Week 7 - Marc Brédif Grand Année 1997 Vouvray Chenin Blanc
Welcome back once again to this week's edition of Weekly Weird & Wonderful Wines!
This time we are heading a little closer to viticultural home with a wine that is very well regarded within it's homeland and certainly amongst those of us within the industry, but continues to remain somewhat unknown to the wine-loving public.
We shall be heading to Vouvray in France's Loire Valley through a few spectacular glasses of well-aged wine!
Presenting this week's wine:
Marc Brédif Grand Année Vouvray 1997 Chenin Blanc
Category: Vino Incognitus
Wine Makeup: 100% Chenin Blanc
Origins: Chenin Blanc has made it's cultural home in the lengthy and varied Loire Valley for more than 1,000 years, with large historic plantings taking place in the area particularly between the 1500's and the late 1800's.
There were many theories as to where Chenin Blanc first came from, and considering the similarities it can share to it's neighbour Sauvignon Blanc, many French wine historians suggested that the two grapes may well be related. This hunch was confirmed via DNA analysis in recent decades, and we now know that the grapes are half-siblings, being connected via the parent grape Savagnin (we shall discuss this grape in weeks to come).
Chenin Blanc appears to have received it's current name, thanks to plantings of the variety taking place in the 1520's and 1530's at a site in Touraine known as Mont Chenin. These vineyards were planted by Denis Briçonnet, the abbot of Cormery and his brother-in-law the Lord of Château de Chenonceau. Interesting to note is that his successor would later expand this famous estate and Château to magnificently bridge across the Cher River which included with other architectural marvels also includes a splendid wine cellar.
Today Chenin Blanc lives many lives, as it is used to produce dry and semi-dry wines in many parts of the Loire, but may also be used in delightful sparkling wines, and in vintages where the weather permits, a lovely age-worthy dessert wine often affected by noble rot.
Notably, white wines of this area including Chenin Blanc were highly praised in the works of literary icon and French Renaissance writer François Rabelais.
Region: The appellation of Vouvray is the largest white wine producing area of the Anjou-Saumur-Touraine region, with a majority of it's 2,200 ha( 5,436 acres) focused on Chenin Blanc.
Vouvray has two distinct areas for growth: the hillsides which are mostly comprised of white Turonian chalk soils, and the valley floor which contains two different soils 'aubuis', a mixture of the hillside chalk and clay left behind by the river, and perruche with throws some significant deposits of flint in with the clay base.
This allows for the hills and dales of Vouvray to produce radically separate wines from the same grape. Although we are talking about a still wine today, slightly more (52%) of the 11.35 million litres (3 million gallons) produced in Vouvray annually is actually sparkling wine.
The Loire Valley as an overall region is incredibly storied in it's history and the beauty of it's landscapes. Known to be the cradle of the French language, the birthplace of many French Renaissance writers (including Rabelais) and even as the location where Joan of Arc lead her troops to victory during The Hundred Years War. In the year 2000 UNESCO added the Loire Valley (between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire) to it's World Heritage list, due to it's significant contributions to French culture, including the vast history of viticulture in the valley.
Producer: Domaine Marc Brédif has been around since 1893 under the original name of 'Château les Roches', before being renamed to Marc Brédif in 1919 after Marc took over ownership from his uncle.
Brédif worked tirelessly to improve the domaine, and wished for it to be known for it's quality, which did skyrocketed in the first few decades of his ownership, with his sparkling Vouvray known to be one of the finest examples in all the land.
The cellars beneath the estate were expanded in the 1930's, with a stunning circular cellar built during this time that today houses some of the oldest examples of sweet Vouvray known to remain. These wines are said to continue to drink well up to 100 years of age if not beyond in exceptional cases.
Domaine Marc Brédif survived World War 2 without much harm, but due to financial constraints the property and vineyard holdings were sold in 1980 to Baron Patrick de Ladoucette, whose family has been known for generations for their collection of superb vineyards.
Ladoucette invested heavily in Brédif during this decade, and continues to this day to release some of the finest benchmark examples of Chenin Blanc in Vouvray, with all grapes picked exclusively by hand and wine produced in a variety of styles.
The Brédif Chenin Blanc has been known for years for it's complexity, dry or off-dry style, usually harvested from vines of 30-55 years of age.
1997 Brédif Vouvray is drinking incredibly right now, and it's age shows us a marbled gold hue with a light, clear rim.
Aromas feature honeycomb and white flowers, with hints of tropical fruits and apple.
On the palate this 20 year old white wine is alive and kicking like a mule! The acidity and complexity of this Vouvray combines to create a wine that is so fresh it could have been bottled yesterday, yet it's so graceful that you can tell the years have brought it wisdom and elegance.
If you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing an aged Chenin Blanc before, you couldn't look for a more approachable benchmark than Brédif. The aged examples are readily available from quality wine merchants worldwide, so go and get your hands on a bottle!
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