I have often said that one of my favorite grape varieties is chenin. My trip to Montlouis-sur-Loire only confirmed my love for wines made from this grape variety. I admire its versatility (it can be produced in dry, semi-dry, sweet or sparkling wines) and its adaptability to different terroirs.

By Marie-Hélène Boisvert

If there is one thing I learned from my participation in the Montlouis on the rock event, it is that Chenin blanc has an energy of its own. The various tastings and conferences of winemakers also allowed me to grasp a little better what this grape variety has to offer.

Château de la Bourdaisière

Château de la Bourdaisière

On July 4th, the Montlouis on the rock event took place in Montlouis-sur-Loire. Several wine columnists were invited. The tasting took place in a clearing behind the Château de la Bourdaisière.

Creation of the appellation: 1938

Area: 450 hectares 50 independent winegrowers and cooperators

Sustainable development: 48% of the vineyard certified organic or biodynamic, 40% certified Terra Vitis

Production: 60% sparkling wines, 30% dry wines, 10% semi-dry wines and sweet wines

Grape variety: chenin blanc

Montlouis-sur-Loire map

A unique terroir

The appellation of Montlouis-sur-Loire is located between the Loire River and the Cher, its tributary. This limestone plateau is ideal so that the chenin blanc can express itself at its full capacity. The versatility of the terroirs of the appellation allows as many different expressions of the same grape variety. Aeolian or loamy sands, flint clays (called here “parakeets”) and clay-limestone silts are the different soils of the appellation. The two rivers also have an important effect on viticulture in Montlouis, especially with their tempering effect. All these elements, in addition to the expertise of the winemakers of the appellation, add to the complexity and finesse of the wines. Their vibrancy is undeniable.

Chenin Blanc and Climate Change

Even if it is a grape variety that has great aging potential, it tastes very well in youth and it resists, according to some winegrowers of Montlouis-sur-Loire, very well to climate changes that have been taking place for a few years in the region. Could it be one of the grape varieties of the future to cope with climate change?

Summary of the climatic conditions of the last vintages in Montlouis-sur-Loire

2015: first vintage plus solaire

2016: freeze on 80% of the appellation

2017: frost on 50% of the appellation, hot and humid thereafter, botrytis

2018: Abundance of production, no frost, late heat wave had an impact on the acidity of wines

2019: 30-40% frost, heat wave at the beginning of the season, acid degradation

2020: heat, but good vintage

2021: freeze on 70% to 90%. Very difficult vintage.

Montlouis to drink!

La Grange Tiphaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Nouveau Nez 2020

Bubbles with depth and texture. ($35.25)

La Grange Tiphaine Clef de Sol 2020

“Patchwork of plots”, vibrant, tonic wine. ($40.00)

Domaine La taille aux Loups Rémus 2020

Coated freshness, honey, freshness. ($37.50)

If the wines of the Loire are often drunk in youth, few winegrowers promote the aging of Chenin Blanc as much as Jacky Blot. Met during the trip to Montlouis, I was blown away by the authenticity of the wines and the winemaker.

“The wines have a great aging capacity, without them being boring to taste at a young age” – Jacky Blot, this winemaker adept at harvesting “al dente” to keep freshness in the wines.

Montlouis Les Tuffeaux 2018, François Chidaine

Do not be impressed by the 9 grams of residual sugar of this biodynamic cuvée by François Chidaine, it only adds dimension and depth to the wine. It is on this point that Patrick Rigourd, speaker at the event insisted: we must stop this fear of sugar and return to it in the vintages of Chenin Blanc. The impact of the terroir, the degree of maturity of the grapes, the climatic conditions of the vintage are certain aspects that will have a certain impact on the version of Chenin Blanc that will end up in the bottle. In any case, these grams of residual sugar only add to the pleasure of tasting, do not be afraid and dive in! ($45.25)

Montlouis on the Rocks

If I dreamed of visiting the Loire, I was not prepared for what awaited me: the meeting of cooperative winegrowers, dynamic and passionate, far from the marketing speeches often served during press trips. I have rarely witnessed such camaraderie and cooperation in a region where several young winemakers from outside come to settle and produce wines. And what about the various speakers who, throughout the day of Montlouis on the rock, were able to arouse reflection and curiosity on the issues and the future of Chenin Blanc and viticulture, in general. This Montlousian dynamism and the energy of the wines that have the tonic effect necessary at the beginning of autumn: so many reasons to (re)discover the wines of this Loire appellation.

A member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, Marie-Hélène Boisvert is a seasoned social media consultant. Passionate about wine, when she is not teaching the next generation of sommellerie, she likes to discover and learn more about this infinite world that delights the taste buds.