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Since I began visiting the Loire Valley in 2011, I have always held high esteem for Hervé Villemade. He is a focused, professional winemaker, and an open-minded and fun-loving colleague and friend. His wines have both defined and defied the Cheverny appellation for me, teaching me of tradition and then occasionally throwing it out the window.
Year after year, I have found myself returning to the Villemade line-up when I feel like pure-fruited, honest, un-manipulated wines. You could call them "natural," but I've always liked this quote of his, from an interview with Jules Dressner:
"I am not a fan of categorizations: I make wine that I want to make, and that's that. As far as I'm concerned, that means making wine from clean grapes and nothing else. Once that's done, I filter because the wines need it. I add a little sulfur at bottling (and let's not forget that I'm highly allergic!) because the wines need it. If they don't need it, which does occasionally happen, then I don't add any sulfur. It's as simple as that. I drink wine everyday, and a lot of it is my own, so it's in my best interest that they suit my tastes!"
Hervé Villemade hails from a farming family that originally settled in Celettes, in the Loire valley, in the 1930’s. Hervé’s father took over in the 60’s, focusing the polyculture on vines, vegetables and grains.
Wines were bottled under the Villemade name since the 1970’s and in the late 90’s, Hervé and his sister Isabelle took over, taking the estate organic, and only using natural treatments in the vineyard. Grapes are hand harvested and sorted, juice ferments with indigenous yeasts, and the wines typically receive a small dose of sulfur at bottling.
The farming really is impeccable here, treatments are only used when necessary, and limited to sulfur and copper only. Otherwise, grass is allowed to grow, and wild herbs and flowers contribute to biodiversity. Most of the vineyards are tranquil, enclosed plots, surrounded by forest and shrubbery.
Today's wines are all tasting great. They are full of life, acid driven, terroir expressive, and just plain fun to drink. Some are perfect for the moment, others have potential for short or long-term aging. We hope you enjoy Hervé's wines as much we do!
****COME MEET HERVÉ VILLEMADE and TASTE HIS WINES at CHAMBERS STREET this THURSDAY, 3/21 from 5-7pm!**** also, keep your eyes out for the return of the quaffable Sauvignon Blanc, arriving soon! Eben Lillie
Tasted in January 2020 in Angers, Hervé Villemade's 2015 Bulle Blanche is a vibrant belnd of Menu Pineau, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc grown on his estate that spends 24 months on the lees. It's elegant, creamy and flavorful with the herbal, almond and citrus notes of Menu Pineau with the pear and floral white fruits of Chenin. Really a classy and delicious aged Pet Nat that is a great value as well. Serve as an aperitif or with a ceviche, grilled fish, chicken in sauce. David Lillie
Hervé Villemade's 2017 Cheverny Blanc is a lovely and versatile wine, made from 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chardonnay grown on flinty sand and clay soils. The wine shows pretty aromas of pear, citrus, almond and stone with hints of boxwood and white flowers. The palate is supple with white and yellow fruits, ripe citrus, a bit of anise and herbal flavors and is nicely balanced with firm acidity. This is a delicious and refreshing everyday white that will accompany most seafood dishes, chicken, white meats and goat cheeses. David Lillie
Though a bit reductive on the nose when it first arrived to New York months ago, Hervé's Pinot Noir is positively singing now. Crunchy red fruit on the nose, red apple skins and bing cherries, with a touch of spice and herbaceous notes on the palate. It's mineral, not fruity, but there is a really lovely, mature Pinot character that is hiding behind the bright acidity and terroir. Though refreshing and charming now, it should develop some more weight and elegance with 1-3 years in bottle. Eben Lillie
Hands down one of my favorite Malbecs in the store. For the not so geeky, Côt is the local name for Malbec in the Loire Valley. The style here is bright, earthy but very pretty, with a long finish. There's an unmistakable wildness on the nose that gives away that the wine is unfiltered and fermented with wild yeast... ok I'll just say it smells like a natural wine (even though I'm reluctant to categorize). Super lively crushed red berries, and a long mineral finish. Medium bodied, very subtle tannin. I find the structure is more mineral than tannic here. Eben Lillie
Desiré is a special wine that Hervé makes from vines that were planted by his grandfather, Desiré. All Pinot Noir, destemmed and kept in Georgian qvevri for around 6 months before being pressed off the skins and aged, in smaller amphora, before bottling. The 2015 was bottled in the summer of 2016 and was absolutely delicious when tasted in January of 2018. Some folks have noticed that it's a bit closed or maybe going through a transition at the moment (it is March of 2019 at the time of this note). This comes as no surprise, given the heat and power of 2015 as a vintage. We recommend putting this bottle away and forgetting about it for a while. 3-5 years should be a good start, though I feel like the wine could easily benefit from longer aging. We'll have to ask Hervé when he's here this Thursday! Eben Lillie