Domaine de Villalin Quincy Tradition 2017
Winegrower: Maryline & Jean-Jacques Smith
Region: Quincy, Loire Valley, France
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc
Quincy (pronounced "Can-See") is one of those overlooked appellations that exceeds the quality of nearby Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé. It is also home to Maryline and Jean-Jacques Smith and their Domaine de Villalin. This husband and wife team are small winegrowers that make excellent, distinctive and mouth-watering wines of great value. This Sauvignon Blanc – not the grassy style New Zealand became known for, and not like the ripe fruit of Napa or even Sancerre – is stony and crisp, with a freshness suggesting it just bubbled up from a mountain spring. It’s pure, clean, refreshing and intensely delicious and would put many top Sancerres to shame. This is as traditional as Sauvignon Blanc gets 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 temperature-controlled 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 with a long finish held together by perfect acidity. And all this from one of the best vintages in the Loire since 2005. For $30 this is a no brainer that should be bought by the case especially considering the upcoming holiday season is not far off.
The Quincy region has a long and rich winegrowing 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. Sauvignon blanc was introduced here by Benedictine monks. In the 14th century the Duke of Berry and Charles the VII created wines that earned its distinction as 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 Blancs.
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.
Domaine de Villalin Quincy Tradition 2017 is well-focused, direct, refreshing and stylish. It’s bright, pale straw yellow with intense aromas of grapefruit, melon, and white flowers with notes of pepper on the nose. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc bursts with peach, gooseberry, green melon and lime zest aromas and flavours. The texture is sleek, silky and crisp. 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 one of the best Sauvignon Blanc growers in the Loire Valley. This wine is dangerously delicious on its own, with salads and all sorts of seafood, and is perfect with oysters, mild cheeses, asparagus, artichokes and crudités. One of my favourites is this tasty halibut-en-papillote. Serve at 9˚ in a white wine stems and enjoy!