François et Julien Pinon Vouvray Silex Noir 2017
Winegrower: Domaine François Pinon
Region: Vouvray AOC, (Loire) France
Grape: Chenin blanc
Perhaps you have not yet been bitten by the Chenin blanc bug and transported to a world of luminous wines made in an astounding range of styles. If so, then opportunity is about to pull the cork for you.
Galileo purportedly said that, "wine is light captured in water". I like to think he was referring to Chenin blanc, or more particularly, François and Julien Pinon’s Vouvray Silex Noir 2017. This beautiful wine from an excellent vintage is clearly among the very best of the appellation. Born from 40-year old vines planted on 3.7 hectares of vineyards composed of clay over limestone with black flint, the wine has a unique mineral character and complex, engulfing aromas. This is a concentrated, rich wine balanced by great acidity. Drinking it is a deeply pleasurable study in sensory contradictions – it’s a wine that offers structure alongside freshness, textural density amidst soaring acidity, luminous fruit rooted in deep minerality – and its evolution in the glass is unfailingly generous.
It's no secret that we at Cellar Direct are big fans of the Loire Valley and the astounding range of expressions its varied terroir gives Chenin blanc. Within the lower Loire where Chenin blanc is king, geology varies more than climate: granites, schists, quartzites, sandstones and ancient, weathered limestones alternate along the valleys and divides of its eleven principal appellations. The chalk hills of the Paris Basin that dominate Touraine and Saumur unevenly give way to the weathered "old rock" of western Anjou and the Pays Nantais. Such geologic multiplicity offers the intriguing possibility of tasting how the soil composition of each region influences the final expression of a single grape variety. This leads us to the Cretaceous chalk of Vouvray which gives the Pinon wines their shimmering ripeness of fruit that feels almost haunting alongside their bracing acidity.
François Pinon and his son Julien live in the small village of Vernou-Sur-Brenn in Vouvray. They are passionate vignerons who farm their own vineyards. This father and son team are one of the best winegrowers in Vouvray, the spiritual home of Chenin blanc and where it reaches its apogee, producing some of the finest and most long-lived white wines in the world. Their vineyards, which are in the Loire Valley just east of the city of Tours in Northwest France, have been in his family since 1786 – going on sixteen generations.
François and Julien are traditionalists. Their guiding philosophy is simple: “add nothing and take nothing away from the grape’s potential.” But this entails extraordinary efforts in the vineyards; they work their 15 hectares by hand to strict organic standards. Yields are minimized through green pruning and ground cover grows between the vines. In the cellar they use only wild yeasts for fermentation believing it’s impossible to taste terroir if you use the commercial varieties (we agree). They also avoid sulphur because they believe the high acidity of their wines acts like a natural preservative (we agree again). Today’s wine, their Vouvray Silex Noir 2017, was fermented over three months. It was then aged on its fine lees in large, old wood barrels for another four to five months before it was lightly filtered and bottled in May 2018.
Vouvray Silex Noir 2017 is superbly balanced at 12.5% alcohol and 15 grams of residual sugar backstopped by firm acidity – 6.4-gms per litre. This slightly off-dry wine – have no illusions, it’s not sweet – displays lovely citrus, dried pear, fennel and floral aromas with a full-bodied palate of minerals and white fruits with a long, racy, refreshing finish. Though delicious now, this is a young wine that will benefit from decanting. Or better yet, aging; perhaps best from 2025 to 2035 and with a potential life of 30 years or more, that is if you haven’t enjoyed your last bottle long before then. This is one of the most food friendly wines imaginable, perfect for all of the conflicting flavors and tastes of the upcoming holiday season. Serve at 10˚ to 12˚ and be sure to pull the cork an hour or so before, then enjoy with asparagus, fried foods, gravlax, poultry and game birds, langoustines, or Coquilles Saint-Jacque.