Montlouis is an appellation of 400 hectares located directly across the river from Vouvray. In fact, until it was granted AOC status in 1937, Montlouis wines were produced under the Vouvray appellation. The soils in both places are quite similar: sandy clay on a base of tuffeau. Some say that a slightly higher percentage of sand and pebbles in the Montlouis soils makes the wines a bit leaner than the wines of Vouvray. For us, this trait adds to the charm of Montlouis's sec wines, giving them a lively crispness on the palate and outstanding minerality.
François Chidaine worked alongside his father Yves for many years, and today he devoutly manages an estate blessed with vines between 40 and 80 years old. He works his vineyards biodynamically, but does not want any mention of biodynamic viticulture on his bottles even though the estate has been Demeter certified since 2003. For Francois, it is about the work not the notoriety. He is a true champion of the Chenin Blanc grape and touts its ability to produce vibrant wines that age gracefully. Francois is happiest on his tractor or with his hands in the dirt, but being among his barrels is a close second.
Two sparkling wines serve as an excellent introduction to Chidaine's various expressions of Chenin: a Méthode Traditionnelle made with grapes from younger vines in Montlouis that spend 12 months on the lees, as well as a Petillant made from Vouvrary vines that aged 36 months sur lie. Below, our friend and long-time Chidaine fan Peter Liem beatifully outlines the Chidaine lineup wine-by-wine:
Montlouis Les Bournais - Les Bournais is a newly planted site overlooking the Loire river. It had been abandoned for some time, but Chidaine believes that this is one of the very best sites in Montlouis, and planted vines here in 1999. Unlike most of Montlouis, which is on clay and silex, or flint, Bournais lies on clay and limestone, and the name Bournais refers to the particular type of limestone found here. Chidaine’s goal is to vinify this dry, barring the occasional aberration such as 2005, and the result is a powerful, full-bodied wine, probably the closest to Vouvray in profile of all Chidaine’s Montlouis wines.
As of the 2014 vintage, vines grown in Vouvray but produced and bottled outside of the village can no longer bear the name of the Vouvray appellation. Francois Chidaine and Jacky Blot are two Montlouis producers with vines in Vouvray who are affected buy this ruling, which has stirred up a lot of controversy and emotion within the appellation and beyond its borders. Imagine if a Gevrey grower was banned from producing a wine from Chambolle vines that had been in the family for decades (or centuries for that matter)! Many believe the edict is in response to the growing popularity of Montlouis in Paris and other major European cities. We believe it will backfire; consumers and collectors will rally around these growers, not only because the ruling is unjust, but because Francois Chidaine is making some of the most compelling, terroir-transparent, ageworthy Chenin Blanc in the world.
If you have the pleasure of visiting the newly renovated and expanded domaine, don't miss stopping by La Cave Insolite, the Montlouis wine shop run by Francois' wife and force of nature Manuéla Chidaine. She has a well curated selection of wines from the Loire, both old guard and up and comers, as well as the 'best of the best' of small growers from regions throughout France. The sky is the limit with this dynamic duo.