Chenin Blanc is capable of producing great dry, off-dry, sweet and sparkling wines and most traditional texts refer to it’s apogée as being the extraordinarily long-lived, uniquely-flavoured botrytised sweet wines grown in appellations like Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume, or indeed Vouvray. It is successfully grown around the world but like Pinot Noir and Burgundy, nowhere else manages to quite capture it’s greatness.
Like Riesling and Chardonnay, Chenin is the other great white ‘Terrior transmitter’ – it is able to tell you, through tasting, where it comes from - it is highly sensitive and reflective of where it is grown.
I love drinking fresh, vibrant Vouvray and looked for quite some time to find the "right" Vouvray to fit in to my portfolio - when it comes to Vouvray I'm extra fussy, I wanted something fine, mineral, fresh, mouth-watering, concentrated and dry. Not that easy to find in a region that often produces quantity over quality...
I am happy to say that I found the brilliant wines of Sébastien Brunet some years ago. Sébastien assumed control of his family domaine in 2006 following the untimely passing of his father, and has quickly become one of the Loire's fastest rising stars.
Sébastien's vines are quite spread out; he has 15 hectares in total, in the communes of Chançay, Reugny and Vernou-sur-Brenne. Many of the vineyards came to him from his late father with the balance owned by an uncle (his late father's brother) which he rents. Most of his parcels are planted on the traditional soils of clay and flint (Silex). He's best parcel is called 'La Folie' with 4.5 hectares of vines, some 50 years of age and a few as old as 80 years.
The work in the vineyard is organic but Sébastien has not applied for certification and appears uniterested to do so - he clearly has no interest in having his commitment to organic viticulture independently verified!
Grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the press using small trays. On arrival to the cellar they are sorted as they go into the press which is completed slowly and very gently. Depending on the wine, fermentation takes place using natural yeasts and no additives - either in steel tanks, or in a mix of older and newer 400-litre barrels. The élevage is short, and the wines are then lightly sulfured and lightly filtered before bottling the year following the harvest.
Sébastien comes across resolute, serious and thoughtful and his methods are exacting, precise and demanding. You can taste it in his wines which show clarity and freshness with a defined linearity and toothsome mineral finish. A producer to watch and discover.