Chenin & Muscadet - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Chenin & Muscadet

93             Château de Bois-Brinçon     $35     2019 Anjou Terre de Grès Blaison
Last October, Xavier Cailleau was excited to show this visitor the highland cattle he keeps on his property—ten adults and a calf. He likes the energy they bring to the domaine. He and his wife, Géraldine, have practiced biodynamics since 2009, going so far as to return composted must to the parcel from which it came. This 2019 offers its own wild energy in a chewy texture and fresh aromas. A natty edge adds complexity around the edges, and, though all my notes make it sound rich (lemon caramel, honeyed pear, blonde taffy without the sweetness), the overall impression is of an elegant rusticity, combining white mushrooms and apple cider in the way great chenins can. This one, from vines averaging 50 years old, presents a patchwork of complexity—not unlike the way the vines and the cattle inhabit the same ground at the Cailleaus’ estate. Schatzi Wines, Milan, NY

93             Saget la Perrière     $23     2018 Vouvray Marie de Beauregard
A top selection from an estate near the village of Vouvray, this wine is opulent and suffused with floral aromas—it reminded me of viognier before the acidity slapped me in the face and made me call it chenin. It weaves pear-blossom florals and spiced, poached pear richness together in a shifting tapestry. Concentrated and ripe as a young wine, this could use more time in bottle to firm up the stitch. When it comes to dinner, treat it like a fully dry chenin, a match for a floral, washed-rind cheese. Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, FL

92             Château de Montfort     $22     2020 Vouvray
A distinct salinity seasons the floral pear richness in this chenin, the alcohol imbuing the wine with energy. It feels healthy and vivacious, with threads of flavors bound up in a cord. It's fun to try to unravel those threads—orchid bloom, candied lemon, beeswax richness—and while there is sweetness, the energy overpowers it, making it barely perceptible by the finish. Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, FL

91             Domaine Vincent Carême     $37     2018 Vouvray Plaisir Ancestral
Dark, honeyed-pear flavors fill out this buxom sparkler. The “ancestral” fermentation leaves some sweetness to deepen the flavors, even as the wine is well structured by its acidity. A leesy apple-skin crunch makes it seem golden—like the late afternoon sun—and it would be wholesome and pleasurable to enjoy at sunset. Cape Classics, NY

91             Maison Darragon     $18     2020 Vouvray Le Haut des Ruettes Chenin Blanc
The Darragon family have been making wine in Vouvray since 1761. Their latest demi-sec chenin has good length and attractive honeyed-pear, pâte-de-fruits richness in the finish. There’s some reductive funk that blows off—give it an aggressive decant in a Mason jar to introduce friends to friendly chenin. Kindred Vines, Troy, MI

91             Fabien Duveau     $29     2020 Saumur-Champigny St-Cyr La Hunaudière
Rustically satisfying, this wine's Meyer lemon and floral aromas leap from the glass, its texture as rich as honeycomb. The wine smells like a new pack of blackboard chalk, offering minerality to balance the richness, aided by faint, measured tannins. Pour it next to Arctic char, either roasted on one side until the skin is crispy or served raw. Schatzi Wines, Milan, NY

91             Domaine Laffourcade     $27     2018 Savennieres
Pascal Laffourcade acquired vines in Savennières in 1988. Thirty years on, he captured something arresting in this wine’s pear flavors—the intrigue of Savennières, the particular way it marries ripping acidity with honey, bruised apple and button-mushroom flavors. Pour it with a creamy mushroom soup. Shiverick Imports, Los Angeles, CA

90             Boutinot     $23     2020 Vouvray Les Coteaux Tufiers
Ginger-tinged, juicy pear fruit abounds in this wholesome chenin, and energetic acidity drives the finish towards delicate Fuji apple. Boutinot USA, Sanford, FL

90             Maison Darragon     $18     2020 Vouvray Les Tuffes Chenin Blanc
Fatty pear richness grapples with a linear acidity in this dry Vouvray. It’s tightly wound around that power; as it uncoils, it reveals a fresh, zesty and slightly floral chenin that can match the richness of a double-crème cheese or a vichyssoiseKindred Vines, Troy, MI

90             Pascal Janvier     $24     2020 Jasnières
Pretty white floral aromas aren't lost amid the concentrated apple and waxy-honey texture in this chenin from Jasnières, north of Tours. Wild lemon flavors make the profile more rustic, with the freshness of Pink Lady apples in the finish that would be delectable next to fresh scallops. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

88             Armand David     $23     2019 Saumur L'Enchanteur
This wine shows off chenin’s tropical side, with fleshy coconut and pineapple flavors, and a tense mango-juice buzz. JP Bourgeois, Asheville, NC

89             La Fille Couillaud     $15     2020 Val de Loire Bernier Chardonnay
This chardonnay offers lean floral notes ahead of its fruit. Its finish gets richer, pulling the apple flavors towards apple butter, deepening them with the richness of coconut meat. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL
91             Alain de la Treille     $16     2020 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
Here’s a Muscadet bursting with stone-fruit flavors—apricot, peach and nectarine. Some skin contact firms up its texture, while the citrusy acidity and floral notes peek through around the edges. It’s ready for the subtle sweetness of fresh shellfish, gently prepared. Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, VA

90             Saget la Perrière     $16     2019 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Les Clissages d'Or
This is satisfying summer wine, ready for a hard chill. Its flavors of whole lemon and lemon curd would be great for creamy Pacific oysters hauled out of the same cooler as the wine, some briny refreshment in the August sun. Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, FL
95             Fournier Père & Fils     $45     2020 Sancerre Grande Cuvée La Chaudouillonne
This wine grows in the caillottes soils around Verdigny, northwest of the village of Sancerre. This 2020 is floral-first, leading with scents of apple blossom, hydrangeas and foxglove. Peek behind the flowers, though, and you find crystalline lemon fruit—the tart-and-sweet impression of dried candied lemon peel. Along its impressive length, that flavor coalesces towards lemongrass. Among a number of unusually floral 2020 Sancerres, this wine stood out for it structure, with acidity that rides into the finish, delightfully refreshing. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

94             Fournier Père & Fils     $55     2020 Sancerre Caillottes
A selection from vineyards with small white limestone caillottes under the vines; those stones reflect sunlight back on the bunches, which Fournier credits with hastening ripeness. Deeply savory, this sauvignon blanc integrates its pyrazines with citrus notes, producing something reminiscent of a savory lemon-and-rosemary jam, rich but not sweet. The wine has length, the flavors dancing from yellow daisies to pink cherry blossom. A firm and stony Sancerre, this is a wine to open alongside a peppery fish dish in a rich sauce. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

93             Fournier Père & Fils     $28     2020 Menetou-Salon Côtes de Morogues Blanc
Menetou-Salon has long played second fiddle to Sancerre, the appellation just to the west. Yet this wine, from the clay-rich soils in the Kimmeridgian hills of Morogues, harmonizes green florals and rich fruit in a way that manages to feel generous, yet restrained. The wine invites you to sit with it and think, rewarding patient tasters with blossoming lemon thyme, juicy pineapple fruit and silky lemon curd. The flavors come through as clearly on the fourth day open as they did on the first, precise and lasting, suggesting this wine will only improve with a few years in the cellar. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

93             Domaine Roger Neveu     $29     2020 Sancerre Côtes des Embouffants
This wine grows on a steep, south-facing hillside where, in 2020, it held its acidity well, sustaining a tense structure as well as evocative floral aromas, like hydrangeas in bloom. Some time with air exposes a tree-bark scent to accompany that perfume. Over the course of a few days, the aromas extend further into the finish, pointing up the juicy core of fruit, like a perfectly ripe pear, eager to get out of its own skin, the flesh almost leaping into your mouth. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

93             Domaine Pellé     $30     2019 Menetou-Salon Morogues Le Carroir
Directly east of Menetou-Salon, the village of Morogues has a high proportion of Kimmeridgian limestone. But Paul-Henry Pellé’s parcel grows in silex soils, the vines planted in 1976. In the heat of 2019, those vines produced an opulent, strikingly golden white, with faint notes of Cognac spice and brandied cherry, its nutty leesiness fed through a large-oak-cask amplifier. The weight and richness feels Old World, pre–climate change, before richness was a viticultural hazard. Sit with it and let the flavorful echoes resonate: Lemon jam with clove and ginger, spiced apples slathered in butter. Try it with Pink Lady apples, or a Honeycrisp tarte tatin. Polaner, Mount Kisco, NY

92             J. de Villebois     $45     2018 Pouilly-Fumé Marnes Kimméridgiennes
The soils in which this wine grows seem to have imbued it with a savory breadth, revealed in notes of almond skin and cedar. Its decadent, crumbly-rich texture reminded one taster of shortbread, though its fleshy dragonfruit flavors are neatened up by a piercing acidity. Keep it cold to help manage the alcohol, and serve it next to mole negroVineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

92             J. de Villebois     $66     2020 Sancerre Les Bouffants
This wine grows on the eastern end of a steep limestone hillside; the western end of the hill, on the other side of Chavignol, is the famed Les Monts Damnés. This bottling shows its pedigree in the balance of its fresh, peppy acidity and grassy-green savor. There's layers of fruit—pear, guava and Honeycrisp apple—strong enough to stand up to a pork and ginger stir-fry. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

91             Domaine des Berthiers     $34     2020 Pouilly-Fumé Saint Andelain
This ripe Pouilly-Fumé has an icy edge to it, its rich lemon-tart flavors lined by a red fruit blush of pomegranate. There's a progression to it, as the fruit gets darker and darker while the wine holds onto its high-toned grassy flavors. Its cool clarity called to mind a moonlit winter night, bright enough to walk through the woods without a flashlight, the moonlight reflecting off the snow. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

91             Domaine des Berthiers     $40     2019 Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée d'Eve
Smoky mineral reduction and leesiness structure this wine, holding your attention through to the finish: clean orchard fruit with some delicate florals and winter spice. It's hearty wine, to be taken from the cellar during dark winter days to sate a taste for summer. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

91             J. de Villebois     $18     2020 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc
Zippy flavors of green apple and passion fruit play on top of a firm base of spice, alcohol and minerality. Floral citrus accents are a nice bonus for a wine at this price, and a slight salinity makes this punch above its weight class. Pour it with whole shrimp fried in chile-laced oil. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

91             J. de Villebois     $26     2020 Quincy
Quincy's vineyards are planted in vast fields, flatlands formerly devoted to grain. This wine’s grassiness comes up behind rich lemon flavors to keep it from outright simplicity—an easygoing country pleasure for a crowd gathered over a cheese and charcuterie board. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

91             J. de Villebois     $53     2020 Sancerre Les Silex
This is a modern Sancerre, the fruit so ripe, and the acidity textured like juicy pineapple. That might lead you to expect the flavors to go tropical, but they stay entirely in white-fleshed pear and blossoming orchards. It's certainly not lean, but its lightning-rod acidity certainly comes from Sancerre. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

91             Domaine Denizot     $45     2018 Sancerre Damocles Côte de l'Epée
This is rich, round and ambitious Sancerre from Thibauld and Jennifer Denizot, its textures amplified by the time it spent in a mix of 600L demi-muids and 350L cigare barrels (elongated to maximize lees contact). Their 2018 is slightly tannic, with rich lemon and molasses flavors. Its aromas kept reminding me of chardonnay, but there was no mistaking the yellow fruit and linear acidity of sauvignon, finishing here on vanilla and Marcona-almond richness. Schatzi Wines, Milan, NY

91             Fournier Père & Fils     $55     2020 Sancerre Silex
Here's an elegant Sancerre, structuring itself around a firm through line of acidity. There's yellowish fruit to be had, but this is more about its chalky minerality, its quiet staying power coasting along with impressive length. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

91             Domaine Pellé     $30     2020 Menetou-Salon Morogues Vignes de Ratier
This is a weighty white from Henry Pellé's 12-acre plot in Morogues, the vines planted in 20 inches of topsoil over the Kimmeridgian marl bedrock. Its flavors approach apple cider spiced with vanilla, clove and cinnamon. The wine seems dark and brooding up front, then its acidity zips down the center and unfurls the rest of the flavors: floral lemon and toffee. That acidity has plenty of energy to age, so best to give this wine a few more years to settle into itself and show more detail. Polaner, Mount Kisco, NY

91             Domaine Tinel-Blondelet     $33     2020 Pouilly-Fumé Genetin
There's something dramatic and campy about this ripe Pouilly-Fumé, as its explosion of flavors reminded me of rolling out a red carpet from a limo door, or a ballgown settling down after a waltz. Indeed, our panel found the finish to be the most exciting part about the wine, hiding passion fruit and cherimoya flavors behind its golden aromas. Bring it to dim sum to capitalize on its versatile balance of ripeness and acidity alongside the full spread. Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, VA

90             J. de Villebois     $21     2020 Touraine Vieilles Vignes Sauvignon Blanc
Pineapple flavors are given crunch by the variety's green notes—as if pineapple tops made it into your smoothie for a rosemary-like kick. That spice makes the wine lively, though rich, and it holds that note for a pretty long time. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

90             J. de Villebois     $66     2020 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés
Replete with shifting flavors, this shows progression along its substantial length, bright, grassy citrus notes mellowing out to a red-tinged apple finish, all flecked by minty pyrazines. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

90             Fournier Père & Fils     $18     2020 Vin de France Sauvignon Blanc
Lemony and green at first, this opens with air into a firm, tightly-packed tropically-inflected sauvignon blanc. It balances the variety’s proclivity for fruit (golden papaya and pineapple) with enough greenness (banana leaf) to lend it a practiced ease. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

90             Fournier Père & Fils     $45     2019 Pouilly-Fumé Grande Cuvée
The aromas of this wine are pineapple-sweet and coconut-rich, even as the austerity of the acidity gives the wine a humming energy, like an electrical transformer. That stored energy of the vintage focuses the wine on lemon, spice and minerality. Youthfully vibrant, this could develop with a year or two of bottle age. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

90             Fournier Père & Fils     $34     2020 Sancerre Les Vignes au Moulin
This wine is floral, with a chewy texture and lean structure, and some sweetness in the finish that might be tamed next to a spicy dish. The yellow fruit flavors lack detail, but are charming all the same, like a shelter mutt who's a very good boy. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

90             Fournier Père & Fils     $65     2020 Sancerre Clos du Roc
With its brash opening of prickly acidity, this wine’s greenness ranges from peppercorn to marijuana, but there's some detail behind the wall of green, finishing on delicate underripe pear. Show this sauvignon who's boss with a thick Tuscan white bean stew, flavorful and rich, and let the two clash, like Godzilla and Mothra. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

90             Fournier Père & Fils     $65     2020 Sancerre Les Bouffants
Firm and grassy, this wine's flavors might remind you of imported tropical fruit, picked before it was completely ripe—a Sancerre caught between green and tropically rich. The wine has good length; it's a burly, sun-ripened wine, but it holds its Old-World character nonetheless, with delicate florals in the finish. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT
93             Alain de la Treille     $25     2020 Chinon Cabernet Franc
Noël Bougrier and his son, Nicolas, manage this expansive estate of 247 acres across the Loire Valley. Lionel Métaireau makes the wines, including this textbook cabernet franc. The violet color might catch your eye before you even smell the slightly herbal, red-fruited aromas. “Chinon is like Bordeaux light,” one taster said, describing how the flavors dance from plum skin to cassis, to game, earth and tobacco, all with a delicacy that speaks of the village’s cool conditions. Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, VA

92             Domaine Xavier et Agnès Amirault     $43     2017 St-Nicolas de Bourgueil Le Fondis
The Amiraults' domaine has been Demeter-certified since 2013, including this vineyard planted in deep gravel over clay. There’s something warming about this wine’s fruit—Bing cherry and orange peel—that’s accentuated by spice flavors like clove and green peppercorn. It’s earthy and comforting, for a winter night cozied up under a blanket by a crackling fire. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

92             Bernard Baudry     $33     2019 Chinon Les Grézeaux
From a vineyard in the alluvial gravels close to the Vienne river, this wine ages in cement vats before bottling. Musky at first, its arresting fruit and acidity will hold your attention long enough to notice the complexity, its savory varietal notes verging on pu-erh tea, framed by soft, pine-scented tannins. The powerful structure shows the heat of the vintage, but the flavors show some restraint. It starts to come together quickly, and should hold its aromas for years to come. It has an endearing cabernet franc foxiness, to bring to your Jersey uncle’s backyard, for his braccioli. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

91             Bernard Baudry     $57     2017 Chinon La Croix Boissée
This Chinon has cabernet franc's frankness in spades, carrying a slightly stinky funk. But soon after the first sip, a rush of opulent red fruit flavors crash over your palate, that stinkiness faint in the background, adding pickling-spice interest. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

91             Château de Bois-Brinçon     $27     2017 Anjou La Seigneurie Chemellier
If you don’t mind the cabernet franc stinkiness in the aromas, there’s plenty to enjoy in this wine’s graphite and crunchy strawberry leaf and cherry-jam flavors. That herbal character holds throughout the wine, a fruity cab franc with rustic spice. Schatzi Wines, Milan, NY

91             Fabien Duveau     $50     2019 Saumur-Champigny Les Hauts Poyeux
This wine’s deep savor and olive flavors reminded The Modern’s Jonathan Eichholz of the Rhône. Indeed, the fruit has the softness of Gigondas, but the perfumed minerality and cabernet-franc spice speak clearly of the Loire, making this an intriguing expression of its place. Schatzi Wines, Milan, NY

91             Langlois-Château     $34     2018 Saumur-Champigny Vieilles Vignes Rouge
Acidity brightens the cherry jam flavors in this wine, the tannins doing their part by amping up the fruit-skin flavors, coming together in a richness almost like a cherry pie filling. It's satisfying, spiced with clove and it feels like a dieter's trick—all the cherry pie flavor you love with none of the sweetness. Yum. Vintus, NY

90             Domaine Xavier et Agnès Amirault     $52     2017 St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Le Vau Renou
A blend from two estate parcels in St-Nicolas, one on chalk, the other on clay and flint, this is a rich cabernet franc in 2017, with flavors of black cherry perfumed by orange peel. The wine aged mostly in barrels (a quarter went into amphorae), and the soft mid-palate makes it pleasurable now, though the flavors may continue to clarify with more time in bottle. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

90             Domaine de la Haute Olive     $22     2019 Chinon Le Chêne Vert
Sixth-generation grower Bruno Sourdais took over his family’s domaine in 1991. He farms organically, including this 2.5-acre parcel where he grew a powerful, black cherry–inflected Chinon in 2019, tinged with graphite. The strong tannins might seem less aggressive next to something braised, like saucy eggplant or beef. Schatzi Wines, Milan, NY

90             Béatrice & Pascal Lambert     $30     2014 Chinon Les Puys
Previously labeled "Les Puits Danaé," most of this wine comes from Les Puys de Rochette in Chinon. This vintage is remarkably fresh for its age, to the point that the panel wondered if it would ever uncoil that spring of peak-season blueberries and blackberry gastrique. The flavors fall on the dark side of cabernet franc, but its acidity is unmistakable. Whatever the future has in store for this wine, it's tasty enough to enjoy now alongside citrus-marinated meats. Shiverick Imports, Los Angeles, CA

89             Fabien Duveau     $29     2019 Saumur-Champigny Les Menais
This is straightforward, brightly red-fruited cabernet franc—red cherries ten ways, in tarts, gastrique, fresh,'s lacking the savory edges the variety usually provides in Saumur, and that layered cherry feels more like one note repeated in four octaves rather than true complexity. Schatzi Wines, Milan, NY
94             J. de Villebois     $26     2019 Menetou-Salon Rouge
“Structurally, this is built for the long run,” said Jonathan Eichholz of NYC’s The Modern, struck by the high acidity in this pinot noir. Thierry Merlet makes this wine from fruit grown in Morogues and Humbligny. He gives it twelve hours on its skins before fermentation starts in stainless-steel tanks. Eichholz is right—it’ll take a cocktail shaker or a few days of air to open it up now, the flavors muted at first if not completely absent from the front. The finish is long, and a few hours of air reveal cherry and basil jam, crunchy pomegranate seed and firm raspberry flavors. At this price, it’s hard not to argue for a case, popping corks and tracking development over the next decade. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

92             Fournier Père & Fils     $18     2020 Vin de France Pinot Noir
Delicate raspberry and jasmine-tea aromas lead into this light pinot. The fruit carries savory aspects of pips and stems, but it’s fruit first, elegantly avoiding overripeness. The wine feels more serious than its price tag. For elevated comfort food, like confit of chicken thigh and fresh vegetables in a pot pie. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT

91             Fournier Père & Fils     $28     2019 Menetou-Salon Côtes de Morogues
This pinot smells seductive, lightly fruity and floral. It's rustic and has good length, the crushed raspberry fruit distancing itself from the coffee-ground bitterness of the tannins. This is pinot from a cool place, savory and magnetic. David Milligan Selections, Ridgefield, CT
88             J. de Villebois     $16     2020 Val de Loire Pinot Noir Rosé
This rosé is creamy, tense with orange-blossom scents and white-cherry flavor. It’s seductively delicate, and only gets richer as it opens. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Long periods of frost hit Northern France in April of 2020, decimating crops throughout the region. Vianney de Tastes of Château Soucherie protected his vines in Savennières by installing wires along his trellises to protect the new buds. Corey Warren reports.

Corey Warren is the Tastings Editor in addition to covering the wines of the Loire, Southern France, Argentina and South Africa.

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