to come that only those intimately familiar with the usual trajectory could even begin to divine the potential here. I doubt I would, encountering this wine blind. So is it a waste to drink this now? I’m starting to wonder if it might not be. At the very least, the demi-sec bottlings offer more early material for appreciation. (3/11)

I’m Nashik of Araby

Sula 2010 Chenin Blanc (Nashik) – I’ve watched this particular bottling over seven vintages now, which is kinda fun to say about an Indian wine. Interestingly, while it has gotten cleaner over the years, it has not necessarily gotten better, which might indicate that it’s coming up against some sort of externally-imposed limit. Maybe vine age, maybe terroir, maybe something else. It’s still a bright, light-fruited quaff, still tastes less like chenin (either the Loire style or the fruit-blast South African style) than something more innocuous, still has just-bright-enough acidity, and still goes pretty much nowhere on the finish. In other words, its primary quality remains a delight at drinking a pleasant wine from India. (3/11)