François Chidaine Bouchet 2014
François Chidaine is rightly famed for his work in Montlouis, his reputation based not only on the superb quality of his wines, in particular single-vineyard cuvées such as Les Bournais, Clos du Breuil and the brilliant Clos Habert, but also the fact that he spearheaded, alongside other stalwarts of the appellation such as Jacky Blot, a Montlouis revival that benefitted both local vignerons and worldwide lovers of Chenin Blanc. With such a strong association between vigneron and appellation it is perhaps too easy to overlook Chidaine’s other achievements beyond the borders of the Montlouis vineyard. I speak of course of his work on the other bank of the Loire Valley, in Vouvray.
François Chidaine first gained a foothold in the Vouvray appellation in 2002, when he took over the running of the Prince Poniatowski vineyards, most notably the famed Clos Baudoin, more renowned than any of the Montlouis lieux-dits listed above. François eventually took full ownership of the vineyards in 2006, although it was not an entirely smooth transition, the initially good relationship between the prince and the paysan vigneron (a term which I hope carries some sense of François Chidaine’s nobility) having broken down along the way. Nevertheless the deal was eventually done, and François acquired a handsome portfolio of Vouvray vineyards, and after the Clos Baudoin the most notable of these is arguably Le Bouchet, which lies close by.
Le Bouchet is a seriously under-rated site within the Vouvray appellation, perhaps the result of it having lived so long in the shadow of the Clos Baudoin. The vineyard sits just back from the slopes of the première côte, directly behind the Clos du Bourg no less. We would normally expect vineyards set back in this fashion to have deep soils of flint-strewn clay over deeply buried limestone, but the première côte curves around here above the town of Vouvray, which sits in a little valley cut through the slope. As such the terroir is defined more by Turonian limestone, the tuffeau jaune on which the appellation’s reputation rests, than it is by clay. With a strictly biodynamic approach to viticulture and the work in the cellars, in a strong vintage such as 2014, and it is clear the potential here is considerable.
As can be seen from the image above the wine does not carry the name of Vouvray because both François Chidaine and Jacky Blot were excluded from this appellation from the 2014 vintage onwards. This was primarily because they vinify their fruit across the river in Montlouis (where their cellars are based), despite having special dispensation to do this up to and including the 2013 vintage. It is a decision that does not reflect well on the wine authorities in my opinion. Anyway, on with the wine. The 2014 Le Bouchet from François Chidaine presents a rich golden hue in the glass, although this is entirely in keeping with the tender style of this wine, which is carrying some residual sugar (about 12 g/l according to François, last time we spoke about this particular vintage). The nose presents the aromas of sweetly preserved lemons, with a bright and chalky character, along with fragrant nuances of tangerine zest, verbena and orange blossom. This is followed on the palate by a wonderful texture, fresh, broad and finely textured, with a sweet substance, orange pith, lemon balm and custard apple reflecting the aromatic complexity of the nose, backed up by a delightfully fresh acidity. A rich, substantial and fresh style, I look forward to pulling the cork on the other bottles I have hidden away in my cellar in the future. And I also look forward to the day this vigneron, one of the best working the soil in the Vouvray appellation, will be readmitted to its ranks. 95/100 (23/9/19)
Read more in:
- My guide to Chenin Blanc
- My detailed profile of François Chidaine
- My guide to the Loire 2014 vintage
- My report on François Chidaine’s wines tasted in 2018