Château de Villeneuve, 2013 Update
After my recent report on the latest releases from Domaine des Roches Neuves, and having made plain my regard for the wines, it is only right that I should move on fairly quickly to Château de Villeneuve. Thierry Germain is now making great wines at Domaine des Roches Neuves, but he has only really achieved this now he has exorcised his Bordeaux demons; it is only in relatively recent times, after stepping back on the oak and the extraction (and perhaps his conversion to biodynamics helped – who knows?) that his wines have, in my opinion, really risen to the top of the appellation. By contrast Jean-Pierre Chevalier, long-time proprietor of Château de Villeneuve, has been riding the crest of the Saumur-Champigny wave for many, many years. Quality here is tip-top, and the flagship cuvées in red – Le Grand Clos – and white – Les Cormiers – are wines that demand being added to the cellar. The cuvées that sit lower down the ladder are excellent choices when dining out; I seem to recall enjoying a 2011 Saumur Blanc from this domaine at the Brasserie du Théâtre in Angers earlier this year, split three ways with Jim Budd and Tom King of the RSJ restaurant.
Despite the excellent quality here, the domaine’s profile remains fairly low-key. Why is Château de Villeneuve not more obsessed over by Loire geeks, I wonder, when quality is so good? I think there are several reasons; first, even among the wine trade, for some the focus of any domaine is the story. You need a wild man, with eccentric ideas, to get noticed. It helps if the quality of the wine is very good, but perhaps not essential; figures such as the late Didier Dagueneau and Nicolas Joly make good stories. Jean-Pierre Chevalier, meanwhile, is a quiet and thoughtful man, one who focuses on quality achieved through exacting methods rather than making a lot of noise.
Secondly, for some in the wine trade, the method seems more important than the material. While other vignerons bang their ‘methodology gong’ as loudly as possible, advertising their hardcore biodynamic and ultra-‘natural’ status to the world, dedicated vignerons such as Jean-Pierre Chevalier (pictured above) just put their head down, and get on with doing what they have always been doing, that is making excellent wines, the culmination of a year’s work in sensitively-managed vineyards, followed by a large dose of common sense in the cellars. You need to taste the wines to see the obvious joy here; it won’t jump out and bite you.Please log in to continue reading: