Chenonceau – one of the most familiar and frequently photographed of the Châteaux of France’s Loire Valley. But, apart from it being a wonderful sight, why is it heading my Bristol Wine Blog? The reason: Chenonceau has joined the hundreds of other villages all over France entitled to claim Appellation Contrôlée (or Appellation Protégée as it is now officially known).
So, why does this matter? Previously, wines from here were lumped under AC Touraine, which covers the whole of the wider area and includes some good and some not-so-good examples. By breaking out of this general designation, the producers of Chenonceau (and there aren’t many!) hope to gain a real reputation for quality.
And, if the first example I’ve tasted from the new AC is anything to judge by, then Chenonceau will be a name to remember. The Domaine de la Renne Chenonceau Sauvignon Blanc (£13.50) was the stand-out wine from a Bristol Tasting Circle evening of Loire wines hosted by a relatively new firm, Joie de Vin (Joiedevin.co.uk). The owners, Tim and Jill North, specialise in sourcing good quality and good value wines from small producers in the Loire and the Languedoc-Roussillon.
The Renne Chenonceau is beautifully balanced and with all the character of a good Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé but with, perhaps, a little more weight and richness resulting, in part, from 3 years maturation on the lees. That may sound an extraordinary length of time – it does to me – yet the wine – from the 2013 vintage – still tastes young and fresh and, unlike many Sauvignons, looks to have several years of good drinking ahead of it.
Apart from this wine, the other tip I took away from this tasting was that Muscadet is back. For so long, a source of dull, tart wines best avoided, I have begun to notice some improvements recently, a view confirmed by a couple of examples from Joie de Vin’s portfolio.
So, 2 areas to look out for – and a supplier to watch, too!