The case is made by many that Loire Valley Chenin Blanc is the benchmark for diversity within the world of wine. And I'm not one to argue with that sentiment. Bone-dry, sparkling, off-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. The entire range is covered here in the central Loire. However, this perspective has become a bit of a double-edged sword for Chenin. If everything can be done well, is anything actually exceptional? I won't make the case, as some do, that top sparkling examples rival great champagne. But, I will gladly tell you that the zenith of bone-dry Chenin Blanc is deadly serious.
Clos Rougeard's Brézé is the most famous name in this club, with current releases starting at $200 per bottle. But, beyond that there's one name that embodies the detail and clarity that top dry Chenin is capable of. Jacky Blot's domaine, La Taille Aux Loups works primarily with vineyards in Montlouis, but in Vouvray there's one parcel of old vines that produce his most coveted wine. Precision is the first word that comes to mind when I taste his monopole, Clos de la Bretonniere. At $41 per bottle, this is the greatest bone-dry Chenin Blanc that still lies under-the-radar.
Blot takes his cue's from Burgundy gods, Coche-Dury and Roulot. After a slow barrel fermentation (20% new wood here) he moves his wine into steel for several months prior to bottling. Much like the disciplined Chenin found in Saumur, here battonage is avoided and malolactic fermentation is blocked - a necessity in accentuating the laser-focus and sleek frame that draws comparisons to Burgundy.
Blot is no nonsense when it comes to farming, with organic and hands-on viticulture serving as the root of success for all his wines. However, Clos de la Bretonniere stands out in his lineup. While his Montlouis wines can show density and breadth, this rare Vouvray parcel of 62-yr-old vines on pure limestone is a different beast. There's a mesmerizing level of detail and shimmering range of flavors that seemingly dance on the palate. It's a drinking sensation that you do not want to end.
Vouvray is most associated with off-dry and sweet styles of wine. Since 1993 Jacky has focused on bone-dry wines, a choice that was not received warmly for the first two vintages in the Loire. But, after some time, people began to see what he was after. Today, the Clos de la Bretonniere is one of the greatest examples of dry Chenin Blanc in the world. But, like the Loire in 1993, people are still just catching on. 2017 has proven so far to be a thrilling vintage for the whites of the Loire, but even in this context the dry wines from the vintage have a unmistakable featherweight presence on the palate that's pure magic.
It's not often you can tell drinkers of Coche and Roulot to pick up a bottle of dry Chenin and expect to be be floored. At $41 per bottle, today is definitely that day.