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François Chidaine Baudoin 2017

François Chidaine Baudoin 2017

I’m back from three weeks in the Loire Valley, on my usual springtime busman’s holiday. I stepped things up a gear on this trip, so that along with some of my regular visits to taste the latest from vat, barrel and bottle with Matthieu Baudry and Jérôme Billard in Chinon, and with the indefatigable Vincent Carême, a man who is not only one of Vouvray’s leading vignerons but who also has previously unherald skills as a guerrilla florist, I called in on numerous other domaines. Some were new and unfamiliar to me, while others are very well known.

In the former category I knocked on the door of Pierre Gauthier of Domaine du Bel Air, located in the commune of Benais, which as Cabernet Franc fans will know is one of the more renowned corners of the Bourgueil appellation. Pierre owns the Clos Nouveau, a simply stunning walled vineyard in the heart of the village, and the wines are not to be ignored. I also paid a visit to Pierre Ménard, one of the youngest new arrivals in Anjou, who is producing remarkable dry Chenin Blanc with a botrytis-free laser-like focus (not to mention super Coteaux du Layon, and he is also experimenting with making a straw wine, using Cabernet Franc). These are two domaines I will be writing about in more detail before long.

And then there were the names perhaps more widely renowned. Vincent Carême and I went together to taste at Domaine du Clos Naudin, and had the good fortune of choosing Philippe Foreau’s birthday for our visit, so this tasting traversed the customary moelleux bottles from the 2007, 2003 and 1990 vintages (after a detailed look at 2018, 2017 and 2016 of course) and continued back to the 1921 vintage, a wine made by Philippe’s grandfather Armand Foreau. And what a wine it was!

François Chidaine Baudoin 2017

I also made a flying visit to Domaine Ogereau, before calling in on Evelyne de Jessey-Pontbriand at Domaine du Closel in Savennières and taking a look at her vines, behind the château and also up in the Clos du Papillon. I also called in on Kevin Fontaine and Anne-Charlotte Genet at Charles Joguet in Chinon, on François and Julien Pinon in Vouvray, and there was the small matter of a visit to Clos Rougeard, so see what has changed since my last visit in 2015. The answer; quite a lot, but also very little. You will see what I mean when I write up my report.

One of the most impressive bottles I encountered during the last three weeks, however, aside from that 1921 Foreau Vouvray of course, was the 2017 Baudoin from François Chidaine. This was my third encounter with this Vin de France cuvée; my first was back in early 2018, when it was a sweet, partially fermented embryo of a wine. The next was earlier this year (note not yet published) when I was struck my its rich character, but dry structure. Now on the shelves of Ligérian cavistes, from bottle the wine is simply stunning, a true grand vin to challenge (and defeat) any white Bordeaux or Burgundian upstarts. In the glass this has a concentrated, polished and golden hue. Aromatically it brims with ripe fruit, all apricot and peach, laced with floral elements including orange blossom, elderflower and honeysuckle scents. This comes intertwined with a minerally vein of crushed chalk, the entire composition deeply characterful, complex, concentrated and interesting to drink. These initial impressions are matched by the palate which shows a rich array of sweet fruit, with apricot and orange citrus notes, glossy and broad, with a tense mineral background behind it, as well as delightfully fresh acidity. This is an absolutely remarkable wine which displays just how far François has come with this famed vineyard since taking control. I’m happy to have had the sense to add more than a bottle or two to the cellar. 96/100

As for my other profiles and visits (as well as all my outstanding Chidaine notes), I will publish as many of these as I can over the summer, before heading back to the Loire Valley around harvest time. (10/6/19)

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