Our Tasting Impressions
Ludo slipped this into our tasting the last time we visited the Domaine. My note was brief, “This is crazy good!” The vintage was more than abundant, so keeping yields down was critical - and of course, the Gigous know how to do that very well.
About this wine
A VDLT exclusive from Joël’s private cellar.
Chenin Blanc from Gigou's most prized vineyard - Saint Jacques - planted around 1946. The soil is silex (flint & sand) limestone clay and tuffeau - porous, chalky limestone composed of bryozoan fossils (tiny aquatic invertebrates). Harvesting is by hand with yields of 50hl/ha.
Fermentation was in Chestnut barrels at low temperatures for 5-6 months using indigenous yeasts. The wine stayed on fine lees for 5-6 months with bâtonnage in the same Chestnut barrels. Racking was done to stabilize.
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 produced 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.
Suggested Glassware: Grassl Mineralité
The Gigou family operates their quaint farm in the central northern reaches of the Loire Valley - not far from Le Mans, home to the famed 24-hour auto road race. Joël, who is credited with saving the appellation of Jasnières, 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 8 hectares of vineyards in Jasnières are planted to Chenin Blanc producing dry whites - and sweet in vintages when botrytis (noble rot) occurs. The entire appellation is only 108 hectares and the soil of mostly flint and tuffeau limestone is unique - giving Chenin from Jasnières distinct flavors. They farm without chemicals harvestIng 60% by hand and 40% by machine (stems left on for the Chenin).
Gamay and Pineau d'Aunis (and Chenin for one white) is planted in Côteaux du Loir (5ha) for 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.
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.
VDLT is the only active North American source for Gigou’s wines.