Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Blanc La Part des Anges 2018

“Le volume des vins blancs est infime aujourd’hui”

Les Vins de Loire, Pierre Bréjoux (published 1956)

It says something of the decline in planting and tending white varieties in Chinon during the course of the 20th century that so few authors of the era mentioned them at all. One of the few who did was Pierre Bréjoux, in one of my ‘go to’ texts for the region, although even he admitted that the volume of white wines being produced was tiny (infime). Others, however, simply skipped over the notion of Chenin (or any other white variety you care to mention) from Chinon, any discussion of white wines in Touraine being limited mostly to Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire.

Indeed, writing in Le Vignoble de Touraine (Bureau de la Revue de Viticulture, 1913), the author and historian Auguste Chauvigné listed four white wine regions of Touraine, starting with the Côte de Vouvray and Côte de Montlouis (before the birth of the appellation system this was often how the two regions were referred to), both of which come in for some praise. Then Chauvigné pointed his readers in the direction of the Côte d’Azay-le-Rideau, the wines of which he described as “useful” (hardly glowing praise), and finally Le Richelais, which he saw as a source of light wines to be drunk young, mostly by the locals (perhaps “useful” wasn’t so bad after all).

No mention of Chinon, though.

Chauvigné went on to describe the pre-appellation grape varieties of Chinon, principally Breton (the regional name for Cabernet Franc, of course), while in second place came Grolleau, a cépage I don’t think I have encountered in the appellation in current times other than the recent plantings made by Matthieu Baudry.

No mention of Chenin Blanc, you note.

Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Blanc La Part des Anges 2018

Despite this, there were at the time a few parcels planted to Chenin Blanc in the region, not least on the left bank of the river in Le Vau Breton, regarded by all those who saw fit to comment as one of the region’s most noteworthy crus. These vines were tended by Pierre Manzagol, one of the very few to carry the torch for the variety during the 20th century. Manzagol was the grandfather of Jérôme Billard, of Domaine de la Noblaie, Says Jérôme;

In my grandfather’s time it was only him, Ligré and Raffault making white wine. He always continued with it, as he felt it was an important part of Chinon’s vinous heritage.”

Indeed I would agree that it is important part of this region’s heritage, and in recent decades plantings have crept upwards, at an escargot’s pace admittedly, so that today Chenin Blanc accounts for more than 5% of the vineyard. One of the best sources is Pierre Manzagol’s grandson, who has sufficient plantings to produce two cuvées, one vinified in stainless steel, the other from older vines and vinified in amphorae and barrels. The former is Chante le Vente and it has appeared on these pages before, such as here. The latter is, in case you don’t already know, is La Part des Anges.

In the glass the 2018 Chinon Blanc La Part des Anges from Domaine de la Noblaie displays a sweet golden hue, certainly richer than the usual straw-yellow hue see in Chante le Vent, suggesting some concentration. The nose is expressive and complex, with veins of peach and apricot at its core, freshened with notes of lemon peel and vanilla flower, the latter suggesting a tinge of oak, but it has far less impact than I was expecting. Indeed, it soon shakes this note off, revealing a more crystalline core of fruit. Supple and polished on the palate, substantial with a fine grip, it is filled out by a pithy and robust frame which supports layers of lightly desiccated and crystalline fruits, infused with seams of powdered chalk. Spiced and peppery, and certainly long, while the energy and frame of the oak does show just a touch, this is still delicious to drink now. I will keep my other bottles stashed away for now; this should be fine for another decade in the cellar, perhaps even longer than that. The alcohol on the label, in this warm vintage, by the way, is 14%. 93/100 (28/8/23)

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