“Exceptionally good vintage”: 2017 François Chidaine Pre-arrival

Posted on: 08/16/18 12:01 PM

Francois Chidaine

Honeysuckle, citrus, waxed lemon, mineral and chamomile… François Chidaine’s ever consistent, ever sought after Chenins Blancs have returned for the darling 2017 vintage, and yes, don’t worry, they are still some of the greatest steals coming out of France.

“2017 has ended up being an exceptionally good vintage,” reports Jancis Robinson in her preview of 2017 Loire. It wasn’t a walk in the park, however. In April and May reports began to surface of ‘une catastrophe’ all across France as vineyards suffered from serious frost damage. It turns out, the panic was justified – it was the country’s smallest crop since 1945.

The good news is that unlike 2016, the growing season and weather conditions following the April frosts were almost perfect right up until harvest (which was early). Another bright spot: Chidaine was largely spared from any damage, though his yields were still down it was finally a more normal crop after three successive tiny harvests. We’re particularly pleased to hear that 2017 is by all accounts a brighter, fresher, more aromatic vintage when compared to 2016 and 2015. Don’t get us wrong, we loved the seduction and whimsy of 2016, but if you love more serious, classical expressions of Chenin (think 2014) then I would strongly consider buying up 2017 as much as possible.

More about the Wine:

François Chidaine has been a Gordon’s favorite for many, many, years now. Here’s why: He’s a super nerdy farmer with prodigious intuition for expressing place. He doesn’t flaunt his bio-dynamic/organic creed, he doesn’t make the story about himself, he just wants to make highly expressive site specific wine. In the end he has become one of the true champions of Chenin Blanc in the Loire, sparking a revolution for growers in Montlouis for his tireless pursuit of purity. His vineyards are managed biodynamically, with controlled tiny yields, and minimal intervention in the cellar. The results are wines of near magical, transportational quality, carrying us to the unique plots from whence his wines were born. That’s Chidaine, and that’s why wine geeks love Chidaine.

Although historically Montlouis was seen as a ‘lesser’ appellation to its older, larger, big brother Vouvray, those tables have turned. Many (us included) believe Chidaine is approaching the same level as legendary masters such as Philippe Foreau (Clos Naudin) and Domaine Huët, both in Vouvray. And yet, with all this acclaim, with all this attention, Chidaine still hasn’t raised his prices to their levels, making his wines one of the greatest steals in France.

Here are some additional details regarding each of Chidaine’s vineyards, with descriptions from Peter Liem.

Vin de France Les Argiles (Vouvray):

This is a blend of various plots surrounding the Clos Baudoin, including L’Espagnole, Le Haut Lieu, La Chatterie, L’Homme and La Reugnières. The clay here is deeper than in the Clos, giving a broad, rich girth to the wine. Chidaine vinifies this dry, usually around 4 g/l of residual sugar.

Vin de France Clos Baudoin (Vouvray):

The 2.7-hectare south-facing Clos Baudoin is one of Vouvray’s legendary sites. It had previously belonged to the Prince Poniatowski, but Chidainehad rented the vines since 2002, and has owned the plot outright since the end of 2006. There are vines up to 60 years old here, but unfortunately the entire vineyard will have to be replanted due to a virus in the soil, and Chidaine has already pulled up one hectare of vines. The small amount of wine that he does make from the rest of the Clos Baudoin is sleek and fine, with noticeably more complexity and dimension than his other Vouvrays. It’s always a dry wine, as he thinks this vineyard excels at classic Vouvray sec.

Montlouis Clos du Breuil:

Chidaine’s holdings here include several plots spread over 3.5 hectares, each varying slightly on a typical Montlouis theme of clay and silex over chalk. The vines average about 40 years of age, although the oldest ones are 80 years old, and this is always made as a dry wine (normally 2-4 g/l of sugar). It’s racy and extremely minerally, one of the classiest dry chenins of the area.

Montlouis Clos Habert

The Clos Habert lies adjacent to the Clos du Breuil, on clay and a type of silex called perruches. Part of the vineyard is about 25 years old, with the rest 60-80 years old, andChidaine uses these vines to make a tendre style of Montlouis with a lovely balance and minerality, usually around 20 g/l of residual sugar.

Montlouis Les Tuffeaux

Les Tuffeaux is a cuvée blended from 30- to 70-year old vines from various vineyards on clay and silex, including the Clos du Volagray and Saint-Martin. Like the Clos Habert, this is intended to be around 15-20 g/l of residual sugar, but it’s usually slightly richer and larger in body.

Posted in Daily Flash By Tim Sellon