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Philippe Alliet Chinon Blanc 2015

Philippe Alliet Chinon Blanc 2015

During the course of the past two years I have spent a lot of time walking (or occasionally driving, always under the guidance of a vigneron, there being quite a bit of ‘off-roading’ involved) up and down the limestone slopes of Chinon, those that lie east of the town, on the right bank of the Vienne. These limestone terroirs, which run in an east-west direction roughly parallel to the course of the river, provide us with many of the greatest examples of Chinon.

At the base of the slope there is tuffeau blanc (white chalk) from the Middle Turonian, this chalky bedrock extending up the slope, perhaps halfway. It then gives way to a generally quite narrow band of tuffeau jaune (yellow chalk) from the Upper Turonian. This yellow chalk runs in a ribbon right the way along the coteau, following the contours of the land, occasionally darting into valleys or gullies as it does so. Although in many parts it is very narrow, in others it is quite broad, sometimes extending from the middle of the slope up to the top where it is covered by silty deposits from the Senonian. And although you will find all parts of the slope planted up, it is the bands of white and yellow tuffeau that are most appreciated, limestone and Cabernet Franc working well together here, just as they do in Saumur-Champigny and indeed St Emilion.

Philippe Alliet Chinon Blanc 2015

 Having said that, in a tacit acknowledgement of the equally successful synergy between variety and terroir seen closer to home, primarily in Vouvray, some vignerons have instead chosen to plant Chenin Blanc here. It should, I suppose, come as no surprise; in the words of Bernard Baudry, who has planted two sections of his land in La Croix Boissée to this variety, “it works in Vouvray, so why not here?”.

Once a rarity in this appellation, during the early 20th century you would have found Chenin Blanc in the vineyards of Pierre Manzagol of Domaine de la Noblaie, Château de Ligré, the Raffault family and perhaps one or two others, giving the wines near-unicorn status. Today they are less rare, and I could rattle off a dozen-or-so domaines where this variety can be found. Philippe Alliet, a leader within the appellation, is one who decided to try his hand. He planted the vines in 2005, beginning with just 0.15 hectares. As far as I am aware the vineyard today remains very small, if indeed it has changed at all.

The vinification has changed since the earlier vintages, with less new oak, in parallel with Philippe’s move away from new barrels for his reds. Having once vinified in 100% new 500-litre oak barrels, this cuvée now sees an élevage still in 500-litre barrels, but with the new oak reduced to one-third, with one-third of the barrels on their second fill, and one-third on their third fill. In the glass the 2015 Philippe Alliet Chinon Blanc has a polished appearance, with a little touch of straw to the hue. The nose shows much less oak than I was expecting, instead presenting a rich and desiccated citrus-fruit character, with nuances of peach and pear. The palate has a gloriously supple texture, filled with powdered minerals, citrus zest and crushed pear, with a pithy, substantial, very fresh but also succulently rich style, with a long and pointed grip. This is very nicely composed, showing a weighty finish, with a fine lingering bite to it. A top example of what can be done with Chenin Blanc in this part of the Loire Valley. 17/20 • 94/100 (31/7/17)

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