Fiona Beeston’s Perfectly Drinkable Chinon 2020

Having passed the last few weeks at my house in the Loire Valley, not far south of Chinon, there was only one possible choice for this Monday’s Weekend Wine. And no, I do not mean the latest vintage of Château Latour or Château Lafleur, despite having spent much of my time there bashing out Bordeaux 2022 notes and reports.

No, it has to be Chinon!

Subscribers and regular readers of my Weekend Wine selections will probably be aware that I have my favourites in Chinon, and no doubt names such as Bernard Baudry and Philippe Alliet are now popping into your head (if they aren’t, they should be!). In recent months, however, I have been broadening my Chinon horizons, and so alongside my usual tasting reports on these well-known names this year I will also be adding some new Chinon profiles. Indeed, I have already started, with the publication of my Clos des Capucins profile back in March (which, being the other side of the primeurs, already feels like it was several centuries ago).

Clos des Capucins is the domaine, if you didn’t already know, of Fiona Beeston.

Fiona Beeston's Perfectly Drinkable Chinon 2020

Fiona stepped into the vigneron’s shoes after a life in wine retail and journalism. Along the way she became acquainted with, and was advised by, many of the Loire Valley’s great names, including the oenologist Jacques Puisais (1927 – 2020), the renowned vigneron Charles Joguet, who she had profiled in her book The Wine Men (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1991), Jean-Bernard Berthomé, now retired but then of Domaine Huet where she had worked a stage, and the recently passed Guy Bossard (1951 – 2023).

After two years of searching for a vineyard she had drawn a blank, until Jacques Puisais pointed her away from Cravant-les-Coteaux, where she had been concentrating her search, and towards the limestone terroirs just downstream of the town of Chinon. She thus ended up the owner of the Clos des Capucins, a historic vineyard which affords an unrivalled view across to the town’s royal fortress. Her tenure of this vineyard, and the cuvée she fashions from its 1 hectare of vines, are described in detail in my profile.

A single hectare of vines is not much though, especially when you have a gamut of adult children (and all their friends) who are not averse to raiding the cellar when they find themselves a little thirsty. To deal with this ‘problem’ Fiona acquired another parcel of vines outside the clos, in one act more than doubling the size of her vineyard. From this more distant parcel of vines she produces her Perfectly Drinkable Chinon, vinified in the same manner as the Clos des Capucins cuvée (hand-destemmed, fermented in wooden vat without crushing, infusion with a gentle wetting of the cap rather than active extraction, after which the wine is run off into barrels). The main differences between the two cuvées are the origin of the fruit, a shorter maceration and a shorter élevage.

In the glass the 2020 Perfectly Drinkable Chinon from Fiona Beeston has a vibrant raspberry-claret hue. The nose is perfumed, a little high-toned to start with, although with a little air, and allowing the temperature to come up a little, this volatile note dissipates leaving a nose of juicy cranberry, blackberry and blackcurrant. It continues in an admirable fashion, supple and finely textured, with a chalky and delicately grained backbone, taut cherry stone fruit giving it a crunchy confidence. It is modest in texture, but this allows the savoury and sinewy character, and the increasingly vibrant and confident fruits showing in the middle, all raspberry, perfumed blackberry, red cherry and crushed chalk, to really shine, giving you something to reflect on in the shimmering and sappy finish. All in all this is a charming, juicy, mouthwatering, acid-washed style which – dare I say it – I find perfectly drinkable. 91/100

One final note; while Fiona releases this cuvée with a gentle dose of pre-bottling sulphites, this was a zero-added-sulphite bottling intended for the family’s consumption (and which is not commercially released) which Fiona recently thrust into my hand. It was delightfully fresh, but it did come straight from the Beeston cellars, to mine, and was consumed within a few weeks. It does mean, however, that this wine is subtly different to the commercial release wearing this label. (5/6/23)

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