Savennières

Savennières Fast Facts:

Communes of Production: Savennières, La Possonnière, Bouchmaine, producing roughly 4500 hl of wine annually in 145 ha in the Maine-et-Loire département

Encépagement: 100% Chenin Blanc

Min. Must Weight: Sec 186g/L

Demi-Sec or sweeter 212g/L

Min. Alcohol: (Sec) 11.5% potential, 11% acquired

(Demi-Sec, Moelleux, Doux) 12.5% potential, 11% acquired

Chaptalization: Permitted for Sec, Prohibited for Demi-Sec and sweeter

Residual Sugar: 4g/L Sec

18g/L Demi-Sec

18-45g/L Moelleux

45g/L+ Doux

**Requirements for Demi-Sec and sweeter are now set by the EU

Other: Manual harvests are required and wines may not be released until April of the year following harvest; Appellation is located on the right bank (north bank) of the Loire River; two former sub-regions, Coulée de Serrant and Roche-aux-Moines were given their own AOP status in 2011

Soil Types: schist, volcanic deposits (rhyolites), sand

Named Vineyards (West-East roughly):

  • Croix Picot *
  • Clos Bouchard
  • Le Pare
  • La Pierre Bécherelle *
  • Le Clos de Grand Hamé
  • Château de Chambourean
  • Le Vir-Boyau (abandoned) *
  • Le Hu-Boyau *
  • Chambourcier
  • Moulin de Beaupréau
  • Clos de la Coulée de Serrant **
  • La Roche-aux-Moines **
  • Rochepin
  • Le Fougeraies
  • Le Clos St Yves
  • Le Clos de Varennes *
  • Moulin de Gué
  • Le Clos de la Marche
  • Le Clos de la Royauté
  • Le Clos du Papillon *
  • La Jalousie
  • Les Caillardières
  • Le Coteaux (abandoned) *
  • Le Gabillard
  • Clos Lavaux
  • Le Clos des Perrières
  • Les Bastes
  • Les Noues
  • Le Clos de Coulaine
  • Le Clos Ferrand (not planted)
  • Le Clos de Fremine

Courtesy of map at richardkelley.co.uk

* vineyards are those most highly-regarded

The vine’s history in the region began in the early 11th century with the establishment of several abbeys in Anjou.  Several centuries later, the vineyard lands were sold off to the local gentry, with a handful of estates being established by the late 1500s, several of which are still in operation today.

A notable figure in the history of Savennières comes in the form of Swiss native Pierre Constant Guillory.  He founded the Société Agricole et Industrielle de l’Anjou and owned a home and vineyards in Roche-aux-Moines.  He initiated experiemental plantings in the region and was a strong advocate for the planting of Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon in the region, on account of their earlier ripening.  He also began a viticultural school.

Phylloxera and downy mildew arrived in 1880.  When grafting and replanting began in earnest a decade later, the area was drastically reduced and Chenin’s dominance was established.  The AOC of Savennières was established in 1952, and the area’s reputation was based on demi-sec or sweeter-styled wines.  As the fashion for drier wines ascended, Savennières followed suit, and now the region is primarily identified as a dry white producer.  The area was injected with new enthusiasm as the 1980s and ’90s saw the arrival of new growers from outside the region, especially growers expanding from Coteaux du Layon across the river.  Nicolas Joly, owner of the monopole Coulée de Serrant, has also elevated the visibility of the region with his very vocal advocacy of biodynamic viticulture, though the generally unusual and variable wine production is hardly representative of the region as a whole.

The wines are noted for their austerity in youth and pronounced acidity and concentration.  They are also noted for their ability to age well, taking on notes of nuttiness and spice with age.  Personally speaking, I have much more enjoyed the representations of Chenin Blanc found in Vouvray and Coteaux du Layon than those of Savennières.  My sweet tooth is party to blame, but I also have not really had much experience with aged versions of Savennières, so maybe the older versions are more remarkable.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the wines okay, I just haven’t found them to be as memorable and complex as their reputation purports them to be.

Château des Vaults/Domaine du Closel Savennières “La Jalousie” 2011

This is an important historical producer, being established in the late 1400s.  While the property has known several owners, the current owner is the president of the local grower’s syndicate.  They own several parcels in Clos du Papillon, La Jalousie, and Les Caillardières.  Their wines enjoy a good reputation and have a track record for longevity.  They practice organic viticulture and mostly utilize native yeasts.

The wine was beginning to take on a golden hue, not fully gold, but definitely taking on some color.  A relatively subdued nose segued to flavors of pear, apple, and lemon peel with light dried white flower accents.  A medium-viscous texture and high acidity were the predominant structural components, as well as medium-plus alcohol.  Flavors were relatively light, with the structure being the most notable aspect of the wine.  It would be interesting to see where this wine goes in a few years.

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