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Francois Chidaine Les Argiles Vouvray 2015

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Importer Note:

Limited. Thanks to France’s labyrinthine and often unreasonable bureaucracy, Chidaine’s 2014 Vouvray cuvées cannot be labelled under the appellation in which they were grown. This is because, technically, Vouvray must be made and matured within the boundaries of Vouvray and Chidaine’s cellars are in Montlouis. Historically the authorities have turned a blind eye to this technicality but now that Chidaine’s has his new cellar in Montlouis up and running, the authorities decided to crack down. Coincidence? Who knows. All they have succeeded in doing is to marginalise one of the region’s finest producers and to have some of region’s best wine sold without the word “Vouvray” on the label. Still, it’s 100% Vouvray within the bottle so we will continue to sell it as such, and encourage our customers to do the same. As always, this sublime bottling is drawn from a series of clay-rich Vouvray sites (argiles=clay) that surround the Clos Baudoin. These include l’Espagnole, la Chatterie, l’Homme and la Reugnières, and le Haut Lieu (the same site of Huet fame). Set away from the river, these sites are mostly populated by 40-year-old bush vines, grown on deep, chalky clay over a subsoil of limestone. The fruit is hand harvested with multiple passes through the vineyards and the wine spends 11 months on fine lees. Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts and ageing is on lees in 600L wooden barrels (demi-muids) for around six months. A stunning wine. I can’t remember a Les Argiles with this level of detail and clarity. The texture is pure silk and while there is plenty of depth, it just seems to float weightlessly across the palate. Like the 2014 Clos Baudoin below, Chidaine could hardly have fashioned a finer ‘non-Vouvray’ if he tried.

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Let’s cut to the chase. This is Chenin Blanc at its zenith, tasting nothing like the stereotype of the grape variety, but rather acting as a conduit through which the vineyards can express themselves. These are wines brimming with energy, texture and great intensity of flavour; the kind of wines that unequivocally transport you to the patch of dirt from where they were grown. As a collective, the wines below offer a remarkably pure and vivid expression of their respective terroirs.

François Chidaine is one of the France’s most exciting white wine makers. It’s not hype – the wines are terrific and the winemaking approach is impeccable. Great vineyards managed biodynamically, ultra low yields and ‘hands off’ élevage are the order of the day here. As we have written before, Chidaine has achieved for Chenin what Didier Dagueneau achieved (and Benjamin Dagueneau has continued to achieve) with Sauvignon: wines of staggering texture and complexity. It gives you an idea of Chidaine’s standing in the Loire that when Benjamin Dagueneau wanted to gain experience as a younger man, he went to work with Chidaine.

Chidaine has caused a mini revolution in Montlouis - in many ways the contemporary history of Montlouis is the history of this young vigneron - with a swag of winemakers now following in his steps. Such is the dynamism of this movement, that on a recent visit to Domaine Huet (Vouvray), Noel Pinguet joked that he wished he could swap appellations! One of the remarkable aspects of Chidaine is that despite his success, his prices remain remarkably fair. As the Schildnecht quote above suggests, these are some of the finest value great wines (not to mention authentic wines of terroir) on the market.

In terms of the regions, Montlouis is Vouvray’s little brother, sitting directly across the Loire river in France’s North. The analogy of siblings is a good one as the rivalry between these two regions is intense. However, as Montlouis is much smaller in size, 400 hectares as opposed to 1800 for Vouvray, and as most of the wine is consumed in France, Montlouis is less well known. Chidaine is the widely acknowledged master of Montlouis and now with his prime land in Vouvray – including the legendary Clos Baudoin vineyard which he purchased five years ago from the Poniatowski family. Farming biodynamically and cropping at well under three tonnes to the acre. - Importer Note

Additional Information

Volume (ml)750ml
Winemaking PracticesMinimal Intervention
Vineyard PracticesOrganic/Biodynamic
Product typeWine White Chenin Blanc
RegionLoire Valley

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