Tag Archives: Chenin Blanc

Califermentation 2016 – A California natural wine fair in San Francisco

Last Saturday I attended the Califermentation 2016 tasting at Terroir wine bar in San Francisco, where 20+ producers with a natural wine profile presented their wines.

My impressions were somewhat similar to what I have experienced previously in European tastings of natural wines. There are many wines with very strong personality, but quality is somewhat uneven. My overall impression were positive and it was a great introduction to the natural wine movement in California.

When evaluating the wines you have to respect that many of the producers have started their production the last few years and when it comes to quality and finess it is not fair to compare them with 3rd generation Burgundy producers that have 30 vintages with the same vineyards under their belt. Many of the producers at an event like this have only produced a couple of vintages and are still experimenting with new grapes, methods and vineyards.

An important difference compared with many natural wine makers I have met in Europe is that most producers here source the grapes from growers. I find this a bit problematic since everyone seems to agree that the most important work of winemaking is made in the vineyards. Still my impression is that many of the producers I met have a rather close cooperation with the growers and they have a good influence on the work in the vineyards.

Some other short observations from the event are:

  • There were less wines with brett then I expected and have experienced in similar events previously.
  • These wines were much more energetic and with better acidity than many of the wines I previously have tried from California.
  • There is a treasure of old vines in California. This was perhaps not news to me, but it was an important reminder that you should search beyond Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir when looking for quality wine in California.

I did not make extensive notes about each wine I tasted, but the following are som short comments per producer.

Black Trumpet Wine

http://www.blacktrumpetwine.com

Rather thick and intense Syrah wines with an abundance of dark berries, but also a good acidic backbone to ensure the wines do not get heavy.Black Trumpet Wine

Donkey & Goat Winery

https://www.donkeyandgoat.com/

A rather juicy Pinot Gris with a slight oxidative style and a rather broad citric acidity. They also presented a Syrah and Merlot wine, both with a rather dark fruit but also a very present and driving acidity.

Enfield Wine Co.

http://enfieldwine.com/

Their Chardonnay had a good juicy character on the nose and palate but there was a slightly oaky bitterness in the finish. The acidity had clear notes of grape fruit. They also presented a Pinot Noir with a rather energetic style dominated by the acidity and some young red fruit.

Frey Vineyards

http://www.freywine.com/

I only tried their Chardonnay, which had an oxidative character and notes of grape and oranges on the palate. I would have preferred more acidity in this wine to give some tension.

Haarmeyer Wine Cellars

I only tried a Chenin blanc pétillant that had a very soft profile and lacking acidity.

Halcón Vineyards

http://halconvineyards.com

Their Pinot Noir had some slight brett notes on the nose but on the palate it showed nice red fruit and a good acidity. I also tried their Grenache Mourvedre and Syrah mix and their Alturas which is only Syrah. The latter was my favourite, showing both bright fruit, an earthiness, minerals but also a very vibrant acidity. Very interesting wine.Halcón Vineyards

Hatton Daniels

https://www.hattondaniels.com

I only tried their Rousanne and Marsanne blend that had a rather broad fruity nose with a fresh expression. On the palate it was more fruit driven and with a very soft acidity.

Hobo Wine Co.

http://hobowines.myshopify.com/

Good and well balanced wines. Their Chardonnay had a racy acidity, good personality and showing nice fruit notes on the palate. The Pinot Noir was rather fruit driven but not without layers and complexity. They also presented a Syrah wine with fresh fruit and nice perfume on the nose.Hobo Wine Co.

Holman Cellars

http://www.holmancellars.com

They presented two white wines, one blend and one Grenache Blanc, both showing a rather fresh but dense fruit that was well balanced by the acidity. The Grenache Blanc had some oak notes on the palate. The red wines were based on Merlot and Primitivo (zinfandel) and both had a rather energetic and driving acidity but also a pure bright fruit.Holman Cellars

Inconnu Wine

Their wines had a profile with rather bright young fruit and a vibrant acidity. There where also some rather green notes in the Cabernet Franc and some green peppers in the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kirchhoff Wines

https://www.kirchhoffwines.com

They offered a fresh and mouthwatering Albarino wine and two versions of their Barbera, one with and one without SO2 added. The Barberas had great fruit and acidity on the palate but a slight brettiness on the nose. They also had a blend of Merlot, Barbera and Petite Sirah that was rather dense and had some notes of ink.Kirchhoff Wines

Les Lunes & Populis

http://www.lesluneswine.com

I only tried their Chardonnay and the Rose based on Carignan. My favourite was the Chardonnay that had a rather complex expression with, racy acidity, minerals and fresh mouthwatering fruit notes. Very charming wine. The Rose also had a fresh expression and with a slight strawberry note on the palate.

Methode Sauvage Wine Co.

http://www.methodesauvage.com

This producer presented wines base on the Loire grapes Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. I was impressed by their wines that had good balance and precision but also personality. There was a clear connection with the wines from Loire. Methode Sauvage Wine Co.

Old World Winery

http://www.oldworldwinery.com

A producer based in Russian River Valley where they own and cultivate their vineyards themselves. Their wines showed great intensity on the fruit and acidity. My favourite was their Syrah wine named Flow. It had dark and dense fruit but also a precise acidity.Old World Winery

Ruth Lewandowski Wines

http://www.ruthlewandowskiwines.com

They presented a white Grenache Gris from old vines and with a oxidative style. This wine had a strong personality and for me it would require some food. They also presented a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with a rather dense and dark fruit.

The Scholium Project

http://www.scholiumwines.com

Presented two well balanced wines from very old vines of Cinsault and Zinfandel. I was surprised to notice that the Zinfandel was my favourite, showing a rather dense fruit core that was carried well by the acidity, resulting in a powerful yet fresh wine.The Scholium Project

Ser Winery

http://www.serwinery.com

Presented a fresh and forward Chardonnay dominated by its acidity, and two red wines, one Syrah and one Cabernet Pfeffer, also with an energetic acidity but also with bright fruit notes.

Stirm Wine Co.

http://www.stirmwine.com

This producer focus on Riesling wines and presented three wines from 2015 and one 2014 for comparison. I was impressed by their wines that showed great fruit notes, good personality and a rather careful but good acidity. I was also happy not to find a dominance of petroleum notes which I feared from a warm region like California.

Wine tasting at Califermentation 2016

Unturned Stone Productions

http://www.unturnedstonewine.comUnturned Stone Productions

Presented two vintages of a wine based on a Bordeaux blend. Both wines had a rather youthful character and would probably integrate better with time. There are green paprika, cedar, black fruit, but also a racy acidity and some grippy tannins. These wines and the producer will be interesting to follow.

Vinca Minor

http://www.vincaminorwine.com

Presenting one Carignan and two Cabernet Sauvignon wines. I liked the two Cabernet Sauvignon wines very much and they showed a rather dense concentration on the fruit, some green paprika and a mouthwatering acidic expression.Vinca Minor

There were a few more producers represented but unfortunately I did not get to taste them this time.

Finally I would also like to say thanks to the Califermentation team and Terroir for a great tasting.

Follow me on https://www.instagram.com/ultimatewinekick for frequent updates.

Domaine François Chidaine 2014 – Mastering both Vouvray and Montlouis

François Chidaine has built an impressive estate from his modest start in 1989 when he bought his first vineyards and took over 3 hectares from his father. Today he controls approximately 37 hectares in the Loire region, where Montlouis is dominant with 20 hectares but they also have 10 hectares in Vouvray and 7 in Touraine. His position is quite unique since few winemakers are well established in both Montlouis and Vouvray. The expansion into Vouvray came when François got the chance to take over responsibility for Philippe Poniatowskis vineyards in Vouvray and later he took over ownership. This transition was not completely smooth, but have resulted in an impressive collection of vineyards in both villages. More recently they have also bought some vineyards in southern Spain.

Quite early in his career François has been moving over to organic winemaking and eventually biodynamic, and since 2003 the Domaine is certified biodynamic. The wine is aging in 600 liters barrels of which approximately 10 percent are replaced each year. They seek to avoid getting wood notes in their wines.

In general the wins from Vouvray have a bit higher levels of acidity than the wines from Montlouis.

2013 Sauvignon Touraine

Classical Sauvignon blanc but not over the top with nettles. Fresh and pure wine with a very precise acidity. Simple but very likable and easy drinking Sauvignon blanc.

84p

2013 Touraine Rosé

Another easy drinking wine which shows quality and freshness but not complexity. An abundance of red, almost sweet, berries. Some tannic structure to give backbone to the wine.

85p

2010 Vouvray Petillant

Quite closed on the nose but still some very fresh citric notes and some exotic fruit in the background.

The wine opens up a bit more on the palate where we find grape fruit, lime, some anise and mineral notes. The bubbles are fantastic, small and soft.

This wine is quite careful in the beginning but then shows more and more personality. A quality Petillant.

91p

2012 Montlouis Methode Traditionnelle Brut

The nose is quite expressive and fruity, showing several exotic fruits.

The taste is also quite fleshy with similar fruit and some notes of bread. This is a generous sparkling wine.

90p

2013 Montlouis Clos du Breuil Sec

From vines are 50-90 years old. Residual sugar less than 1 g/l.

Fantastic freshness on the nose with light citric notes, exotic fruit and some hints of ginger.

The wine is very acidic and there is less fruit on the pallet where we also find some hints of Chenin blanc wool and fresh minerals. In the finish the acidity takes over, and in general the acidity needs to calm down a bit before the wine gets balanced.

This is a precise and fresh wine that should be stored for a while before opening.

91-92p

2012 Vouvray Les Argiles Sec

This wine is a blend from different vineyards and the terroir has clay and sand.

In this wine the fruit takes a quite dominant position on the nose, showing pineapple and other exotic fruits, but also notes of flint.

The pallet contains the same fruit but also has ha high level of acidity, especially in the finish.

A wine, which is quite fleshy and generous.

91p

2012 Vouvray Clos Baudoin

Soil of clay and limestone with vines which are approximately 70 years old.

Fresh and cool nose with lime and pineapples in a nice balance but also some flint and minerals.

The exotic fruit takes a further step forward on the palate and we also find some surprising hints of oak.

This wine shows a good balance between fresh coolness and fruit.

92p

2011 Montlouis Les Choisilles

Flint in the soil. Gives minerals and acidity.

The nose is quite dense, both from fruit but also from honey in the background. Lots of pineapple and peach but also some hints of smokiness.

Generous wine where the acidity takes a back seat to the fruit. The character is probably mainly an effect of the vintage, which produces fruity wines.

88p

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2011 Montlouis Les Bournais

Quite young vines planted around 1995, in a very attractive terroir of limestone.

The nose is fruity and expressive with lots of tropical fruit and some minerals in the backgrounds.

Very pleasant and precise acidity that combines well with the pineapple and other tropical fruits we find together with lime. The crisp acidity stays in rather long finish.

The Les Bournais is a vibrant wine where the fruit and acidity both competes and complements each other.

92p

2011 Franc de Pied Les BournaisFrançois Chidaine

Same vineyard as the last wine but from ungrafted vines, i.e. not grown on American root stocks. These vines have a very low yield. They still have phylloxera in the ground so this is quite risky.

The wine is very concentrated, not only with fruit. We find yellow apples, tropical fruit and minerals on this complex nose.

The palate is very much in sync with the nose, but has slightly less fruit. The alcohol feels rather present in the wine but with this level of density the wine does not get unbalanced. Very long long finish with fruit and minerals.

This is a fantastic wine with high level of complexity and it will be exiting to follow the future vintages.

93p

2011 Montlouis Clos Habert

Seductive nose with honey, lime, grape fruit, pineapple, and fresh minerals.

Even though the level of sugar is quite low for a Tendre, it comes trough clearly on the palate, together with the fantastic fruit and minerals. There is a slight grape bitterness in the finish.

This is a complex wine with lots of personality, especially on the nose.

91p

2010 Montlouis Les Tuffeaux (Demi-Sec)

This wine is a blend of different vineyards.

Rather careful in the beginning and the nose almost has a wateriness to it. After a while some flint, minerals and exotic fruit appear.

Fresh young pineapple, an abundance of lime and minerals and a fantastic citric acidity to back up the sweetness in the wine

This is a slim and very precise wine that need some time before it opens up completely.

91p

2007 Vouvray Le Bouchet

A quite heavy nose with honey, flint and some exotic fruit in the background.

The acidity is a bit harsh and not as precise as we would hope for. We also find honey and some citric notes.

The Les Bouchet has a strong and generous personality, but lacks some precision and elegance.

89p

François Chidaine

2010 Montlouis-sur-Loire Moelleux

Residual sugar at 40 g/l.

Very aromatic nose with an abundance of honey that transfer over to the palate where we also find high levels of acidity. These are the dominant expressions of the wine and they compete for dominance but fortunately it ends in a tie and the wine is rather well balanced.

This is a generous wine with great personality. It would work well together with food.

92p

2010 Vouvray Moelleux

Residual sugar at 70 g/l.

Dense nose with lots of honey and some ripe exotic fruit.

The acidity is amazingly precise and saves the wine from being too heavy which could have been a problem considering the density. There is much of everything in this wine.

92p

François Chidaine

2009 Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Lys

This wine is only produced when they have botrytis.

Here we find lots of apricot and some quite fresh honey on both the nose and later on the palate. There is a tingling acidity which complements the quite dense taste of honey. A complex and generous wine.

94p

Summary

François Chidaine has an amazing range of vineyards with great terroir making a tasting of their range good introduction to the region. His wines show great precision and often with strong personality. This is definitely a producer worth following closely.

Loire trip 2014: Domaine Huet – A legend in Vouvray

This is my second visit to Domaine Huet, a producer that is taking up much space in my wine cellar and has given me some fantastic Chenin Blanc experiences. The estate is one of the most internationally renowned and has done much to put Vouvray on the international wine map.

Lately much has been said and written about the departure of Noël Pinguet who ran the estate from 1976 to 2012. Many have speculated about the reason for Noël’s decision to leave earlier than first announced and how this will affect the profile of the estate. I do not have any more details in these matters, so instead I will focus on the wines tasted. Today Jean-Bernard Berthomé, who has spent more than thirty years at the estate, has taken over after Noël Pinguet.

Some short notes about the domains principles for winemaking:

  • Usually 50% of the wine is fermented in stainless steel and 50% in wood
  • Ageing in wooden barrels, where only 5% are new
  • Certified biodynamic and limit the use of SO2
  • Cold stabilize the wine to better control the fermentation process

The estate has a beautiful cellar that is approximately 30 meters below the Le Mont vineyard, and you can see the roots from the vineyard reaching down in the cellar.

Domaine Huet produce single vineyard wines from three vineyard properties. These vineyards are: Le Haut-Lieu which usually produces wines that are fruit forward and approachable, Le Mont that renders elegant and feminine wines, often with very precise acidity, and Clos du Bourg that renders wines with more structure and some power, the latter with fantastic ageing potential.

The wines tasted 

2010 Pétillant Brut

Very fruity and generous nose with lots of pears, but also some quite direct citric notes.

Quite dry in the mouth and with less fruit than on the nose.

This is a very precise and fresh pétillant with a quite accessible and welcoming nose.

89p/100

 

2007 Méthode Traditionelle Brut

Quite slim and tight nose where the citric acidity takes the lead but there are also notes of bread.

Very nice and quiet moderate mousse and a surprisingly sweet finish. A wine with a quite direct and precise acidity.

88p/100

 

1999 Méthode Traditionelle Brut

Beautiful golden colour.

The nose has an interesting mix of honey and hints of whiskey notes.

Even though it is an older vintage, the acidity is quite dominant and a bit austere. The fruit stays in the background and there are notes of wool and hints of oxidation.

I realise that this tasting note sounds quite negative, but I have to say that the wine also has lots of personality and it quite intriguing.

87-88p/100

 

2013 Le Haut Lieu Sec

They recommend a minimum of one hour of decanting for these young wines.

A quite juicy and fleshy wine both in nose and taste, with pineapple, pears and some citric notes.

The acidity first stays in the background, but in the end it takes a more dominant position and adds some grip and energy.

This is a quite careful wine that still has some character.

89p/100

 

2013 Clos du Bourg Sec

The wine has an expressive nose with lots of tropical fruit and honey in the beginning and floral notes in the background.

A similar expression also appear on the palate where we also find apples, pears and minerals.

This is a quite round and generous wine where the fruit takes the central position.

91p/100

 

2013 Le Mont Sec

The wine has a fantastic coolness over the nose and it a bit citric and floral but otherwise quite closed now.

The taste is fist dominated by lemon and acidity but there are also minerals and some fruit that comes forward after a while. There are some notes of pear and hints of exotic fruit, but mainly citrus.

The acidity is almost a bit too much now but at the same time it is extremely precise and adds energy to the wine. The wine should develop fantastically in the cellar when the acidity calms down and gets more integrated.

91-92p/100.

 

2007 Le Mont Demi-Sec

From a good vintage both in terms of quality and quantity. Residual sugar of 24g/l.

Generous nose with honey, wool, floral notes and an abundance of quite ripe exotic fruit.

Again lots of honey and pure fruit on the palate but it is also well balanced and supported by a fresh and precise acidity.

This is a fantastic wine that we could spend hours with. Depths and complexity.

93p/100

2003 Le Haut Lieu Demi-Sec

From a warm vintage which resulted in quite low levels of acidity. Residual sugar of 28 g/l.

Fantastic golden colour to the wine.

The nose is quite fleshy and very generous with notes of ripe exotic fruit and honey.

Acidity is quite low which results in a wine that is quite heavy and lacks some energy to carry the quite dense fruit notes.

88p/100

 

2009 Clos du Bourg Moelleux

Residual sugar of 55 g/l. 

Complex nose with honey, fresh plums and some floral notes. Well balanced and never too much.

A beautiful tingling acidity, dominated by lime, takes the front seat on the palate, and balances the sugar.

This wine is amazingly fresh for a Moelleux and it has a fantastic softness in the mouth. A beautiful and graceful wine with fantastic potential.

92-93p/100

 

2009 Le Mont Moelleux

Beautiful nose, which opens with honey and apricot but then also shows spicy notes like cinnamon. Intriguing and quite complex nose.

The palate begins with sweet honey notes but shortly after fresh mouthwatering lime acidity takes charge and gives the wine a fresh, long and energetic finish.

This wine never gets to fleshy and powerful. It is all about elegance, freshness and precision. A beautiful effort.

94p/100

 

2006 Clos du Bourg Moelleux Première Trie

This botrytis wine had been kept in a decanter for more than a week when we tried it.

Both nose and palate is dominated by a sweet and rather dense honey. Acidity is calm and tingling and gives a backbone to the wine.

A very rich and generous wine of which you only can take small sips at a time. It has complexity and charm but lacks some precision.

90-91p/100

2003 Le Haut Lieu Moelleux Premiere Trie 

Residual sugar of 85 g/l.

There are clear notes of wool, jam, honey, cinnamon and other spices on this generous nose.

Dense and thick on the palate with lots of honey. This wine is more about complexity than freshness and elegance.

91-92p/100

 

Summary

A tasting at Domaine Huet is always a fantastic experience where you get the chance to make a journey through vintages and vineyards. I have very high regards for Huet and their wines, which are elegant, of high quality and transparent to their origin.

This visit was another positive experience and I am looking forward to returning in the future.

Loire trip 2014: Domaine Vincent Carême – A young challenger in Vouvray

This young estate was founded in 1999 and has quickly made a name for itself as an important domain in Vouvray. The owners; Vincent and Tania Carême, met in Tania’s home country, South Africa, where Vincent gained some of his experience before establishing the estate. Their vineyards are partly bought and partly inherited from Vincent’s parents.


The estate is certified organically and our visit coincided with a visit from the auditor who joined us in the visits to the vineyards, of which the most famous is Le Clos, situated directly behind the estate.

Approximately half of the production is sparkling wine, which is produced either with “méthode traditionnelle” (using a second fermentation in the bottle) or “ancestrale” (made in one single fermentation, where the fermentation is paused by decreasing the temperature during bottling, and then finished in the bottle). The latter method requires good control over the temperature in the cellar. The domain’s ancestrale sparkling is produced from older vines. 

The wines tasted

 

2012 Brut

From clay and flint, limestone subsoil and with 6 g/l residual sugar.
Pleasant apricot and pears on the quite fruity nose.

The wine has quite high levels of acidity, but it does not get too dominant. Very fresh and citric taste, mainly from lime, in this quite slim body. The mousse has a nice creaminess.

This is an elegant and slim wine.

89p/100

2011 Ancestrale

From clay and flint, limestone subsoil and with 5,4 g/l residual sugar.

The nose is crisp and not very generous at the moment. There are some careful notes of fruit, minerals and hints of bread.

The acidity gets quite dominant in the beginning but after a while pear and pineapple appear and complements the citric notes.

An extremely precise and acidic sparkling wine with a fantastic mousse.

90p/100

2013 Sec

This is a blend from different vineyards and the wine is aged in wooden barrels for eight months, with no new wood. The wine has 7 g/l residual sugar.

Amazingly fresh nose with quite careful fruit of lime, pineapple and orange.

The acidity is quite round but enough to give energy to the wine. Similar fruit on the palate, but the lime was replaced with lemon.

This is a very precise, slim and beautiful wine.

90p/100

2012 Le Peu Morier

From soil of clay and flint and with 2 g/l residual sugar. Nine months on wooden barrels, of which 10 percent are new.

A quite fruity and expressive nose with exotic fruit and some apples and floral notes in the background.

In the taste, I also find apricot, some slight notes of lime, minerals and hints of flint and wood. There is enough acidity to balance the fruit but it stays in the background.

This is a quite precise Chenin Blanc with a very nice nose.

89p/100

2011 Le Clos

The soil in Le Clos contains clay and limestone and the wine is aged 12 months in wood of which 20 percent are new. The Le Clos usually has between 6-30 g/l residual sugar, depending on vintage. This vintage is at 22 g/l.

The nose is all about freshness and in the beginning, the fruit is very careful. After a while some young apples and lime appear.

The palate opens up with soft lemon and lime notes together with minerals, and after a while, some exotic fruits joins in. In the finish, there are slight notes of oak, which hopefully will disappear with time.

A very elegant and precise wine where the fruit is discrete but very fresh.

90p/100

2006 Le Clos

This wine has 20 g/l residual sugar.

Quite expressive nose with ripe exotic fruit combined with citric notes, which gives a very pleasant first impression of the wine.

The taste is round with hints of honey and juicy ripe pineapple, and in the background there is a soft tingling acidity that evolves in the finish.

The 2006 Le Clos is an open and generous wine, which has a good balance between acidity and some ripe fruit. Quite complex and with personality.

92p/100

2009 Moelleux Le Clos

This wine has 45 g/l residual sugar.

A nose dominated by fresh honey and some apricot, but also beautiful floral notes develops after some time in the glass.

A great taste where the honey is accompanied by fresh lime and minerals. The acidity is very precise and citric but never dominates.

Fantastic wine with a very fresh and energetic expression even with this much sugar. Denseness and purity in a great combination.

93p/100

2003 Domaine de la Haute Borne, Moelleux Premiér Trie

From before the Domaine name was changed to Careme.

The honey and sugar dominate both the nose and the taste in this wine. There is also apricot and some alcohol. This is a very dense and juicy wine where the acidity plays a smaller role and stays in the background.

There is much complexity to this wine but for me it lacks some fresh acidity to balance the power.

90-91p/100

Summary

This is clearly an estate capable of producing top quality Chenin Blanc with fantastic purity and precision. It will be interesting to see how the wines develop with time, since they have all the characteristics for a long life. Personally, I would prefer not to find any notes of wood in the wines since this removes some of the purity and transparency. Still it has to be said that the wood never got dominant.

I am looking forward to follow the development of this interesting and welcoming estate.

Loire trip 2014: Philippe Foreau – A master of Chenin Blanc

Philippe Foreau

Of the Domaines I know in Vouvray, I consider Philippe Foreau to be the one with the clearest profile, conviction and mission. He knows exactly the expression he wants in his wines and how to achieve this. The wines are always fresh, vibrant and express the vintage and terroir.

Domaine du Clos Naudin has for a long time been firmly established as one of the absolute top Domaines in the Vouvray and Loire region. Philippe Foreau took over in 1983 and is the third generation heading the Domain his grandfather bought in 1923.

In our meeting, Philippe mentioned several rules he adhere to in his winemaking. Below are some of the most important:

  • Very limited usage of new wood. Philippe add approximately 4% new barrels each year and the barrels are used for up to 25 years. Bottling is always done before next summer after the harvest, to ensure the wood does not affect the wine too much and produce fat wines. Philippe tells us that “Chenin Blanc likes wood but you need to be very careful”
  • The wine never go through malolactic fermentation, since he want to keep an acidic and vibrant expression.
  • Philippe always adapt to the vintage and only produce sweet wines if the grapes of the vintage allows it, meaning that the grapes need high levels of both sugar and acidity. The acidity has to be there to ensure the wines do not get heavy and dull. 

In our discussion, Philippe returns several times to the importance of freshness and energy and he tells us that his wines have a very long life in a bottle but after opening, the wine should be consumed as fast as possible since they can be fragile and lose the important freshness. Philippe also tells us that he does not want his wines decanted, for the same reason. Philippe is known for his ability to pair food and wine, and during the tasting he gives several suggestions of food pairing, which we also have included in the notes below. 

The wines tasted

2010 Brut

From quite young vines and with residual sugar of 5 g/l.

Fresh and quite citric expression with lemon, lime and some pears.

The taste is very much in line with the nose, again with lime, pears and some yellow apple. It also has a fresh mouthwatering acidity and the mousse is quite rich and very pleasant.

Despite the high level of citric fresh acidity, this is a well-balanced and beautiful wine. Recommended as aperitif or with seafood.

91p/100

2007 Brut Réserve

From a mix of vineyards.

Quite rich and round and with fresh apricot and some biscuit.

Very aromatic palate with fruit, almond and minerals in well-balanced proportions. This wine is very rich and dense without getting fat and heavy. It has both complexity, personality and energy.

This gastronomic wine would be good with smoked salmon and can be stored for approximately 15 years in a good cellar.

92p/100

2012 Sec

In their Sec wines, the residual sugar level is always 3 g/l.

Fresh citric nose that also contains marzipan, pears and some floral notes. A pleasant and generous introduction to the wine.

The palate is quite citric with crisp acidity and some fresh fruit. In the background, I find hints of sea salt and minerals. The minerals stay in the finish together with some plums.

This is a very precise and vibrant wine, dominated by very good acidity

90p/100

2005 Sec

Residual sugar level of 3 g/l.

A nose with almond, floral notes, some careme brûlée and pears. Quite unexpected nose for a Foreau wine but the warm vintage probably had much to do with the expression.

Round and dense on the palate and with very juicy fruit. The acidity is grippy and has notes of lemon. The wine leaves a long trail with fruit and acidity.

This wine stood out in our tasting since it is quite generous and dense, especially on the nose. For me it is not a classical Foreau wine and I lack some crispness in the acidity, but instead it offers a complex palate and nose.

89-90p/100

2005 Demi-Sec

Residual sugar of 20 g/l.

We tried two different bottles of this wine, since Philippe was not pleased with the first bottle that had been open for 3 days. The first bottle was a bit heavy and the sugar had a more dominant position. The tasting note below is for the second bottle.

Very precise and vibrant nose with etheric and floral notes and fresh tropical fruit and apples. There are some slightly artificial notes on the fruit, reminding me of pear ice cream.

Very strong acidic core that is precise and energetic and gives a fantastically fresh expression to the wine. On the palate, I also find lime, pineapple, fresh honey and some peppery notes. There is also an abundance of minerals in this wine. The finish is long and driven by the acidity.

This fantastic wine has both a vibrant energy and complexity.

92p/100

2010 Moelleux

Residual sugar of 60 g/l and produced with the passerillage method, where the weather “dry” the berries and concentrate the sugar but also the acidity.

A nose driven by a very fresh acidic expression, where I also find perfume, white flowers, beeswax and some oranges and pears. Beautiful and expressive nose.

Crispy lime and lemon acidity dominates the mid palate and pushes the wine forward, but the acidity is also complemented by some juicy exotic fruit and beeswax.

An elegant and fresh Moelleux that never gets heavy by the sugar. A gastronomic wine that would go well with duck.

93-94p/100

2009 Moelleux

Residual sugar of 80 g/l. There is a touch of botrytis in this wine.

The nose is quite dense with quite fresh honey, peach, orange rind, and some floral notes. Much more dense than the 2010, but not with the same freshness.

Amazing mid palate with pear, apple and a tingling fresh acidity, but also good structure and grip.

This is a beautiful and complex wine, which is generous and has a very long finish. Could benefit from a bit more pronounced acidity.

This is a dessert wine that would go well with apple pie or a Gorgonzola. Philippe tells us that after approximately 10 more years the wine will develop notes of white truffle.

93p/100

1989 Moelleux Réserve

This is a botrytis wine with residual sugar of 140 g/l.

The wine has a brilliant golden colour.

Complex aromas of dried apricot, orange marmalade, soft honey tones, exotic spices, ginger, and some hits of dill. The nose has so many layers and complexity that you could spent hours before taking your first sip.

The acidity starts as a tingling sensation in the mid palate but then evolves into an energetic driver in the finish. I have never before experienced a wine where the acidity changes character this much during the tasting. The palate is similar to the nose with lots of flavors.

The wine has different phases, starting with a complex nose, continuing with a soft honey-driven mid palate and finishes with a fantastic acidity. A truly amazing wine that has a very long life ahead.

95-96/100p

Summary

I am very impressed with the wines of Philippe Foreau who without a doubt is a leader in the region. As mentioned previously Philippe Foreau is a producer with a very clear profile and expression in his wines. The average level of his wines is very high and the peaks are amazing. The wines also has a great ageing potential and I would recommend anyone to build a cellar of his wines.

Loire trip 2014: Champalou – A family estate delivering both quality and personality

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 sparkling wine is a mix of three different vintages (2008, 2009 and 2010) and the grapes are from vineyards with soil where chalk and clay are dominant.

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.

89p/100

 

2013 Vouvray

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.

89p/100

 

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.

87p/100

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.

92p/100

 

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.

94p/100

2003 Les Tries 

From a selection of the Limestone soils, like Les Fondraux, and fermented in the old barrels. A botrytis wine with residual sugar of 180 g/l.

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.

92p/100

 

Summary

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.