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François Chidaine Montlouis Méthode Traditionnelle Brut Nature NV

François Chidaine Montlouis Méthode Traditionnelle Brut Nature NV

During recent years, the highlights of my tastings with François Chidaine have included his sparkling wines. In truth quality here remains tip-top across the board, and so I usually find something to rave about among the many sec, demi-sec and moelleux cuvées that François turns out. I think it was Hugh Johnson who wrote (and I paraphrase, as I have failed to find his original words) of Riesling reverberating on the palate, like a long-held note on a violin. At their best, this is how François Chidaine’s wines feel. Only here the raw material is Chenin Blanc, obviously.

The reason why I have such good memories of tasting François’ sparkling wines is because he has developed a habit of holding back some bottles for extended periods of aging sur lattes. So he leaves a few hundred bottles to rest, not disgorged and the wine thus protected by its lees, for ten years. This has allowed François to conduct comparative tastings of his long-aged 2005 vintage against the youthful 2015, and more recently a similarly ethereal 2007 vintage tasted against the novel 2017. The wines – both new and old – were individually fabulous, but the opportunity to experience them side-by-side adds another fascinating dimension to the tasting.

François Chidaine Montlouis Méthode Traditionnelle Brut Nature NV

I was prompted by these encounters to pick up a few bottles of the younger vintage (sadly not the older wines, as these have so far eluded me). I bought these bottles in spring 2017, in Montlouis-sur-Loire, at a time when François Chidaine was commercialising the 2015 vintage, so although the bottles are not vintage-dated it seems likely this is the vintage of origin. The 2015 growing season was a warm one engendering good levels of ripeness, to my mind ideal for the Brut Nature style. Having said that, as with the Méthode Traditionnelle Brut I described last year, there is a lot number on the back label, in this case LMMX300613 which looks a little like MMX (2010, a vintage?) followed by a disgorgement date of June 30th, 2013. This clearly doesn’t fit with the suspected story of my bottle though; add this to my failed efforts trying to grasp the origins of the non-vintage Krug Grande Cuvée I tasted earlier this year I think it is safe to say my days as a non-vintage label detective are numbered.

Despite having bought these bottles a few years ago this is the first on which I have popped a cork. In the glass the NV François Chidaine Montlouis Méthode Traditionnelle Brut Nature, believed 2015, displays a shimmering golden hue with a fine bead. The nose does show some development, with a delightful character, all toasted cashew and dried citrus fruits, drizzled with a little smoky caramel, fragrant and salted. While the notes of evolution are strong, compared to previous encounters with younger and older bottles it feels like a halfway house between the two; given this has been in the cellar for a few years that seems appropriate. The joy continues on the palate which starts with a layer of creamed and caramelised citrus segments, touched with more of the cashew-nut evolution hinted at on the nose, all set in a deliciously dry and typically brut nature frame. It is lifted not only by its fresh frame but also by its vivacious acidity and a fine, tingling, lightly creamed mousse. All in all this is a delicious and quite brilliant wine, one which blends a modest yet voluptuous evolution with a traditional Ligérian frame and structure. Very impressive and certainly one of my top Loire Valley sparkling wines this year. 95/100 (13/7/20)

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