Domaine aux Moines Savennieres Roches aux Moines 2015
Domaine aux Moines was founded in 1981, though there are records of vineyards planted in the region since the middle ages, when the monks (“moines” in French) from the Abbaye de St Nicolas tended vines. It is now run by the energetic mother-daughter team of Monique and Tessa Laroche. The estate comprises 9.6 Ha of Chenin Blanc and .8 Ha Cabernet Franc. The vineyards are all south and southwest facing hillsides in the sub-appellation of "Roche Aux Moines".
Savennieres is located on the Western edge of the Anjou region in the Loire valley, not far from the city of Angers. The vineyards are located on hillsides along the Loire river. The proximity to the river helps to temper the cold of the region as well as to encourage ripeness and protect against springtime frosts. The soils in Savennières are predominantly schists with some sandstone and clay. They tend to produce a flinty, drier style Chenin Blanc that can age for a long time.
The estate has always taken a natural approach in their vineyard work and cellar practices. Since the beginning, they practiced “lutte raisonnée” (sustainable agriculture), though are officially in conversion to Organic certification (Eco-cert) as of 2008. Yields are kept extremely low, which -- by law in "Roche Aux Moines" -- means under 30 h/h, and often less. All work is done by hand including the harvest which occurs slowly over a few weeks (5-6 “tries” or pickings). The wines are all fermented with indigenous yeasts, and aged in a combo of tank and cask (220 and 400-liter, mostly used), with usually 65-75% tank and the rest wood. Bottling is done around 9-10 months after harvest, though the winery stocks vintages for sale back almost 20 years!
Known for its delightful whites and sparkling Pétillant and Mousseux, made predominantly of Chenin blanc, Anjou has a temperate and dry maritime climate. The region's limited temperature variations are admiringly referred to locally as the “douceur angevine,” or “Anjou sweetness.” Fruit forward rosé and red wines from Cabernet Franc and Gamay merit Anjou its success within the Loire subregions.
Unquestionably one of the most diverse grape varieties, Chenin blanc can do it all. It shines in every style from bone dry to unctuously sweet, oaked or unoaked, still or sparkling and even as the base for fortified wines and spirits. Perhaps Chenin blanc’s greatest asset is its ever-present acidity, maintained even under warm growing conditions. While most would agree it reigns supreme when from its birthplace of the Loire Valley, Chenin is the most planted variety in South Africa. California’s Clarksburg appellation is also winning more notoriety for its Chenin.
In the Glass
Chenin's drier versions commonly have characteristics of passion fruit, lemon, quince, green apple, saffron and chamomile while sweeter version express aromas and flavors such as yellow pear, white peach, persimmon, melon, ginger and honeysuckle. When aged in oak, qualities like meringue and brioche can be found. Sparkling versions often have yellow apple, ginger and floral notes.
Cool-climate Chenin blanc has the chalky acidity to work with light seafood such as oysters and shellfish. Off-dry styles work well with the sweet-and-sour nature of Thai and Vietnamese food. The sparkling versions such as Saumur Mousseux, Vouvray Petillant and Crémant de Loire make amazing aperitif options that won’t bruise the pocketbook.
South Africa actually has double the amount of Chenin blanc planted compared to France. It is believed that either the Dutch navigator, Jan van Riebeeck, brought the grape to Cape Town in 1655 or the Huguenots fleeing France brought it in 1685. Either way, the South Africans have favored it for many centuries and make it in almost every style. Today a new wave of dedicated producers has committed to restoring old Chenin vines and finding the most ideal new spots for this prized variety.