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"Among the gravel, the shrubs, and the maples, we find a beautiful shoot of vines, which serve as a branch to guide our tightrope walkers over the hills, to a thousand discoveries." - Christine et Joel Ménard
Christine and Joel Ménard in Rablay-Sur-Layon are justly famous in France for their superb wines. Although the word "natural" is sometimes abused, in the case of the Ménards, the most positive connotations apply. All of their decisions are made after careful contemplation and in the context of their countless years of experience with their parcels and different grape varieties. They are certified organic and biodynamic, and vinify without added yeasts, sugars or other "corrections," and their use of sulfur dioxide is minimal, if they use any at all. Long before the phrase "natural wine" existed, the Ménards were making pure and beautiful natural wines, and they have always seemed happy to quietly continue doing so, without fanfare or hashtags.
Auguste Ménard, the first generation of vigneron in the family, was nicknamed Ménard le Rouge for his revolutionary tendencies and his enormous red mustache. Now, his grandson, Jeremy, the son of Christine and Joel, has taken the helm at the estate, and is in charge of winemaking. He has a calm energy about him, and a firm grasp on winemaking, having grown up among the vines that surround their humble home and winery. Walking through the vineyards with him in the winter of 2018, it was clear that he has deeply connected to this plot of land, truly a farmer in his element, albeit sans moustache.
Today, we offer a batch of delicious Sablonnettes wines that have recently arrived. As always, the prices are very reasonable, as it seems the Ménards have never raised their prices, much like our friend in the Beaujolais, Christian Ducroux, who strongly desires his wines to be affordable to all. Of all the wines in the Jenny & Francois Selections porftolio, the Sablonnettes wines are some of the most allocated for that very reason. Consider how rare it is nowadays to find a legendary natural wine under $20 (let alone four wines from the same producer!). The purity of fruit and balance of each wine is exceptional. Our only complaint is that the supply is so limited. This will be the last drop of the Sablonnettes wines we see this year, so what we have is what we got!
Le P’tit Blanc comes from biodynamically farmed vines in the Cateaux du Layon AOC. The grapes are grown on chemical-free schist soils and hand harvested, then the wine undergoes natural fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Upon the first glass, the wine is a razor-sharp style of Chenin Blanc, with lemon and unripe apricot and an ultra-clean edge of zippy white stones. As the glass warms, the wine relaxes, showing white and yellow flowers, green tea, savory peach and honey profiles. Another unique but excellent offering from a consistently stellar producer. From the bottle: "Expression commune et populaire pour désigner "le ballon de blanc" qu'on boit sans chichi ni tralala sur le zinc du bistro. Dynamique et rafraichissant, ce vin fera bon vent avec les possions ou autres accords gourmands." Loosely translated: A common and popular expression for the glass of white that we drink at the bar without fuss or 'tralala (razzle-dazzle).' Dynamic and refreshing, this wine will go well with fish or other gourmet pairings.
This is a new addition to the Sablonnettes lineup, a skin contact (Blanc de Macération) of Chenin Blanc, with subtle peachy hue, and lovely stone fruit on the palate. From the bottle: "Plus aromatique et plus tannique que son p'tit frère (le p'tit blanc), le zeste qui sauve le vigneron!" Loosely translated: More aromatic and tannic then its little brother (P'tit Blanc), the zest (alternatively, spark) which saves the winemaker! This would be great with marinated and grilled veggies, cheeses, and fish dishes. -EL
A lovely, rather full-bodied rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Grolleau, featuring pure deep raspberry and cherry fruit with nice balancing acidity. "This is not a Rosé" may be the name, and the color is a lovely pale red, but we still say it's a rosé! Absolutely charming with a chill. From the bottle: "Polisson gourmand, ce rose s'est régalé de tous les fruits rouges du jardin il en rougit encore de gourmandise" Loosely translated: Naughty eater, this rosé has feasted on all of the red fruits of the garden and is still blushing with gluttony.
This lovely wine is a blend of Grolleau, Gamay, and Chenin Blanc, and features complex, high-toned raspberry fruit aromas (with some cherry, strawberry and currant thrown in) which follow through on the medium-bodied palate. There's a bit of "barnyard" funk on the nose, though I think this is more a Grolleau thing than a natural wine thing. Balanced by lively acidity and pleasantly low in alcohol, this is a lush and delicious wine that will accompany grilled chicken or any lighter summer cuisine. Bravo to the Ménards for making these delicious and affordable wines! -EL
This is first and foremost a wine of terroir, and in a way epitomizes the Menards themselves. They are quiet, humble, and dedicated to producing fine wines that are expressions of their land. Les Copines Aussi is a Gamay and Grolleau blend that is joyful and fresh in the 2020 vintage. Pure and delicious, great with a chill. From the bottle: "Les lampions brillent à la guinguette et l'accordeon nous rend polissons. A ouvrir entre copains... et copines. Gouleyant et jovial, ce vin vous invitera à partager le plaisir des petits moments et des grands instants" Loosely translated: The lanterns shine at the tavern, and the accordion makes us mischievous, To open with guy friends... and girl friends. Easygoing and jovial, this wine will invite you to share the pleasure of small moments and great moments.
Pictured on the label are some very relaxed people kicking back at a Bistro A Vin, enjoying a glass of 'Un Brin de Causette,' a supple, medium-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grolleau. Perfect tannins here, with black fruit and nice richness in the glass. The elegance of the wine is understated, but it clearly has potential to age 5+ years, but would be lovely now with a light chill and food off the grill. "Bien attablé, ce vin taillera la bavette à vos amis et convives. Serein et harmonieux, il déliera les langues des mets délicieux." Loosely translated: Great for the table, this wine will cut the steak for your friends and guests. Serene and harmonious, it will release the language of delicious dishes. -EL