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François Chidaine 2005 Vouvrays and Montlouis blindtasted

July 26, 2010

FRANÇOIS CHIDAINE 2005 VOUVRAYS AND MONTLOUIS BLINDTASTED – Tom’s House, Palo Alto, CA (7/22/2010)


Chenin Blanc has to be the most versatile of grapes. Its high acidity lends itself to making not only sparkling wines, but dry whites, as well as semi-dry and sweet whites. And in the hands of a great winemaker like Chidaine, Chenin Blancs from different plots in the same year can show a kaleidoscope of different colors and flavor profiles.

Vouvray has been a prime region for Chenin Blanc, known locally as Pineau de la Loire, since the 9th century. Montlouis-sur-Loire is located just across the Loire River from Vouvray and was long considered part of Vouvray until Vouvray received AOC status in 1936. Montlouis was granted its own AOC in 1937. François Chidaine is one of the stars of this region. François worked alongside his father Yves for many years before taking over early in this decade. He uses all organic techniques and the domaine is certified organic, although Chidaine refuses to mention this on his label. The Chidaine estate totals 44 acres spanning both Montlouis and Vouvray.

Ross Bott provided us with a horizontal of the 2005 Chidaines plus the ’04 Les Choisilles. The 2005 vintage had nearly perfect weather, somewhat warmer than average, and Vouvrays that year were rich, ripe and classic, rivaling some of the great Vouvray vintages such as 1990 and 1976.

In the order that the group ranked the different bottlings below, here’s a little background on whether they are vineyard sites or just names of cuvées that Chidaine produces:
• Les Bournais, the bottling that came in first for the group and second for me, is a newly planted site overlooking the Loire. It had been abandoned for some time, but Chidaine believes it is one of the very best sites in Montlouis, and planted vines here in 1999. Unlike most of Montlouis, which is on clay and silex, or flint, Bournais lies on clay and limestone, and the name Bournais refers to the particular type of limestone found here.
• Les Tuffeaux is usually a “vin tendre,” i.e., between a sec and demi-sec, made with grapes from all of Chidaine’s vineyards and selected by ripeness level. It can be round and aromatic, or rich and powerful, according to the vintage.
• Clos Habert is in two parts, one about 25 years old, with the rest 60-80 years old, and Chidaine uses these vines to make a tendre style of Montlouis with balance and minerality, usually around 20 g/l of residual sugar.
• Le Bouchet is a vineyard in Vouvray, of which Chidaine has 5 acres, half of which are young vines, while the rest are 70 to 80 years old. The wines tend to be rich, dense and voluptuous demi-secs.
• Clos du Breuil includes several plots spread over more than 8 and a half acres, the vines averaging about 40 years old, although the oldest are 80 years old, and this is always made as a dry wine, or sec, racy and minerally. It is a reference point for the Chidaine line up.
• Clos Baudoin is a 7.4 acre site containing 70-year-old vines that previously belonged to Prince Poniatowski until he first rented it to Chidaine in 2002, and then sold it to Chidaine in 2006. It is now thought to be Chidaine’s greatest site.
• Les Argilles, my number one bottling in this blindtasting, is sourced from 40-year-old vines from various plots surrounding Clos Baudoin. Chidaine vinifies this dry, usually at around 4 g/l of residual sugar.
• Les Choisilles is a cuvée blended from old vines. It is named after a type of black flint called choisille.

Chidaine first presses the grapes using pneumatic equipment before transferring to demi-muids (occasionally smaller barrels may be used) for vinification, using only ambient, or indigenous, yeasts. Here the wines undergo alcoholic fermentation, while malolactic fermentation is not encouraged. They then remain for typically 12 months of élevage on the lees before bottling.

Pre-tasting blind wines

We started our tasting with three blind wines, which turned out to include a Sancerre, a Savennières and one of Chidaine’s sparkling Chenins. The group and I preferred the Chidaine. The inclusion of the Savennières led Chez TJ Wine Director Suzanne Chowla, who was with us, to share the interesting factoid that Savennières is known among sommeliers as the single most often returned wine in the world, even in France. She attributed this dubious distinction to the fact that it often shows funky notes on the nose and on the palate, much like our Baumard did in this pre-tasting.

  • 2005 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol – France, Loire Valley, Upper Loire, Sancerre
    Very light yellow color; hops, mineral nose with a bit of cat pee; funky, cat pee, grapefruit palate; short-medium finish (82 pts.)
  • 2004 Domaine des Baumard Savennières – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières
    Light lemon yellow color; reduction, tart cabbage, mineral nose; mineral, tart citrus, tart cream palate; short-medium finish 86+ pts. (86 pts.)
  • N.V. François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Méthode Traditionelle – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire
    Medium golden color; apple, tart baked apple nose; tangy, tart apple, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)

My TNs and group scoring

The group and I parted company with respect to our favorites in this flight, but we all agreed that this was a lovely bunch of Chenin Blancs that served to remind us all of the potential glories of the varietal. The biggest surprise for me in the group scoring was that my favorite, the dry “Les Argiles,” the bottling in which I thought it all came together for Chidaine in ’05, was the 7th ranked wine for the group. The group seemed to prefer the sweeter versions, such as the “Les Bournais,” which I liked a lot too (my 2nd ranked wine). We all agreed that the ’04 wasn’t holding up very well, and seemed weak in comparison to the ’05s, and the Clos Baudoin, surprisingly, didn’t show well for me or the group, probably due to quite a bit of reduction on the nose and palate. One of the most fascinating wines in the flight to me, with its powerful nose of powdered ginger, and ginger and tart pear on the palate, is an annual reference point for the Chidaine line up, the Clos du Breuil, which I rated a strong 93 points.

Whether in the dry style or sweet (and semi-sweet), these are clearly very well made wines, with concentration, complexity and luscious fruit, as well as good minerality. And at prices still ranging from the low- to high $20s, these wines are incredible values too.


  • 2005 François Chidaine Vouvray Les Bournais – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Group’s #1 (my #2) – 20 pts; 2 firsts, 3 seconds, 1 third, 0 last places – light golden yellow color; white flower, pear, jasmine, ginger nose; pear, rich, ripe apple, white flower, apricot palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Tuffeaux – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire
    Group’s #2 (my #6) – 26 pts.; 1, 1, 4, 0 – light golden yellow color; rich tart apple, floral, tart pear, mineral, quince nose; lanolin, ripe, juicy, peach, quince, mineral, pear nectar, chalk palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos Habert – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire
    Group’s #3 (my #5) – 32 pts.; 1, 1, 1, 0 – light golden yellow color; slightly oxidized, pear, hazelnut, dried apple nose; focused, ripe pear, apple, juicy, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2005 François Chidaine Vouvray Le Bouchet – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Group’s #4 (my #4) – 33 pts.; 2, 1, 0, 0 – light medium golden yellow color; a little oxidized, browning apple, floral nose; ripe, juicy apple, baked apple, baked pear, mineral palate, much better than suggested by the nose; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos du Breuil – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire
    Group’s #5 (my #3) – 37 pts.; 0, 1, 1, 0 – very light golden yellow color; strong dose of ginger, powdered ginger, green pear nose; tart pear, ginger, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2005 François Chidaine Vouvray Sec Clos Baudoin – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Group’s #6 (my #8) – 38 pts.; 1, 1, 0, 1 – light medium golden yellow color; reduction, grapefruit rind, green tea nose; reduction, tart citrus, tart pear, ripe lemon, mineral palate; medium finish (I liked this wine much better when I tasted it a couple of times a few years ago) (87 pts.)
  • 2005 François Chidaine Vouvray Les Argiles – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Group’s #7 (my #1) – 45 pts.; 1, 0, 1, 2 – light medium golden yellow color; nice lemon, lemon rind nose with a touch of honey; tasty, very poised, mature, tart lemon, juicy, tart pear, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
  • 2004 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Choisilles – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire
    Group’s #8 (my #7) – 57 pts.; 0, 0, 0, 5 – light medium golden yellow color; reduction, hazelnut, mineral nose; reduction, tart citrus, hazelnut, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)
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One Comment leave one →
  1. David Bueker permalink
    July 26, 2010 4:42 pm

    Richard,

    Thank you for the interesting posting. I first discovered Chidaine with the 2005 vintage, and own most of the wines you sampled, thus the notes are very valuable data points for me. It’s too bad you did not have the ’05 Choisilles, as that is a lovely wine deserving to sit along side the rest of the ’05 line up.

    A comparitive tasting of the ’05 Huet wines would make for a fascinating follow up.

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