Friday, March 12, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Coteaux du Giennois Sauvignon Blanc

The Loire Valley is a major wine region in western France that follows the course of the Loire river as it meanders through France, from the inland hills of Auvergne to the plains on the French Atlantic coast near Nantes. The "Upper Loire" sub-region is comprised of many appellations all with one common denominator - their proximity to the river. These appellations include Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Orleans, and our subject: Coteaux du Giennois. This appellation consists of fourteen parishes around the town of Gien and resides midway between Orléans and Sancerre. 

According to Loire Valley Wines, the vines in the Coteaux du Giennois are planted on siliceous or limestone slopes on old river terraces along the Loire and experience a continental climate with little ocean influence.  Light-bodied red wines are produced in the AOC using Gamay or on occasion Pinot Noir, but white wines are the main attraction consisting of 60% of output.  And this features almost exclusively Sauvignon Blanc.

We recently received samples through the Hopwine program from one Coteaux du Giennois producer, Domaine de Villargeau.  In 1991 two brothers, Jean-Fernand and François, cleared old vineyard parcels of flint-based soils with the supposition that this type of soil would "allow for a full expression of Sauvignon Blanc".  These hillsides had been abandoned a century ago during the phylloxera crisis but provided south-southwest slopes that order to maximum sunshine. A decade after the initial planting, Jean-Fernand's son Marc joined the team as well as his brother Yves when Jean-Fernand and François retired. Today the Domaine has 23 hectares of vines planted along the Loire River, 80% of which is Sauvignon Blanc planted on flint, limestone, and marl soils. This allows the winemaking team to produce five unique cuvées expressing both the grape and the soil. 

We received three of these cuvées through Hopwine and they each showed various degrees of minerality and lemon zest. 

Domaine de Villargeau Coteaux du Giennois Villargeau blanc 2019
Sauvignon Blanc from 70% flint terroirs and 30% limestone clay. It shows light citrus, saline, with a bright and lasting finish. 

Fernand & Sons Coteaux du Giennois 2018
This cuvée pays homage to their grandfather "Fernand", who created the original Domaine in 1920. The is Sauvignon Blanc from flint terroir on a flint subsoil and shows intense minerality, even salt, with tart lemon and a fresh lasting finish. 

Domaine de Villargeau Coteaux du Giennois Sans Complexe 2019
Sauvignon Blanc harvested from marle soils and expressing itself with "crispiness, fruitiness, and minerality". The wine also provides depth and a full lemon mouthfeel. A lovely wine. 

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