Ludovic Chanson Les Cabotines 2014
Chanson’s first vintage of solo production was 2009; he bottled a ripe Sauvignon Blanc as well as a bright, laser-like Chenin Blanc. His is a non-interventionist philosophy to winemaking that lead him to hand harvest with successive passes to select only grapes at optimal ripeness. He ferments with indigenous yeasts, utilizes no chaptalization, no enzymes, or benonite, and blocks malolactic fermentation.
Chanson’s primary aim is to craft wines that best express the minerality of the silex and perruches soils of Montlouis. So as he got his land legs, he decided to jump on board the sparkling wine train, a small, newish movement of producers who are making Montlouis sur Loire Pétillant Originel (affectionately labeled Pet’ Nat), which got its AOC in 2007. Pétillant is different from the traditional – or Champagne – method in that it has much less carbonation than wines crafted in that style. It’s creamier, merely fizzy, and incredibly pleasurable to drink. Pétillant Originel bans the addition of sugar to jumpstart secondary fermentation. Any residual sugar that remains in the wine once the still juice stops fermenting starts the secondary fermentation in bottle once warmer weather arrives.
Chanson continues to produce his flagship bone-dry still Chenin, Les Cabotines, and is currently bottling one dry Pet’ Nat, Les Pions, one off-dry still (demi-sec), Les Pêchers, as well as one sweet still (moelleux) called Safran which contains 64 g/l of residual sugar.
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.