Château de Villeneuve, 2012 Update

It’s been too long since I last reported on the wines of Jean-Pierre Chevallier, and in fact it might be said that it is too long since I last reported on any wines at all from the Saumur and Saumur-Champigny appellations. This region of the Loire is too easy to overlook, its wines often good but rarely the best; the white wines are often eclipsed by more focused and complex styles from Vouvray and these days Montlouis, the reds frequently paling into insignificance behind those from Chinon or even Bourgueil. Nevertheless, among the small number of domaines of interest here there are some that might easily upset this little piece of dogma. Vignerons such as the Foucault brothers of Clos Rougeard or Antoine Sanzay clearly enunciate what high quality is possible here. Jean-Pierre Chevallier, doyen of Château de Villeneuve is another important figure in the region.

The 2010 Vintage

Many of my notes below, from both 2011 and 2012, focus on this vintage (although there are also appearances from 2011, 2009 and 2008!). First, the Saumur Blanc is just a touch more convincing in 2010 than in 2011, and both the straight Saumur-Champigny and the Vieilles Vignes cuvées showed good character. The former had grip and good acidity, the latter the same although with an extra dimension to the fruit here, as we might expect from the older vines. Far superior to all, however, was the Le Grand Clos, Chevallier’s flagship cuvée. This wine possessed such a fine perfume and elegant structure that it simply demands to be purchased, and then squirreled away in the cellar. This is the first vintage of this wine since 2006, if my records are correct, and it is good to see (or rather taste) its return. Surprisingly there was no such cuvée produced in 2009, the range of wines in that vintage topping out with the Vieilles Vignes cuvée. I’m quite sure we won’t see one in 2011, so buy now while you can is my advice!

Château de Villeneuve

Perhaps the most notable development in this vintage is the addition of a new cuvée to the Villeneuve range. The Clos de la Bienboire is sourced, as you could probably deduce without me telling you, from a clos of the same name, in terms of size 1.5 hectares of the Saumur-Champigny appellation. The vines here are 25-years old, all Cabernet Franc of course, planted on limestone soils. I found this latter fact faintly surprisingly having tasted the wine as its light, juicy character suggested a less profound terroir, more sandy or perhaps gravelly soils, although if tasting blind I think I would have guessed the former. Of course such soils are not a strong feature of the Saumur-Champigny appellation, and so the style of wine is more determined by Chevallier than any peculiarity of terroir I think, although the name of the clos in question – bienboire – suggests a longstanding reputation for drinking well, and presumably drinking early.

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