Domaine de Villalin Quincy Tradition 2017
Winegrower: Maryline & Jean-Jacques Smith
Region: Quincy, Loire Valley, France
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc
Delivery: June 2018
Quincy is a minor appellation in the Loire Valley that is overshadowed by its better-known neighbours Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. However, it is home to Maryline and Jean-Jacques Smith and their Domaine de Villalin. They are small winegrowers that make excellent, distinctive and mouth-watering wines offering great value. This Sauvignon Blanc – not the grassy style New Zealand became known for, and not like the ripe fruit of Napa or even many Sancerre, is stony and crisp, with a freshness suggesting it just bubbled up from a mountain spring. It’s clean, pure, refreshing and intensely delicious and would put many top Sancerre wines to shame, especially for the price. This is as traditional as Sauvignon Blanc can get from the Loire Valley. Grapes are grown organically, vineyards are worked with donkey-drawn plows, and Maryline and Jean-Jacques are the only winegrowers in the appellation to handpick their grapes. In the cellar they use indigenous yeasts and age the wine in tanks. They do a light filtering and add just a touch of sulphur before bottling. Great minerality, classic fruit profiles of citrus, white flowers and gooseberries in full display and flavour readiness all upfront, and long on the mid-palate and finish, all held together by perfect acidity. And all this is from one of the best vintages in the Loire in close to 20 years, comparable to 2005. For just $25 this is a no brainer that should be bought by the case to be enjoyed all year long, especially during the hot summer months we are all eager so see return.
The Quincy region has a long and rich wine-growing history that dates back to the Romans. In fact, Quincy is one of the oldest vineyards in the Loire Valley and was named in religious texts as early as 1120. Benedictine monks introduced the Sauvignon grape here. In the 14th century the Duke of Berry and Charles the VII created wines that earned its distinction of a “noble wine.” In 1936 Quincy became the first region in the Loire Valley to be made an AOC and the second in all of France after Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
The Quincy AOC covers some 220 hectares and includes the commune of Quincy and a section of Brinay to the north along the left (western) bank of the Cher River, a tributary of the Loire. The original part of the appellation dating back to the 12th century is called the lieu-dit of ‘Villalin’ and is located on the right bank of the river. This section represents only 2% of the appellation and has soils comprised of silex (flint) and gravel while the other 98% of the region is sand, clay and gravel. The difference in soil produces wines with added layers of complexity underpinned by the minerality found in the finest Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
Despite her Anglicised, non-local surname, Maryline Smith’s ancestors, the Roux family, have worked the vineyards of Le Petite Villalin on the right bank of the Cher since 1806. Smith is the result of her marriage to Jean-Jacques. Maryline and Jean-Jacques took over her grandfather’s domaine in 1998.
Domaine de Villalin sits in the heart of the Villalin lieu-dit. The Smith’s 8.5 hectares of vineyards are located on both sides of the river. They farm 7.5 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and 1 hectare (non AOC) of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Their goal is to produce wines that most naturally represent the terroir of their Quincy vineyards.
Today’s wine, Domaine de Villalin Quincy Tradition 2017 is well-focused, direct, refreshing and stylish. It’s bright, pale straw yellow and has intense aromas of grapefruit, melon, and white flowers with notes of pepper on the nose. This aromatic presence carries through on the palate with almond flavors, a lemony minerality and crisp acidity, followed by a long, satisfying finish. This is a bone dry, balanced wine with finesse; it proves that Maryline and Jean-Jacques are not only the top winegrowers in Quincy but also one of the best Sauvignon Blanc growers in the Loire Valley. Serve this wine on the cool side, 7˚ to 8˚, in a white wine stem. This wine is perfect with oysters and all sorts of other seafood, poultry, mild cheeses, asparagus, artichokes, and crudités. One of my favourites is this tasty halibut-en-papillote. Cheers!