Showing posts with label Montlouis sur Loire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montlouis sur Loire. Show all posts

Monday, December 01, 2008

Loire Chenin Blanc Wine Dinner

I'm in a really great wine group now, and great ones are hard to find, trust me. This is a great one because the people are intelligent, easy going, and excellent company. And because our wine tastes are quite diverse. And also because we came up with a nice system for running the group. We rotate as hosts and the host provides everything. All the wine, all of the food, everything. The host picks a theme and decides how to explore that theme.

I like this system because it allows the host lots of freedom but also gives them lots of responsibility when it's their turn. It's also an egalitarian system - the host who feels flush can select 2002 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru wines as the theme. The host whose employer is requesting a 20 Billion dollar bailout from the Feds, and who is not feeling flush, can select Muscadets young and old as the theme. Although vastly different in necessary expenses, both themes are fantastic in the hands of our capable hosts.

We've had a great time so far but I haven't been writing about it because, frankly, who wants to invite someone for dinner knowing that the dinner and wine will be dissected in a forthcoming blog post? When I host, I'm allowed to write about it. Recently it was our turn to host wine group and I chose Loire Chenin Blancs as the theme. I looked through my "cellar" and decided to go with the following wines:

Sparkling
2004 François Pinon Vouvray Brut (Magnum)

Dry
2005 Huët Vouvray Sec Le Mont
2002 Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon
2000 Clos Rougeard Saumur Brézé (by generous gift of Joe Dressner, just for this dinner)

Off-Dry
2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos Habert
2002 François Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition
1996 François Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance

Sweet
1998 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume

I went with roast striped bass with oyster mushrooms for the dry wines and a pheasant pâté plate of sorts, including a dollop of home made quince paste, for the off-dry wines. Pear and honey cake for dessert. It pretty much turned out okay.
This night for me was further proof for me that the Loire Valley offers truly profound white wines at reasonable prices. Overall, the wines showed fantastically well. The exceptions for me were the Pinon wines - the Brut was fine but the 2002 Vouvray Tradition was just no good. Other people liked it, so it's just my opinion, but I found the seaweed/dried mushroom umami aromas to be extremely off-putting. And the 2005 Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos Habert, one of my favorite demi-secs of the vintage, was in an awkward and closed phase on this night.

Here are some quick notes on the wines:

The Pinon Vouvray Brut was fine and lots of fun out of magnum, but objectively it just wasn't special wine. Other than H
uët's, I have yet to be truly wowed by any Loire sparkling wine, I must say.

The dry wines were fantastic, each with its own distinct personality. The Huët ($26 in early 2007, decanted 3 hours ahead) was the most delicate of the three, and although it was lovely during the dinner, it was utterly gorgeous the next day. Makes sense - the dry wines need time to develop. The Closel wine ($24 a few years ago) was in my opinion at the peak of drinking. Perfectly mature at only 6 years old (odd for a Savennières, but whatever), it was full of waxy ripe fruit, herbal, honey, and mineral flavors. Beautiful stuff. And the Clos Rougeard (over $60), which I decanted almost 6 hours ahead of time, was incredibly deep, although even with the decant, painfully young and during the actual dinner, not all that approachable. It's funny because about a half hour after decanting it was pretty fantastic. It goes through phases I guess. I wish I had saved some for the next day.

The weakest flight was the off-dry wines, although the 1996 Cazin ($26) was, for me, the wine of the night. And this is an interloper, a wine made from the Romorantin grape, not a Chenin Blanc. So sue me. It was gorgeous and completely harmonious, really in a great place. Mature and regal nose of ripe fruit with some interesting petrol and earthy notes. The palate was perfectly balanced with great depth of fruit and a great vein of acidity, and there was real viscosity here - this is dense without being heavy, long without being ponderous, just elegant and deep wine. Although I am not a fan of the 2005, my commitment to cellaring my '02s and '04s is renewed.

The 1998 Baumard Quarts de Chaume ($39) showed very well too. Incredibly beautiful nose of ripe orchard fruit, dripping with mineral intensity, and so fresh and youthful. This wine has a long life ahead of it. On the palate it's a wash of apricot and herbal honey supported by crackling acidity, loads of minerals, and a finish that lingers and changes, becomes pleasingly bitter. This wine had a cleansing effect on the palate, so different from most of the dessert wines I come across.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tidbits

Listen - I don't always have time to write something grand for this blog. Very busy times lately, as you know. So for today, a few tidbits:

Deetrane Beats the Market

For all of the fun I like to poke at my good buddy Deetrane for his wine buying habits (Wine Commune, Bin-Ends, all sorts of "deals" on "strange" wine), maybe he was onto something. Over the past few years he bought approximately $800 worth of Brunello, mostly modern style wines in the $30-$60 range, mostly on the secondary market. Way too many bottles, he says. Especially since he recently realized that he is not interested in drinking any of them.

So wasn't Deetrane lucky that one of the head honchos at Acker Merrall, where he cellars all of his wine, contacted him say that another client was looking to buy Brunello with a few years of age under $100 a bottle. Would he accept $2,000 for the whole lot of Brunello? Why yes, yes he would. Let's see...had Deetrane done the "smart" thing and invested his $800 in a group of stocks, he would have about $560 today. Who could predict something like this? Now, who would like to try to guess what Deetrane will do with his $1,200 in profits?

Wine Tasting News

I had the 2005 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Clos des Briords the other night, and it was awesome. I bought a case of this wine, the only wine I bought an entire case of in the past three years, and I now have 7 bottles remaining. The bottle I drank the other night was the best one yet. The nose was just piercing with bright citrus and seashells. Then it shut down. This wine will live to be 50, and at that age I imagine that it will beat many a younger wine on the tennis court. Is there anything better in wine for $15 than Muscadet?

I had the 2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Tuffeaux the other night and it was honestly just amazing. This is a cuvée blended from a few vineyards that I guess all feature a certain type of stone in the soils called Tuffeau. Les Tuffeaux is one of the richest wines in Chidaine's Montlouis lineup, and in 2005 this richness is even more pronounced. The residual sugar is much better integrated than it was only a year ago, and there is so much more to offer. As good as it was, it was that much better on day two, when it was woolly, honeyed, waxy, mineral, herbal, harmonious perfection. I think this is a keeper - hold it for five plus more years, more if you're tough enough. I have only two more of these, and I swear to you, they will not see the light of day until my daughter is going on 10 years old.

I had the 2007 Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges the other night and it's my favorite Granges of the past several vintages. This is the young drinking wine from gravel soils, the "entry level" red in the Baudry lineup. This year it is beautifully perfumed with ripe fruit, graphite (pencil lead, for all of you non-chemists), and gravel. That's right, I can smell the gravel soils in this wine. That's why I like it so much - it's more transparent than in recent vintages, from what I can remember. And it is juicy and well balanced with good acidity, just delicious. Too bad that it now costs about $20. $20 is the new $15, and I'm angry about this. I remember when the 2004 version of this wine sat in the impulse-buy bins near the registers at Chambers Street Wines for $14...BEFORE the mixed case discount. At least we can take solace in the fact that this is outstanding wine, worth every penny. This is a definite buy 4-bottles and drink over the next 18 months wine. If you want to know why the cool kids all seem to love Loire Cab Franc, drink this wine.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Three Loire 05's for the Cellar

I've been checking in on my 2005 Loire wines lately, just to see how things are going. Loire-lovers have been touting 2005 as a great vintage, as good as 05 in Burgundy or Bordeaux. If my recent tastes mean anything, this is not hype - the wines are just excellent.

Here are three wines that I can recommend very highly, although two of them are pretty much impenetrable right now. Each of them should be quite easy to find, none of them will cost you more than about $30, and they each represent one of the very best of their kind. And if you're into cellaring wine, these will improve for at least a decade, probably longer.

2005 Foreau Vouvray Sec Clos Naudin, $29, Rosenthal Wine Merchant. This is beautiful wine, I've had it a couple of times now. But I think it's in a closed phase now and might be there for a while. Even so, the quality is so obvious. Tight and unyielding on day 1, all about wool on the nose. On day 2 there's more wool, but also some citrus and some flinty hints, still feels like I'm smelling only the outer layer of the wine. On day 3 the palate shows clean wet stones, citrus, lanolin, and some green fruit. This wine is like a prizefighter in training - no sweet or fatty foods, lots of sleep, and definitely no sex, but this is just training. It will whoop your ass when the time comes. I salivate at the thought of drinking this starting in maybe, 7 years.

2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos Habert, $27 (but costs about $30 now), Louis/Dressner Selections. With Les Bournais, this is my favorite of Chidaine's Montlouis-sur-Loire wines in 2005. It's just fantastic wine. I'm guessing that people will eventually look to this as a benchmark for 2005 Loire Valley Chenin Blanc. Not a sec, and not demi-sec either, this is what they call vin tendre. The nose is so pure and fresh, the wine absolutely transparent. A gorgeous and classy nose, no flash - almonds, minerals, wax, wool, and super clean fruit. The palate is balanced and persistent, with a great streak of acidity. Young quince, citrus, and melon fruits are the main thing on day 1, but on day 2 the palate includes almost salty minerals and woolly earth. Everything is so seamless that the sugar doesn't in any way stand out, the wine comes across to me, especially on day 2, as being in perfect balance. I'm not as good as some of you at seeing into the future of a wine, so if I were to buy only one of the three discussed here, it would be this one. It's showing best today.

2005 Yannick Amirault Bourgueil Les Quartiers, $25, David Bowler Wine. Here is a concentrated and intense Loire Cab Franc that will reward time in the cellar. It's drinkable now, but there is so much going on under the surface. Inky purple with a guarded nose of lead pencil. Aeration beings about some dark flowers and peppery fruit. The palate is super concentrated with layers of dark fruit, some funky earth, and a clean mineral core. And this is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. There is great energy to this wine, it is concentrated but nowhere near ponderous - there is very good acidity and it feels quite alive. BrooklynLady thought this was pretty much shut tight, but I loved it. Very serious wine, and I'm eager to see what happens to this one with time. I'm also eager to try Amirault's other wines, as this was my first taste.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Wee Bit of Bottle Age

It's really amazing the difference a few months can make. Here are a few Loire Valley '05s that I enjoyed when I first tasted them, but that I really loved when drinking them recently. In each case, about 6 months passed between tastes. I always liked the Loire '05s, but this is ridiculous - 2005 in the Loire is just sick, and an amazing value. Don't let the wines get lost amidst the cacophony of 2005 Bordeaux and Burgundy.

2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Tuffeaux, $26. I purchased a few bottles of this wine based on my impressions at a tasting, so clearly I always liked it. But the first bottle that I opened at home in October of 2007 did not overly impress me. I found it to be a bit fat, to be lacking in balancing acidity. Well, we opened a bottle the other day and let me be the one to tell you that this is excellent wine. It is full bodied and flavorful but also well balanced and perky. On the nose is apple skins, wool, wax, and pure honeysuckle rainwater. It's a beautiful nose, it really pulls you in. There is plenty of residual sugar but the palate is well balanced and very drinkable, the acids so much more prominent than they were in October. There is great energy for an off-dry wine. The finish is surprisingly light and sheer, but the flavors linger. This is really a perfect aperitif wine and I'm buying more.

2005 Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny La Grande Vignolle, $16. Wow, this is some
tobacco-ey, earthy stuff. There is also great fruit here. Beautiful nose of red and dark fruit, tobacco, a bit of cocoa too, and that Saumur-Champigny earthy velvet is in full effect. This has great texture, purity, and length. And I remind you - it cost $16. Very satisfying wine and an excellent companion to roast meat. I'd love to get my hands on the "higher level" wines from Filliatreau, but I haven't seen them in NYC. I might sock away one of my two remaining bottles just to see what happens to it in 6 years.

2005 Chateau du Hureau Saumur-Champigny Les Fevettes, $22. This wine was basically closed down the last time I tasted it, in July of 2007. Of the three wines discussed here, this is the most improved and the most impressive. The nose is incredible, with absolutely clean and pure red raspberries (I would say jumping out of the glass, but it's cliché - the raspberries WERE jumping though), dark flowers, and minerally wet soil, with only the tiniest bit of alcohol (14%) poking through. This is a beautiful nose and you can tell that there is still some unwinding to do. The palate echoes the nose and is silky in its rustic country-ness, such a winning combination. There is soil underneath the raspberries and flowers, and it crackles with minerals and life. The finish is clean and pure. Just very impressive and delicious wine, and with a long life ahead of it.

What other glories from 2005 in the Loire Valley await? I'm guessing everything will be great.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

By the Glass

I used to call this kind of post "Recent Sips," but I think I like this better. Anyway, here are a few interesting wines from the past month or so that did not get their own post:

BrooklynLady and I learned our lesson, and went to dinner last weekend on our date (no more cooking classes for now). We went to Rosewater, a neighborhood favorite. They believe in using local and sustainably raised foods whenever possible, and the food is generally delicious. Great atmosphere too - small and intimate with flattering lighting, a knowledgeable and friendly owner/host, interesting and satisfying dishes - this place is a winner. Worth coming to from Manhattan, or when visiting NYC. Just take a look at their wine list! Someone cares about this list, you can tell.

BrooklynLady enjoyed her Goose Island Nut Brown Ale from Chicago and I was really impressed with my glass of 2006 Castello di Borghese Sauvignon Blanc (about $20, available at the winery or at Vintage NYC). A relaxed nose with citrus and grassy wisps, and a well balanced palate that followed through on the nose, with a round and smooth texture. This was a great sipper, and it paired very well with our cheese pumpkin risotto appetizer. I bet this would have done well in our recent blind tasting.

I ordered "Rabbit Three Ways" as a main (roasted rack, lardo wrapped loin, confit of leg) - what to drink with this dish? I went with a Gamay from the Loire Valley, a glass of 2006 O. Lemasson Touraine Le P'tit Rouquin ($14 or so, available at stores that carry Dressner wines). This is a challenging wine - I tasted it once before and thought it needed food. The nose is dominated by dried leaves and funk at first. Aeration brings about the cool minty red cherry fruit, but this is a foresty, potting soily wine, and it did go very well with the ever-so-slightly gamey rabbit.

Whites

2006 Jean-Claude Thevenet Mâcon-Villages Pierreclos ($15, readily available). A little Wine Blogging Wednesday research, if you will. This regional wine was dominated by minerals, Minerals on the nose, on the palate, all over the place. It had an almost quinine character to it. Maybe with clams on the half shell, but difficult on its own, not lots of flesh in this one.

2005 Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Tuffeaux (about $23, Dressner stuff again, might be sold out at this point but there are other Chidaine wines on the shelf - try one). I know that some people find this wine to be lacking in acidity. But I really like it. Yes, it's a fleshy and off-dry monster, but it has pretty quince and hazelnut aromas, herbal and woolly complexity, and a great mouth feel. I think this is a great aperitif, or maybe with young and creamy goat cheeses.

2006 Domaine des Cassagnoles Vins de Pays de Cotes de Gascognes Reserve Selection (about $12, should be easy to find - a Peter Weygandt wine). I loved the "regular" version of this Southwest France gem, so tasting the reserve was a no-brainer. This wine is 100% Gros Manseng and its much fleshier and richer than the "regular" blend, with a more floral perfume. Very lovely indeed, although I think the "regular" wine might be more distinctive. At $12 this is a great value too - a $15 beauty without question.

Reds

2006 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Pierre-Marie Chermette ($15, readily available). My first 06 non-Cru (is that a word?) Beaujolais. More stemmy and rustic than the very ripe and easy 05, needs about an hour to show its stuff. When it does, it is lovely red fruit with foresty undertones. Very nice, but not in the same league as the 05.

2002 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses (about $17, readily available). I love it when good producers hold back some of their wine and release it when it's a bit more mature. That's exactly what Raffault has done here. This is the top wine from that estate and 2002 was a good vintage in Chinon. If you come across this it's definitely worth a try. This is light to medium bodied wine with a complex nose of forest and fruit, with plenty of iron minerality. The palate is earthy and broad, with dark fruit and more minerals, maybe a bit of tobacco at the finish. It is graceful in texture and firmly structured at the same time. This could keep aging for sure, but it's fun to taste a high quality somewhat mature Chinon now...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Okay, Now for My Case

I bet all of you read Eric Asimov's column on Wednesday where he talks about learning about wine at home by having your local wine salesperson pick out a case, taste through it, etc. There are as of this moment, 96 comments on the companion piece in his blog. That's pretty intense. I guess people had a strong reaction to reading about Lyle's and Joy's cases. Probably because they would have arranged their cases differently.

So for all of you who want to poke your toe in the waters of the Loire, here is my case. Not a case from all over the world like Lyle's and Joy's, but Brooklynguy's case of Loire wine, a case that I believe will make anyone who likes wine a Loire lover. All of the wines I included are available as current releases, although production is not as large as in many other wine regions. That means you should go get yours now if you're interested in tasting. Most are from 2005, a wonderful vintage. I tried to include a variety of appellations and styles.

My case clocks in at almost $300, so it's not cheap at all. I don't imagine that any one will actually buy the entire case though. Pick what sounds interesting to you, if you don't feel like shelling out 300 clams for a case of wine you've never before tried.

One thing I should mention - I did not include red grapes other than Cabernet Franc - no Pinot Noir from Menetou Salon or Sancerre, no Gamay from Anjou...I did that because I think they are interesting, but not unless you develop a taste for Loire wine first. And I think these wines are a great way to develop a taste for Loire wine, if you are among the unlucky ones who have not yet done so.

White:

2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine, $10 (so far, my case is the same as Lyle's). Muscadet is inexpensive, but complex in the hands of a solid producer. Marc Ollivier is a wonderful producer. Best from Sevre et Maine and when aged sur lie (on the lees). Citrus, brine, wonderful with seafood - famous pairing with Oysters.

2005 Thomas-Labaille Sancerre les Monts Damnees, $21 (Our cases diverge here). Sancerre, the darling of wine bars everywhere a few years ago, is made from Sauvignon Blanc. Grassy and floral, fresh fruit, quite different from its white Bordeaux cousin. Clean and pure, usually sees little or no oak. Classic pairing with goat cheese. High end Sancerre can run you $40 a bottle, but great bottles can be had, like this one, for $20 or so.

2005 Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Clos Habert, $26. Montlouis is across the river from the more well known Vouvray, with whom it shares two important characteristics: 1) the wines are all white and made from Chenin Blanc, and 2) there is a lot of plonk floating around that gives these appellations a bad name. Sad, because the good stuff is enchanting and reasonably priced, a steal when you consider the silly prices of white Burgundy, for example. Chidaine is the real deal, and this cuvee is only slightly off-dry. Crystalline in its purity, great melon and stone fruit, very mineral. This drinks beautifully now with a half hour of air time, and it will age really well.

2005 Domaine du Closel Savennieres La Jalousie, $20. Savennieres is a half hour or 45 minutes by car west of Vouvray. Also the site of tremendous sweet wines such as Chaume, Quarts de Chaume, and Coteaux de Layon, Savennieres is famous for intense, dry, mineral wines. Not as big as Vouvray, but probably more consistent, with several world class producers. This is Closel's approachable young drinking wine from 2005, a classic vintage. You will be hooked on this stuff if your try it.

2005 Foreau Vouvray Demi-Sec Clos Naudin
, $33. Many producers say that demi-sec (off dry) is the best expression of Chenin Blanc. I don't know, I love sec (dry) Vouvray too. In fact, the sec version of this wine is just incredible too. This wine is a study in tension - fresh vibrant fruit and acidity, sweet flowers and honey, all pulling on each other, vying for prominence, but compromising beautifully. If you were to buy only one white from this case, buy this one.

2004 Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvee Renaissance, $17. Made from the obscure Romorontin grape in a tiny appellation created in order to showcase this grape. Cour-Cheverny whites are a great value in dry white wine, bracing and fresh with great melon and citrus fruit. The grapes used for this wine, though, are allowed to ripen longer and the wine is sweeter, demi-sec at least in my opinion. Delicious as an aperitif, with cheese, or with lighter desserts like pound cake or almond cookies. Will rival far more expensive Riesling if aged properly. And $17 - c'mon.

Red:

2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Cepage Cabernet, $10. Amazing value in young drinking Cabernet Franc. And yess, the same guy who makes the Muscadet makes this wine. Chill it a little, open it, try it, love it...

2005 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny, $15. Thierry Germain's "entry-level" wine. Dark, fragrant, delicious. You can sip this one alone, or enjoy it with food as rich as beef stew. You will want a case of this lying around the house, trust me.

2002 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses, $17. Raffault's top cuvee from one of the big gun vineyards of Chinon. Lighter and more elegant than the Roches Neuves, more funk and earth. This one requires your attention and a plate of roast lamb with herbs. This wine can improve with age for at least a decade too, although I challenge you not to just drink it up.

2002 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrieres, $26. The Bretons are quite famous now, and properly so. They make many wines, some for drinking young, some for cellaring, like this one from the great Perrieres vineyard in Bourgueil. You can drink it now, and you'll find rich dark plums and some red fruit too, an intense nose that also includes some earth and some herbs, plenty of iron and minerals. You will see that the structure will allow for cellaring though. Shouldn't your case have a bottle or two for aging?

2002 Clos Rougeard Les Poyeaux, $55. That's right - $55, for a bottle of red wine from the Loire Valley. Do you have to spend that much to get a great bottle of red? Absolutely not. But if you did spend that much on one bottle, this is the one. Burgundian in its elegance, in the complex intertwining of fruit, floral, and earth characteristics. You will love this if you open it, decant, and drink now. But if you can wait 5 or more years, you will thank yourself.

Sweet:

Dessert wines cost a lot, so don't get upset here. Many more resources per usable grape are required. The Loire is the most under-appreciated source for sweet wines, in my opinion. Wines of comparable quality in Bordeaux can cost more than double the price. These wines have an incredible play between sweet honeyed floral fruit and vibrant acidity. They are thick but not heavy. Here is one that you will find on the shelves now.

2003 Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Moelleux 1er Trie, $55. Moelleux (mellow) is the word to look for on Vouvray bottles to know that they are dessert wines. The grapes for this one are picked by hand in individual passes through the Haut Lieu vineyard, selecting only the grapes that are properly ripe, and that are affected with the noble rot. This is the first pass (1er Trie), grapes of the highest quality. 2003 was not so great in general in the Loire, but the sweet wines fared well and don't require as much time to show interesting secondary aroma and flavor characteristics.You can drink this now, this honey-gold nectar, and you will love it. But again, if you give it a few more years in the cellar you will be well rewarded.

So that's it, my Loire case for the uninitiated. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #29 - Biodynamic Wine

Lenn at Lenndevours started Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) over two years ago, an online tasting and sharing of notes and experiences with wine. Hosted by a different blogger each month, it also seems to build community among bloggers and blog readers. I started reading the summaries, called round-ups, long before I got my feet wet blogging.

This month WBW is hosted by none other than the illustrious Jack and Joanne (two American kids doin' the best they can) over at Fork and Bottle. Biodynamic wine is the theme they selected for this month.

But before I get into tasting notes I want to say something quick about Fork and Bottle: this site is a must for foodies who are parents or parents to be. There is a wonderful section called "Kids and Cooking" with nice photos and ideas about their experiences cooking with their son. I was inspired by reading this material, inspired to think for myself about how I hope to do it, not just to take notes and repeat what I read. So to Lenn, who is due to have a baby any week now, as are BrooklynLady and I, and to all the other parents participating in WBW - check this part of the Fork and Bottle site out also. My .02 cents.

Now...biodynamic wine. Well, after reading some of the links Jack and Joanne helpfully provided, I still feel a bit confused. I absolutely am a Rudolph Steiner fan, and I definitely think of soil and its components as a vital living being that can experience varying degrees of health. It makes sense to me as some one who cooks and eats almost exclusively locally derived healthy food, organically grown produce, and hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free range meat, that soil produces better grapes when it is "fed" in a healthy way.

I am confused by what I think of as odd practices that are part of biodynamics. Why a cow horn filled with manure, buried for the winter? Herbs aged in the skeleton of a rabbit? Maybe there is science behind this, but surely another type of horn might also work, or must it be cow? Not that I care, mind you - if this works for producers and for the Earth, then I'm all for it. I just have not been able to understand the science behind some of biodynamics from what I've read, and you have to admit - without the science, it can seem a little weird.

But I also noticed from reading Jack and Joanne's biodynamic wine producers guide, that many of the wines that I love and cellar are right there on the list, particularly in the Loire Valley: Closel, Breton, St. Nicholas, Clos Rougeard, Sablonnettes, Clos Roche Blanc...and the producer of the wine I want to talk a little bit about now, Francois Chidaine. Maybe biodynamic wines ARE better, or maybe I just love wines from the Loire Valley...

Montlouis is a little town right across the Loire river from Vouvray. Montlouis, like Vouvray, is a 100% Chenin Blanc appellation, producing mineral driven wines in dry, demi-sec or off dry, and vintage permitting, moelleux, or sweet wines. But Montlouis does not have the same cache as Vouvray, for some reason. This might be because of differences in terroir (Montlouis is reputed to be sandier), or maybe because there are more producers in Vouvray who consistently make great wine. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

My two favorite Montlouis producers are Domaine Delatang and Domaine Francois Chidaine. BrooklynLady and I visited Delatang in while in the Loire Valley in October of 2005 and we loved our tasting (there was a 1995 moelleux...YUM). We didn't make it to Chidaine, and I always regret this. Next time. Dressner's site describes the various Chidaine wines in one page of compact writing - take a peek. I always love the elegant Chidaine petillant wines- at about $18, an incredible bargain.

For WBW I decided to taste a 2005 wine, the vintage that everyone is so excited about all over France, and the Loire is certainly no exception.

2005 Domaine Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert, $25.
Lovely floral and ripe melon on the nose, wet rock smells become more prominent after 90 minutes open. First impression on the palate is purity - this wine has that rainwater feel to it that I associate with good Loire whites. Light to medium bodied with flavors of ripe fruit, nice balancing acidity, and strong minerality. After some time open, the palate gains in complexity, with interesting flavors of herbs (lemongrass?) and even some black licorice remaining in the mouth after swallowing - "mouth perfume." Described as demi-sec, but I feel like it is without the sweetness, the honeyed finish that is usually present in demi-sec wines. It is not fully dry though either. Maybe a demi-demi-sec?

This wine continues to change and improve in the glass now after 11:00, and I opened the bottle at about 6:00. Hard to say because I am not tasting them together, but I would unhesitatingly say that this wine is equal in quality to the '05 Foreau and Huet Vouvrays that I have sampled. In fact, it might have a more complex flavor profile. Then again, did I taste Foreau or Huet after four hours, or were they gone by then? A project for the future, no doubt.

Thanks to Jack and Joanne for this interesting topic, and for providing the list of producers.