When chenin blanc dazzles and sparkles: Huet, Laureau, Belliviere & more!

Chenin blanc is one of the world’s most underrated grapes. Beautifully multifaceted, it displays multiple forms: dry, off-dry, sweet and sparkling. It can tack on decades effortlessly. Here are a few more-or-less current releases that I have had recently (all on separate occasions) that are worth noting. (Search for these wines at retail.)

Domaine du Closel, La Jalousie, Savennieres, 2006. $18 I poured this wine with some apprehension at an event for 75 people recently. Would the gathered crowd “get” the wine? In fact, the color alone got them, as the golden wine appeared in their glasses. I polled them after tasting, and to my amazement, only two people disliked the wine–chenin blanc with such low negatives, it could run for office!

Domaine Laureau, Savennieres: Damien Laureau, aged 39, is not only the father of six children but also an up and coming star of the Savennieres appellation. Although he owns no vineyards in the appellation, he has long-term leases on two that he farms organically. I recently had the 2005 Les Genets bottling, which is aged for 18 months in vat. The wine is deliciously aromatic, layered, and complex on the palate and has the kind of lingering finish that tingles even your bones.

Domaine Aubuisieres, cuvée de silex, Vouvray, sec, 2008 $18: really a gorgeous example of chenin–and a good value too. Enticing aromas of honey and white flowers, delicious mouthfeel combining acidity and minerality in a wine with six grams of residual sugar, barely above the threshold of perception. Bernard Fouquet, somewhat controversially, bottles this wine under screw cap but my bottle was not showing any sign of reduction.

Francois Pinon, cuvée tradition, Vouuvray 2008. $17. Another great value Vouvray. I really liked the 2007s, so was a bit disappointed how closed and tightly minerally it was on day one. But on day two, the wine really opened up and was soaring. Although it’s not labeled as demi-sec, it is and has a superb texture. Also of note: Pinon’s sparkling Vouvray (now with a new label design) is a perennial excellent value at about $17.

Domaine Huet, Le Mont, Vouvray, sec, 2007 $22.50: This legendary estate recently changed distributors and I picked up some bottles of this wine for an amazing price. The wine is really packed with minerality, acidity, medium weight, has an excellent arc and shows very well today since it has yet to hunker down for the long haul in the cellar. I’m doing a dinner for 200 next month and have put this wine on the menu, paired with halibut.

Domaine Belliviere, Jasnières, 2006. Along the northern fringe of the Loire, starting about ten years ago, Eric and Christine Nicolas have helped revive winemaking in the tiny appellation of Jasnières and surroundings. They have planted some new vineyards and also own some with over 50 years of age. (The two wines tasted here come from the younger vineyards.) The long, fluted bottles of Belliviere may make you think Riesling. But this is chenin through and through. The 2006 “Les Rosiers” (about $29) bottling is a serious wine and that possesses quite a layered structure mainly of the honey on rocks variety. Consider decanting. The 2006 “L’Effraie” bottling comes from the nearby Coteaux de Loir appellation and is slightly more accessible at this stage–I had it with a homemade spinach pizza and it worked well.

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12 Responses to “When chenin blanc dazzles and sparkles: Huet, Laureau, Belliviere & more!”

  1. I am obsessed with Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux; so much richness and complexity. Too bad they are so hard to find.

  2. Domaine des Aubuisiers, Cuvee Silex is very good in the 2009 vintage also. A real Vouvray crowd pleaser is Domaine Pichot 2009. Lovely wines for summer.

  3. The Loire Valley is one of the great hidden treasures of wine in France. While Bordeaux or Burgundy may first come to mind, the Loire offers some of the finest and affordable “alternative” reds, whites and Sparkling wines.

    Chenin Blanc are simply a wonderful step into the white wine world away from the traditional California Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Given the exposure to the lovely aromatic profile of fig, honey and pear, a hint of biscuits or brioche and well interwoven spice, this wine is a natural for seafood,roasted pork and Asian cuisine. Pricing, on average, will run in the $30’s.

  4. I was drinking a Chenin Blanc this evening that, sadly, tasted a little like canned fruit cocktail. Let’s just say it wasn’t french and I won’t be buying it again. Incidentally, what is the correct pronunciation of Jasnieres? I have heard it pronounced many ways.

  5. Tyler, in your description of the Domaine Aubuisieres wine, you commented that the wine shows no sign of reduction due to the screw cap closure. Can you please explain what the term “reduction” means, and how it’s linked to screw cap closures?

  6. may i ask were you picked these up?
    Domaine Huet, Le Mont, sec, 2007 $22.50?

  7. @Katie – yes, the terroir seems to be of utmost importance for CB…try pronouncing it “johnyaire.”

    @ Jerry – re: reduction, please see John Gilman’s comments here: http://bit.ly/a40bI7 or the NYT here: http://nyti.ms/cNz6RL

    @Dave: I got them at Chambers St Wines.

  8. One of my favs, but I must say I love Chenin-sec. Hard to find in the states, but a wine that will go with so many different types of food.

    Just hardly ever have wine without something paired with it, an essential , IMO, to enjoying and understanding wine.

  9. Hard to locate quality Chenin Blanc at retailers in Az but quite easy on line. One that I really enjoy is the Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire Clos du Breuil. His Vouvray is wonderful as well………….great style.

  10. I could not agree more…being one of the most underrated varieties it is possibly one of the most diverse in style! In South Africa we produce some of the best Chenin’s in the world. Some of which are made from 45 yr old Bush vines!
    The http://www.chenin.co.za Blanc Association a group producers in South Africa have been doing their utmost to promote this variety! With the likes of Ken Forrester, Raats, De Trafford producing wooded, unwooded, dessert and sparkling sumptuous Chenin, we’re pretty lucky here in the Cape!

    When you coming for a visit?


  11. S. Africa Chenin Blancs are not to be overlooked. Vintners such as De Trafford, Forrester and Rudera are simply delicious AND affordable. All of this is really a credit to the speed of progress post apartheid in 1994.

  12. At Paumanok, we love Chenin and we love screw caps!


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