François Chidaine, 2018 Update

François Chidaine (pictured below) is surely one of the Loire Valley’s best known winemakers, a name familiar not only to Loire Valley wine geeks (who, me?) but to anybody who values interesting wines made with conviction and which convey minerality and a sense of place. Although the son of a local vigneron, Yves Chidaine, François seems to have inherited little, having started out with just a few hectares during the late-1980s. He is, in a way, very much a self-made man.

Within a few years the Chidaine vines had been converted to organics, and the domaine went fully biodynamic at the turn of the century. The little portfolio of vineyards inevitably grew, as François gathered together various parcels of vines scattered about the Montlouis-sur-Loire appellation. To complement his vineyard holdings, he and his wife Manuela opened a little shop, La Cave Insolite, near the riverside in Montlouis. To this day it remains a vital destination for the wine-obsessed, where visitors can taste and buy wines not only from the Chidaine range, but from various other highly regarded domaines.

François Chidaine

Other developments here have not gone so well. The deal with Prince Poniatowski was famously fraught, although it came good in the end, François ending up proprietor of several prime vineyards in Vouvray, including the Clos Baudoin. His subsequent exclusion from the appellation (along with Jacky Blot, of Domaine de la Taille aux Loups) feels like the perfect example of the politics of La France Profonde, and I have been personally disappointed at the apparent lack of support for François from within the appellation. But maybe I don’t know the whole story. Even more devastating, François has suffered significant losses in some recent vintages, due to mildew, then hail, then most recently frost. Coming on top of his commencing the construction of beautiful new cellars, up in Husseau, this placed François in a position of financial jeopardy. Thankfully, with the support of his peers, he has survived to vinify another day. And the 2017 vintage seems to have given him plenty of material to work with.

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