This is my second visit to the Champalou estate. The first was two years ago and at the time Champalou was quite unknown to me. This time, Céline, who is one of the daughters in this family run, presented the estate and their wines. There are five persons working in the estate and Céline is responsible for the work in the wine cellar, while her father, Didier, leads the work in the vineyards. Celine’s mother, Catherine, “manages” the sales of the estate. The estate has a total of 21 ha of vineyards and was established in 1983 by Didier and Catherine Champalou. The estate is certified as sustainable viticulture by the Terra Vitis association.
In Vouvray and neighbouring Montlouis, many producers bottle the wines from each vineyard separately, but at Champalou they have instead chosen to focus on the characteristics of the vineyards and blend grapes from similar terroir. Grapes from vineyards where limestone is dominant are used for the sweeter wines, since they want to ensure the freshness in these wines. Grapes from more chalky soil are used for drier wines and sparkling. In general, the chalky soil produce more generous wines with an early drinking window, whereas wines from limestone terroir has better ageing potential.
My experience with the Champalou wines is that they have a fantastic acidity and clear minerals. The fruit is often very fresh, quite citric, but also careful and slim. The wines seem to age very well.
Céline explains that in the 2013 vintage they had to work very hard in the vineyard, for example they powdered with chalk and lime five times to protect the berries and grapes from the humidity. This together with a good timing in harvest made sure they harvested fresh fruit and they are very pleased with the quality event though the volumes are low.
The wines tasted
Non vintage – Brut
The nose is quite dry and has notes of apple, bread and some tropical fruit in the background. Not very generous, but very pleasant.
On the palate more fruit appears but it is very much in-line with the nose. Acidity is quite direct and with good grip and energy. Quite small bubbles but an abundance of them.
This is a very clean and crisp wine where the acidity now is quite dominant, but probably will calm down with time.
Fermented in stainless steel. This wine has 8 g/l of residual sugar. The fruit is harvest in the morning to achieve maximum freshness.
We are met with quite careful but well balanced nose with fresh pears, exotic fruits like pineapple and some stone and minerals.
The acidity is direct but still quite soft and a bit tingling and it is backed up by similar fruit as on the nose but also an abundance of citrus, mainly lemon but also lime.
This wine has an amazing freshness from the acidity, but also a good base with fruit. Very elegant and precise.
2011 Le Portail
From the vineyard closest to the estate, with soil dominated by clay. Fermented in 100 percent new oak barrels of 500 liters.
The nose is quite dense and has clear notes of oak but also ripe tropical fruit and some sweet notes. It has a very round and fleshy taste and the acidity stays in the background.
For me this wine has a too prominent oak flavour. It is hard to say how it will develop with time but hopefully the oak takes a less dominant role when aged. In order to appreciate this wine I would need some food.
2012 La Cuvée des Fondraux
From soil dominated by limestone and a process of slow fermentation in low temperatures in old wood barrels, previously used to produce Le Portail. Approximately 25 g/l in residual sugar. Céline explains that the La Cuvée des Fondraux often is quite “cold” in young age, but opens up more with time, “just like the people of Loire”.
There is greenish tones in the colour of this wine.
The nose is extremely fresh with lots of exotic fruit, lime and minerals. Bursting with energy and surprisingly expressive already.
The residual sugar comes through clearly but is well balanced by a very precise and vibrant acidity that also gives energy. The taste also contains an abundance of cool citrus, mainly lime that gives a very fresh and energetic expression.
Quite long finish where tones of honey and lime compete with each other but end up with a draw.
This is a fantastic and already quite generous wine with good balance between the citric acidity and the sugar. Will be interesting to follow over the years.
2009 Les Tries
From a selection of the Limestone soils, like Les Fondraux, and fermented in the old barrels. The wine is a result of the passerillage method, where the weather “dry” the berries and concentrate the sugar but also the acidity. To ensure freshness the fermentation is at quite low temperature and slowly, a method used also for the other wines at Champalou. This wine has residual sugar of 150 g/l.
The nose is expressive with clear notes of sweet honey but also some ripe exotic fruits and some lime in the background.
On the palate and mainly in the acidity this wine shows its greatness. It starts with a careful tingling sensation on the tongue but then gradually take a more and more dominant position as the wine reaches the finale. This journey is accompanied by a quite broad palate with similar notes as on the nose, but where the honey is more apparent in the beginning and the fruit in the end.
It is impressive to manage to create such a fresh expression in a wine with this much sugar. Beautiful! This wine would be fantastic as an aperitif or combined with cheese.
2003 Les Tries
An abundance of apricot and ripe exotic fruit, but also some honey on this very soft and fleshy nose.
Very round and soft on the palate, showing clear similarities with the nose. The acidity is only present in the background, but gives some direction to the wine.
This is a very sweet wine and with less acidity, which makes it more of a dessert wine than a fresh aperitif.
Once again I am very impressed with the wines from Champalou. We are talking about extremely precise wines with amazing freshness, also for the sweet wines. This is a producer to follow closely and with wines this ages worthy it is time to build a collection in the cellar.