François Chidaine, 2016 Update

What a joy it was to taste with François Chidaine earlier this year. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for him in recent times, nor indeed for many of his peers in Montlouis-sur-Loire and Vouvray. The weather hasn’t always been kind to them all, with a weedy washout vintage in 2012 followed by a devastating hailstorm in 2013. Even when quality has been good, yields have often been much lower than hoped for, making it hard to make ends meet. And with a new winery just built, François really needed to be able to balance the books. And then came the insult, in the 2014 vintage, of being refused the agrément (along with Jacky Blot of Domaine de la Taille aux Loups) for the Vouvray appellation. Talk about kicking a guy when he is down.

François Chidaine

So why the joy? The first reason is that 2014 has been much kinder to the vignerons of Montlouis-sur-Loire (and Vouvray too), the wines showing a greater sense of refinement and minerality than in other recent vintages, with great purity of fruit combined with tangy acidity. Some other years might have a slightly weightier texture, but there is a really gourmand, serious, mineral- and acid-driven structure to these wines. I expected they would sell well, and they have; nevertheless, I won’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed to find, on visiting François Chidaine’s shop La Cave Insolite in Montlouis-sur-Loire a few after this tasting, that they had sold out of almost every cuvée. Fortunately many of the wines were still available in the international market, and so I subsequently plundered the lists of UK stockists instead, assuaging any fears I might have had of finishing up 2016 without any Chidaine in the cellar.

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