Savennières: it’s Chenin Jim but not as we know it....

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Chateau des Vaults

The first stop on our tour of the Loire was the little village of Savennières (SAV-EN-NEE-YEAH!), an exclusively white wine producing appellation where only Chenin Blanc is permitted for wines labelled with the AOC. It produces wine from this familiar grape that are almost unrecognisable compared to what we know as commercial Chenin. Forming two extremes there are the über dry Savennières and the super sweet.

Hosted at the beautiful Château des Vaults we were greeted on mass by four wine producers, together showing a united front more often associated with the New World. We were taken on a tour of the grounds of the Château and marched up the hillside vines to get a better perspective of how close the vines are to the sun. Quite literally. It’s the main reason the wines frequently reach 14% abv, unusual considering the Loire in general is one of the world’s most northerly wine producing regions, these slopes get a lot of rays.

Interestingly vines and wine in Savennières are almost entirely farmed and produced following organic principals although much is not certified it’s a reflection of the respect the region’s growers have for sustainability and for their neighbours. It is after-all difficult to be organic if the winery next door is liberally spraying their vines next to yours with insecticides and other chemicals.

In the shelter and shade of the Château walls we were taken through 14 examples of Savennières and the difference in style between each one was equally delightful and surprising. I wonder how, from such a teeny weeny appellation, general wine consumers are supposed to tell one bottle from another when typical French regulatory nonsense dictates it is not permitted to put grape variety or taste profile on the front label. Could it be one of the reasons not much of it reaches our shores?

Actually no, because of the four producers we met, three of them are already represented in the UK and not by obscure one-man-band operations, instead by some of our nations most respected wine merchants.  Surprisingly of all the Savennières wines we tasted that morning one of my favourite was typically from the only producer not yet in the UK, Château de Varennes from the Alain Chateau portfolio. If you know any importers looking to add to their eclectic portfolio then send them in this direction. For a full list of my top picks from this tasting click here.