About this wine
Chenin Blanc from Gigou's most prized vineyard - Clos Saint Jacques - planted more than 70 years ago. It is organically farmed and harvested by hand. Yields were just 15 hl/ha due to frost. The soil is silex (flint & sand) limestone clay and tuffeau - porous, chalky limestone composed of bryozoa fossils (tiny aquatic invertebrates).
Fermentation is in 400-liter oak barrels for 4-6 months using indigenous yeasts. The wine ages on fine lees for 5-6 months with batonage in the barrels.
About the grape
Chenin Blanc is one of the world's great wine grapes. Possibly dating back a millenium, Chenin is notable for its intense acidity. In fact, before the pronounced effects of climate change, cold years in the Loire produce underripe grapes and disastrous vintages. Often vintners had to add sulphur to counteract the savage acidity. Today, that does not happen much and Chenin can fully display its vivacious and glorious floral, hay and honey notes. Chenin is among the most flexible varieties for wine production. It can be vinified dry, off-dry or sweet. It also is capable of producing wines that can live and improve - seemingly - forever.
Our Tasting Impressions
An amazing young Chenin! It's like a fireworks show in your mouth. There is so much going on, it's hard to keep up. Great depth and an intense acidic spine that will integrate over time. It will be fun to follow this wine over the next 3 decades.
On Your Table
Right now, this makes me crave cheese - a firm cow's milk to contrast or a young goat to complement. With a meal, I think squab in a fruit sauce. Serve at cellar temperature.
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The Gigou family operates their quaint 13 hectares farm in the central northern reaches of the Loire Valley - not far Le Mans, home to the famed 24-hour auto road race. Joël started the estate in 1974 along with his gracious wife Sylvie. His son Ludovic now handles much of the management and his sister Dorothée has recently joined in the efforts.
Their vineyards lie in Jasnières (8ha) and Côteaux du Loir (5ha), two fairly obscure appellations that might have faded into oblivion if not for the fine wines and tireless promotion from this family.
The vineyards in Jasnières are planted to Chenin Blanc to produce all but one of their whites, including a sweet Chenin in vintages when botrytis (noble rot) occurs.
Gamay and Pineau d'Aunis (and the Chenin for one white) is planted in Côteaux du Loir to produce their reds and rosé. They also produce sparkling wines in all three colors that are not appellation specific. The range of wines is extensive despite producing only about 40-50,000 bottles per year. There are lots of old vines.
They farm without chemicals. They harvest 60% by hand and 40% by machine (for the white grapes with stems left intact).
Now the remarkable part, Ludovic told me they keep all their bottled wines in their cellar for at least one or two years. I asked why they do this (wondering how a small estate can defer the revenue). He replied, The wine decides when it's ready. In some cases, he would hold them back even longer, except they are often out of storage space. Truly a portrait of a family whose prime concern is that the wines that bear their name are special.