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François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Méthode Traditionnelle Brut Nature NV

François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire 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-sur-Loire 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-sur-Loire 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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