François Pinon in the Deronnières vineyard (2009)

Chenin Blanc: Soil Makes the Difference

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It's no secret that we at Chambers Street Wines are big fans of the Loire Valley and the astounding range of expression its varied terroir gives Chenin Blanc. Within the lower Loire where Chenin is king, geology varies more than climate: granites, schists, quartzites, sandstones and  ancient, weathered limestones alternate along the valleys and divides of its eleven principal appellations. The chalk hills of the Paris Basin that dominate Touraine and Saumur unevenly give way to the weathered "old rock" of western Anjou and the Pays Nantais, called the Massif Amoricain. Such geologic multiplicity offers the intriguing possibility of tasting how the soil composition of each region influences the final expression of a single grape variety.

There is the Cretaceous chalk of Vouvray, giving Pinon's wines a shimmering ripeness of fruit that feels almost haunting alongside their bracing acidity. Montlouis, long known for outstanding whites, has gentle slopes with wind-blown sand mixed into the chalky soil - Jousset's wines from here offer a lively, lighter palate and addictive drinkability, while the brilliant 2015s of Francois Chidaine offer an intense and scintillating structure for possible long aging. Source du Ruault's single hectare from clay soils over Turuonian limestone shows a restrained side of the grape, highlighting the piercing clarity of pure fruit and cool minerality. Domaine de la Roche Bleue has long been impressing us with the sultry density of its Chenins, from clay and silex soils over limestone in Jasnieres and Coteaux de Loire. Domaine les Grandes Vignes in Anjou, on weathered schists rife with dark mineral nutrients, offers  fresh fruitiness and a range of texture among the cuvees. Fresche's everyday Anjou Blanc is a staff favorite as gulpable as it is affordable.

Although the best producers of Chenin Blanc in Anjou now focus on dry wines, the region was historically known as one of the great sources of sweet wines in France, especially from the cru appellations of Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux. We're happy to offer today the superb Bonnezeaux "le Malabé" from the Valliant family at Grandes Vignes - the only Bonnezeaux certified organic and Biodynamic!

Galileo once purportedly said that "wine is light captured in water", and I cannot help thinking he must have been referring to Chenin Blanc. Drinking it is a deeply pleasurable study in sensory contradictions - it is a grape that offers structure alongside freshness, textural density amidst soaring acidity, luminous fruit rooted by deep minerality - and its evolution in the glass is unfailingly generous. As our daylight hours ever so gradually lengthen, Chenin's luminous iterations may just be the perfect harbinger of spring. - Karina Mackow

[Credit to James E. Wilson's "Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines" for background information on the influence of Loire soil composition in this article]

Source du Ruault 2014 Saumur Blanc "La Coulee d' Aunis"

This is a lovely Chenin Blanc from our organic friends at La Source du Ruault. Ripe but subtle aromas of pear, apple, citrus, lime-flower, hay and earth lead to the palate which is very mineral, with ripe lemony white fruits, almond, stone and herbal flavors and a very long intense chalky finish. A beautiful and very young Chenin that is scintillating and delicious now, best after a few days open or ten years in the cellar. Highly recommended! David Lillie

  • white
  • 6 in stock
  • $22.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Grandes Vignes 2013 Bonnezeaux Le Malabé

If you have a sweet tooth, this Chenin is for you! Bonnezeaux is one of a few sweet wine appellations in the Loire Valley, where grapes are required to be over-ripe, and are sometimes affected by noble rot. "Le Malabé" has about 130 grams of residual sugar, but I honestly thought it was about 80g when I first tasted this wine, thanks to the high acidity and the ample minerality that the schiste soils provide. Just bringing the wine to the nose, one is greeted with honey, quince and with some subtle sweet spice aromas that tickle the senses. On the palate, it's dense, ripe and absolutely delicious. Francois from Grandes Vignes mentioned to me that 2013 was OK for reds in the Loire, very good for their dry Chenin Blanc, and exceptional for the sweet wines. Case in point! Drink now if you're craving sometime sweet, or age for decades.   Eben Lillie

  • white sweet
  • 9 in stock
  • $33.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic

Roche Bleue 2015 Coteaux du Loir L'Orée de la Berterie

This is a beautiful Chenin Blanc from Sébastien Cornille at Domaine de la Roche Bleue, from 30 year-old vines on slopes and terraces of clay and silex over limestone, certified organic farming with biodynamic methods. The 2015 L'Orée de la Berterie shows lovely ripe aromas  - peach, pear, and kiwi with almond,  floral and mineral notes. Dried pear, citrus peel, stone and herbal notes on the palate with terrific density and a quite firm citrus and mineral finish. This is an outstanding and mineral young Chenin that will open up over the next five to ten years, and it's a superb value as well. Serve with ceviche of fluke, fish in sauce, roast chicken and mild cheeses.  DL

  • white
  • 12 in stock
  • $19.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Roche Bleue 2015 Jasnières Sec

100% Chenin Blanc, from 10 - 25 year-old vines on a slope of clay/silex soils on limestone, certified organic. Slow pressing of whole clusters; long fermentations, most in 4 to 6 year-old barriques, the younger vines in cuve inox; elevage in 6 year-old barrels. The Roche Bleue 2015 Jasnières shows pale bronze color with beautiful aromas of pear, lime-flower and peach with hints of stone, anise and citrus peel. The palate reveals almond, pear, stone and chalky minerals that continue in the very long, tart, very mineral finish. This is a crystalline, complex Jasnières that will benefit from decanting and should age well for ten to fifteen years. Serve now with shellfish, grilled fish, roast chicken and goat cheeses. Lovely wine! DL

  • white
  • 18 in stock
  • $21.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic

Fresche (Domaine du) 2015 Anjou Blanc Moulin de la Roche Evière

Alain and Christine Boré produce delicious organic wines on their estate in Anjou that are sensational values for everyday enjoyment. Their 2015 Anjou Blanc (Chenin) is superb, with lovely aromas of pear and apple, fresh herbs, lime-flower and honey. The palate is round and supple but nicely balanced with firm acidity, showing green apple, dried pear, stone and honeyed citrus and minerals that continue in the long finish. A simply delicious dry Chenin that will accompany seafood, grilled or in sauce, chicken, goat cheeses, etc... DL 

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $12.99

  • Organic

Jousset, Lise et Bertrand 2014 Montlouis-sur-Loire L'Appetillant Brut

L'Appetillant is the Joussets' sparkling Montlouis, 100% Chenin Blanc, Champagne method (or should we say "Methode Traditionelle") made with no sulfur and no dosage. All cellar functions by gravity, no pumping, fermentation in one to seven year-old barrels, approximately 12 months on the lees. From 40 year-old vines on sand and silex soils over limestone. This version is absolutely delicious with lovely aromas of pear, lime-flower, stone and caramel, quite subtle and complex. White fruits, citrus and stone on the palate with nice chalky, lemony length. Drink over the next three years. This is a beautiful wine and is highly recommended!

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Jousset, Lise et Bertrand 2015 Montlouis-sur-Loire Bubulles Pet Nat

Simply put, this is top-shelf Pét-Nat for a picnic-friendly price. From organically farmed Chenin vines (45 years of age on average) in Montlouis-sur-Loire in soils of sand and silex over limestone. All cellar operations are by gravity, without pumping, the fermentation is in 3 to 6 year-old barriques of 225 and 400 liters. The wine is vibrant straw yellow and adorned with a fine mousse. The nose reveals aromas of ripe pear, Granny Smith, lime flower, creamy lemon with heather honey and stone. A finely chiseled palate is a bit off-dry with hints of dried pear, apple and anise over a core of saline minerals with terrific length. This is a thirst-quenching Pet-Nat, made without sulfur, that happens to be a serious and elegant wine! 

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • $20.99

  • Organic
  • No Sulfur

Jousset, Lise et Bertrand 2015 Montlouis-sur-Loire Premier Rendez-Vous

Chenin Blanc from two terroirs in Montlouis - 40 year-old vines on sand and silex soils over limestone and 70 year-old vines on clay/limestone soils, yields of 30 hl/ha, aged in 2 to 8 year-old large barrels. The 2015 Premier Rendez-Vous is a beautiful wine. Pale gold color; the aromas are very floral - iris and lime flower with pear, peach, apricot and citrus; the palate is silky and textured with chalky minerals beneath ripe white fruits and citrus peel; the finish is long and tart with refreshing lemony acidity. A delightful wine that is delicious now and will drink beautifully over the next five to eight years. DL

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $22.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Jousset, Lise et Bertrand 2014 Montlouis-sur-Loire 1er RV "Longue"

Lise & Bertrand's 'Version Longue' is sourced from the same two terroirs in Montlouis as the Chenin Blanc for their regular 1er Rendez-Vous but with an extra year of elevage in large used barrels. Vines are a mix of 40 and 70 years old; soils are a combination of sand, silex, and clay over limestone. The 2014 is very bright and mineral, with persistent fruits of dried calimyrna figs, husky green pear skin, wildflower honey, and ripe Meyer lemon throughout. The palate is just off-dry with a high and persistent acidity that keeps the wine feeling fresh and supple into a lengthy finish.  A great pairing for bloomy rind cheeses such as Camembert or Brie, richer, not overly spicy Pakistani or North Indian cuisine, and any dish with wild mushrooms. Harmonious and elegant now, this  will develop deliciously in the cellar for another 10 years. Drink with only a moderate chill. Karina Mackow

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $26.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Chidaine 2015 Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Choisilles

Francois Chidaine has been one of the leading proponents of biodynamic farming in the Loire valley and has had a profound influence on the resurgence of Montlouis. Les Choisilles is vinified dry, from parcels of 30 to 90 year-old vines on clay and silica soils over limestone "tuffeau." The soils are plowed, beneficial plants grow in the rows and only organic composts are used. Fermentation of Les Choisilles can last up to six months, with wild yeasts, no malo-lactic, aging on the lees in large barrels.  The 2015s at Chidaine are studies in terroir with the young wines showing intense acidity and mineral flavors eclipsing, for now, the elegant white and yellow fruits that coat the palate. Though delicious now,  served with grilled fish, fish and chicken in sauce and shellfish, the Les Choisilles will open nicely over the next ten to fifteen years and should be considered for the cellar. DL

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $32.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic

Grandes Vignes 2014 Anjou Varenne du Poirier

A beautiful Chenin Blanc, from a great vintage for Loire whites. There's a nice amount of weight and roundness in the mid-palate, so don't expect enamel-stripping acidity, but don't worry either... it's still totally dry. Vines are around 20 years old on average, from soils of schist and sandstone in the valley of Arcison, a small tributary of the Layon river. Pressed at low pressure, light racking of 12 hours with light lees recovery. 400L new wood for alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. Kept in old wood for 10 months. Golden yellow, with a touch of quince, and white peach. Just plain delicious Chenin Blanc. Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • No Sulfur

Grandes Vignes 2012 Anjou Varenne de Combre

The 2012 Varenne de Combre is a totally dry and crystalline Chenin, with great precision and a long mineral finish (thanks to the Schist soils). I happened to have an Anjou blanc that reminded me exactly of this one with a salt crusted whole bass in Catalonia, Spain not too long ago (I brought a bottle with me to share with a winemaker friend), and it couldn't have been a more perfect pairing. The minerality and acidity provide the cut and freshness, and the density of the wine can stand up to the richness of the fish.  Eben Lillie

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $23.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • No Sulfur

Pinon 2014 Vouvray Deronnieres

The grapes for this new cuvee from Francois Pinon used to be included in the Silex Noir, but this wonderful vineyard, on a hill-top directly above the Pinon's cave, much deserves to be bottled on it's own. At 18 grams/liter of residual sugar, 12.4% alcohol and strong acidity, the Deronnieres approaches Demi-Sec in style but with superb minerality and balance. The wine shows subtle aromas of lime-flower, dried pear, lemons and stones. The palate is very saline and mineral with bitter lemon, white fruits, and herbal notes with impressive density and length. A great demi-sec with fantastic minerality that will age beautifully!

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.49

  • Organic