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François Chidaine

Stellar Chenin: New Shipment from “Sublimely Great Producer”.
François Chidaine
We tasted many of the wines we offer today during our last visit to Montlouis in May 2022. It was another thrilling tasting at this address—and a resounding reminder that this is a white-wine cellar to match the very best of the Côte de Beaune and Chablis.

Due to the meagre yields of 2021, François has been managing his inventory, so this release includes the dry wines from 2021 and our second allocations from the previous vintage. Following the run of warmer seasons, the more recent year marks something of a return to the chiselled and scintillatingly racy Chidaine style of, say, 2010 and 2014. Having worked alongside her father for five years, Alice Chidaine has now assumed a key role in the cellar. Before returning to the domaine, Alice apprenticed with Clos Rougeard and Dagueneau in the Loire Valley, and worked vintage with Chris Alheit in Swartland. Perhaps even more than her father—who is happy to let the vintage dictate—she craves tension in her wines, and this signature is writ large over the riveting 2021 whites. Unfortunately, quantities are limited (so please act fast).

In contrast to the cooler-season wines, Chidaine’s 2020s are powerful, supple, almost statuesque Chenin Blanc. Their character is built, to quote François, not so much on acidity as on magnificent fruit and the structure and phenolic freshness from the season’s thick skins. How Chidaine achieved such balance from a warm season and August harvest is remarkable. Perhaps “The Pope” had help from above?

Alongside the whites, we’re more than excited to offer the vibrant Pétillant, the first time in some years that this great-value wine has been available. Finally, we have three wines from Chidaine’s sweeter stable. Many years ago, when the legendary Noël Pinguet was still with Domaine Huet, Pinguet joked with us that he held Chidaine’s sweet wines in such regard that sometimes he wished he could swap appellations. Enough said!

The Wines

Domaine Francois Chidaine Vin de France Petillant 2019

Domaine Francois Chidaine Vin de France Petillant 2019

Chidaine's Pétillant comes from 100% estate-grown Chenin Blanc, now from a range of Chidaine's chalkier sites in Vouvray. François arrests the primary fermentation when the wine has between 14 and 16 g/L of residual sugar, so he does not need to add sugar for the secondary fermentation in bottle. The wine is dry (no dosage), mouth-watering and crunchy with Bosc pear, ripe apple skin and a savoury, sappy energy and freshness. It is low pressure (2.5 bars) and therefore only gently sparkling in the true pétillant style. Aged on lees for 36 months before disgorgement, this is a great bargain for lovers of quality grower Champagne. In sum, a beautifully vibrant, pure, long and mineral wine that begs to be used during a meal—not to mention before and after!


Domaine Francois Chidaine Vin de France Petillant 2019
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Brut Nature 2019

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Brut Nature 2019

Chidaine’s Montlouis Brut Nature is made from old-vine, biodynamically farmed, hand-harvested fruit cropped at a very low 35 hectolitres per hectare (a figure almost unheard of in Champagne). To be specific, this zero-dosage Montlouis is 100% Chenin Blanc from the flinty (perruches) sites of Le Volagray and Les Landes, as well as the clay- and limestone-dominant (aubuis) sites of Clos Renard and Les Epinais. Chidaine picks his grapes for sparkling wine at around 11.5 to 12.5 degrees of potential alcohol (i.e. flavour-ripe) as he wants his terroir to shine through. The base wine is wild-fermented in old, 620-litre barrels.


This release offers wonderful aromas and flavours of green apple, pistachio, baking spice and white flowers. Again, the palate is engagingly vinous, with a creamy texture shot through with saline energy and spicy complexity. The finish tapers to a long, grippy, mineral-infused close—something seldom encountered in Chenin-based sparkling wines. There’s so much to love here, and what value for a world class sparkling wine!

After another year under cork, this offers the wonderful aromatics and flavours of green apple, pistachio, baking spice and freshly cut white flowers. The palate is engagingly vinous, with a creamy texture that’s shot through with saline energy and spicy complexity. The finish tapers to a long, grippy and mineral-infused close—something seldom encountered in Chenin-based sparkling wines. There’s so much to love here, and what value for a world class sparkling wine!

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Brut Nature 2019
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Brut Nature 2008

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Brut Nature 2008

The last time we offered a back vintage of Chidaine’s exceptional sparkling was with the 2005, which arrived in 2018. That wine was a revelation; we were not aware that Chidaine was bottle-aging a parcel of his Montlouis brut. The 2008, from a year François describes as exceptional for his sparkling wines (and for Champagne, by the way), is even better.


Chidaine is widely acknowledged in France as one of the Loire Valley’s great sparkling-wine craftsmen, not least by Benjamin Dagueneau (who enlisted Chidaine’s help when trialling his own sparkling). This wine goes some way to explaining the accolade. It’s a pure, complex and elegant release that expresses the chalky terroir of its origin through an abundance of salty, marine and truffle aromas and flavours. The palate is still firmly structured, with great purity and persistent minerality. Grab some while it lasts! 

Chidaine is widely acknowledged in France as one of the Loire Valley’s great sparkling wine craftsmen, not least by Benjamin Dagueneau (who enlisted Chidaine’s help when trialling his own sparkling), and this wine goes some way to explain the accolade. It’s a pure, very complex and elegant release that expresses the chalky terroir of its origin through an abundance of salty, marine and truffle aromas and flavours. The palate is still firmly structured, with a great purity and persistent minerality. Revelations II. Grab some while it lasts!

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Brut Nature 2008
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Clos du Breuil 2021

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Clos du Breuil 2021

Chidaine’s Clos du Breuil is a Montlouis treasure: a single three-hectare site that slopes towards the Loire. It is home to some of Chidaine's oldest vines—the original plantings are approaching 100 years old. A stone’s throw from Clos Habert, Clos du Breuil rests on one of the appellation’s highest points. The soil is clay and coarse flint over a subsoil of limestone—what the locals call perruches. Chidaine’s vines are spread across several plots and the fruit is hand-harvested with several tris. It ferments naturally in 620-litre demi-muids over a period of up to 11 months. The 2021 is a real beauty—super pure, vibrant, and electric, with textured stone fruit shrouded in the typical smokiness that this site gives. It finishes taut and chiselled, gliding like a skater’s blade on virgin ice. At least the equal of any wine Chidaine has released from this site. 

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Clos du Breuil 2021
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Les Bournais 2021

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Les Bournais 2021

Settled on a limestone plateau above the Loire, the chalky soils of Les Bournais would not be out of place on Vouvray’s Première Côte (home to Clos de Bourg and Le Mont). Unlike most of Montlouis—which is on clay and flint—this four-hectare vineyard is on a pocket of clay and Bournais limestone, from which it takes its name. Planted in 1998, the vines gently follow the contours of the land, right to the edge of a chalky precipice. The roots have just 35 centimetres of clay soils to burrow through before hitting the limestone bedrock, perhaps one reason we always see a distinctive smokiness in the aromas of these wines.

When tasted alongside the Clos de Breuil and Les Choisilles cuvées, this is clearly an altogether more ‘Vouvray’ expression of Montlouis, with a powdery, chalky structure that reflects its soils and location. Chidaine now raises this wine in a single 1,000-litre untoasted oval made specifically for this wine. It’s hard to say what effect this will have on its evolution, but one thing is for sure: the new vintage is a hair-raiser. François Chidaine seldom comments on his wines during a tasting, but here he broke with tradition: “I like it a lot”. Translation: Buy what you can. This is a sensational Loire Chenin of exceptional intensity and length of flavour, humming with energy and chalky, limestone cut.

When tasted alongside the Clos de Breuil and Les Choisilles cuvées, this is clearly an altogether more ‘Vouvray’ expression of Montlouis, with a powdery, chalky structure that clearly reflects its soils and location. This is not necessarily a question of it being a better wine (although Chidaine does price it that way), simply different. We’ve been lucky enough to taste this wine on several occasions, and it just gets better and better. Despite the travails of the vintage, the 2021 Bournais is a knockout. Chidaine now raises this wine in a single 1,000-litre untoasted oval made specifically for this wine. It’s hard to say what effect this will have on its evolution, but one thing is for sure—the new vintage is a hair-raiser. François Chidaine seldom comments on his wines during a tasting, but here he broke with tradition: “I like it a lot”. Translation: buy what you can. It’s an imperial Loire Chenin of exceptional intensity, limpidity and length of flavour. Grand Cru Montlouis.

“The 2021 Les Bournais is unsurprisingly tighter than in previous vintages due to the cooler season compared with 2018, 2019 and 2020. It remains fragrant, exuding ripe peach, mango, and mandarin segments. What's most evident about this wine is its huge linearity: there's a tight corset around this wine, ensuring it pierces your palate like a well-made paper airplane. A delightful chalky texture backs it up, leaving you licking your lips on the scented finish.”
93 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Les Bournais 2021
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Les Tuffeaux 2019

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Les Tuffeaux 2019

Off-dry. This gorgeous, pulpy Chenin Blanc is drawn from the second, later pickings across a range of Chidaine’s old Chenin plots (including the Clos du Volagray, Saint-Martin and Les Grillonnières) that have stony soils which are heavy in yellow limestone, or tuffeau. These vines range in age from 30 to 90 years and are always cropped at tiny yields. The wine fermented with native yeasts, then matured in 620-litre demi-muids for 10 months.


François Chidaine does not produce this cuvée every year; when he does, it’s a case of run, don’t walk. It ended up with 10 g/L residual sugar (low for this wine—the 2020 has 14.8 g/L), which is rendered almost imperceptible by the balancing mineral and saline energy that runs like an arrow through the palate. Again, expect great length, intensity and pulpy succulence over a mouthwatering mineral backbone. It sings on its own or with some charcuterie but will take you to another realm when paired with southeast Asian flavours and textures.


Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Les Tuffeaux 2019
Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France (Vouvray) Les Argiles 2020

Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France (Vouvray) Les Argiles 2020

Most readers will already know that although this wine is grown in Vouvray, it is not permitted to bear that name because it ferments and matures across the river in Montlouis. It is therefore labelled Vin de France, a change in circumstance that has not bothered Chidaine’s clients one jot.
As always, this magnificent bottling is drawn from a series of clay-rich (argiles) Vouvray sites that surround the Clos Baudoin. These include L’Espagnole, La Chatterie, L’Homme, Les Reugnières and Le Haut Lieu (of Huet fame). Set away from the river, these sites are mostly populated with 40-year-old bush vines, which grow on deep, chalky clay over a limestone subsoil. All these vineyards are managed biodynamically and with regenerative agriculture. Les Argiles is hand-harvested with multiple passes through the vineyards. Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts and the wine ages on lees in 620-litre demi-muids for about 11 months.

The combination of a warm and dry vintage with Chidaine’s precise, old-school winemaking has conveyed a predictably top-flight Chenin Blanc. One of the more intense releases of this cuvée, it opens with a powerful surge of mint, white honey and orange citrus before a deeply floral palate loaded with flavour. It’s ripe and succulent with mouth-filling texture underpinned by its chalky frame, sappy acidity and a thunderclap of phenolic energy. This is flat-out gorgeous.

"The 2020 Les Argiles is a dry Chenin Blanc grown in Vouvray, but because the wine is made in Montlouis, it's not entitled to the appellation hence its vin de France status. From deep clay soils, there's a richness on the mid-palate and rounded edges that are further shaped and curved by fermentation and maturation in demi-muids. . It's a mid-weight style that offers plentiful concentration, remarkable freshness and mouthcoating grip. The finish is gourmand and textural with subtle apple pie notes lingering."
91 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous.com
Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France (Vouvray) Les Argiles 2020
Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France Moelleux 2016

Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France Moelleux 2016

Manuela Chidaine described 2016 as a “vintage from hell”. Stemming from the severe frost that blanketed the central Loire on 27th April, this domaine lost an astonishing 90% of its forthcoming crop. By harvest time, this translated to an average yield of 5 hl/ha. As such, the domaine could only realise four cuvées from their Montlouis/Vouvray vineyards. This delicious moelleux is one wine that made the cut.

 The wine is a blend of strictly sorted, late-harvested and botrytised grapes culled from parcels in Montlouis and Vouvray (hence the Vin de France appellation). It was raised for 11 months in used 600-litre barrels and bottled unfiltered. Ending up with just 35 g/L residual sugar, it is a glorious riot of quince, citrus oils and roasted pineapple bound by scintillating freshness and fabulous length of flavour. There’s also some serious complexity on the crunchy finish by way of grapefruit, smoke and spice nuances. It’s a wine to excite a top Mosel producer!

 

“This currently has 30 g/l residual sugar, and this may be reduced a little further once the vinification is finished, so it will be a gentle moelleux style I think. It has a very similar style to the dry Clos Baudouin from across the river, starting off fresh and primary, with some leafy fruit, although here the backdrop is more pear, peach and confit apples, richer and more evidently concentrated. This is followed by a softly polished palate, fresh and pure, with convincing substance and fresh acidity, as well as a fizzing minerality. A charming style, very accomplished, with fine potential, although I do question whether it will end up more demi-sec than moelleux in character.”
92-94 points, Chris Kissack, The Wine Doctor
Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France Moelleux 2016
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Rive Gauche 2020

Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Rive Gauche 2020

Chidaine's rare vins liquoreux are made exclusively from botrytised fruit, making them the richest and sweetest wines in the portfolio. Unlike in Vouvray, the conditions required to grow this rare style of Montlouis come around once in a blue moon. The last time we shipped this cuvée was from 2009, when it was called Les Lys. It is a multi-site blend from three vineyards that are picked over successive passes. It fermented with native yeasts and matured in demi-muid. The 2020 stopped fermenting with just over 100 g/L residual sugar, yet it remains a vibrant and wonderfully balanced wine. When called on, Chidaine is a master of this style; in short, it is a remarkably delicious, layered and complex wine, as the review below makes clear.

“The 2020 Rive Gauche is a seductive and attractive sweet wine. It is produced from fully botrytised fruit, hailing from three different parcels in Montlouis, and remains remarkably light on its feet despite its richness. While it is far too young, it has delightful componentry that will keep this evolving gracefully for at least two decades - and the rest.”
95 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
Domaine François Chidaine Montlouis Rive Gauche 2020
Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France (Vouvray) Rive Droite 2009

Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France (Vouvray) Rive Droite 2009

If the Domaine’s Montlouis vin liquoreux is a rare bird, its counterpart from Vouvray is rarer still. As fans of Domaine Huet will attest, 2009 was a sensational year in the Loire for our growers’ sweet styles, and the apple has not fallen far from the tree here. Crafted from hand-selected botrytised grapes from L’Espagnole and L’Homme, this incredible and complex wine fermented at snail's pace for well over a year (I can’t remember exactly) until it finished with 130 g/L of residual sugar.

Finally released after 13 years in Chidaine’s cellar, it’s oozing brightness and energy. A kaleidoscope of flavours and textures unfolds in the glass with roasted peach drizzled with honey, candied apricot and a procession of invigorating citrus and spice, all underscored by botrytis grip and herbal freshness. Tinged with truffle and saffron complexity, the finish is endless.

 




“From grapes grown on deep clay and chalky soils, this wine is cellar-aged in large demi-muid casks. It has notes of honey, quince and apricot, with a touch of saffron. The palate has a precise, fine-grained texture and a minty freshness. An elegant wine.”
96 points, Yohan Castaing, Decanter
Domaine François Chidaine Vin de France (Vouvray) Rive Droite 2009

“The Pope of Montlouis and Vouvray—just a sublimely great producer. He knows his vineyards better than anyone and he styles his cuvées according to the contours of each vineyard. The wines are pure and clean, yet profoundly expressive. And they are still phenomenal value.” Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay, The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste



“...there is no denying the quality and character of the wines here…this remains a must-visit, must-taste, must-buy and must-drink estate.”
Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com



“The whole range displays a high level of purity and silken elegance; oak never interferes with the fruit but adds an extra layer of complexity in terms of flavor and texture.”
Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous



“The modern ascendence of Montlouis essentially wouldn’t have happened were it not for François and Manuela Chidaine and their diligence in showing the grand possibilities of its terroir.”
Jon Bonné, The New French Wine

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