Our Tasting Impressions
An amazing and still quite 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 is integrating nicely. It will be fun to follow this wine over the next 3 decades.
About this wine
Chenin Blanc from Gigou's most prized vineyard - 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 bryozoan 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 bâtonnage 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 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.
On Your Table
This rocked with Asian-marinated tuna steak and soba noodles. The complexity, salinity and touch of funk married the umami flavors of soy, sesame and rice vinegar. Or with cheese, go for a firm cow's milk to contrast or a young goat to complement.
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.