Of all the regions of the Loire valley that make wines from Chenin Blanc, Savennieres is perhaps the most challenging. […]Keep Reading
Of all the regions of the Loire valley that make wines from Chenin Blanc, Savennieres is perhaps the most challenging. In part due to the schistous terroir, but also due to the fact that historically growers in the region have had a tendency to produce wines reductively. Until the last decade, most also harvested their grapes with a potential alcohol of 12º, picking them when they were still green in color. All of these practices resulted in backward, stern and fairly austere wines that took at least a decade to reach a point where they began to show their charms. Many growers in the region still follow this very traditional method to produce Savennieres and it is these wines that have largely defined “typicity.” Recently this trend has begun to change. Better farming, in many cases biodynamic or organic, reduced yields, hand harvesting grapes that are golden in color, and backing away from reduction by using neutral wood barrels for aging and less sulfur during winemaking. These steps are combining to produce more approachable wines that do not require aging or a rigorous intellectual understanding of the charms of Chenin grown on schist in order to enjoy them.
It is for these reasons that La Revue de Vin de France has singled out Damien Laureau as “Undoubtedly the future star of Savennieres.” Working out of a tiny shed, Damien Laureau is not exactly what one would call a “typical” Savennières winemaker. Fruit extracts and other non-synthetic treatments are used on the vines in place of harsh chemicals, and quite frankly, you can tell it just by looking at the vineyards. They feel alive, with wildlife and indigenous plants sharing the space with Damien’s healthy vines of Chenin Blanc. Damien, along with a few other young growers, is starting to experiment with harvesting just when the grapes turn yellow (instead of the traditional Savennieres “green grapes”) to take advantage of the richness that the sun brings. At the same time, he is careful not to pick too late as he wants to avoid a high level of botrytis in the harvest. As a result, the wines are a beautiful balance of richness, concentration, lively acidity, and length. Yields are quite low (an average of 35 hl/ha is quite common while most harvest at around 50 hl/ha.)