Friday, October 9, 2009

Review: Champalou Times Three

Last year, I drank through a case of Champalou Vouvray. The wines were among the most wonderfully finessed Chenin Blancs I've had from this region in the Loire Valley.

So, when I saw the Champalou table at the recent Winebow portfolio tasting, I made a beeline for it. I was rewarded for my faithfulness by getting the chance to sample the whole 2007 Champalou line. I had indulged only in the Vouvray Sec, which are made from 35-year-old vines. But Champalou also makes a Cuvee Fondraux, also from 35-year-old vines, but planted in argilo-calcerous soil, and aged in old casks, which apparently makes all the difference. The wine has even more subtlety than the Sec, and a wider array of fruit flavors (peach, pear, melon), honey, more pronounced minerality and a stronger acidity. It costs only a trifle more and is definitely worth it

The big surprise, however, was the Petillant Brut NV. I didn't know Champalou made a sparkling. But, then, the Loire had hidden bubblies all over the place, doesn't it? It's 100% Chenin, like the others. The vines are 35 to 50 years old. The juice is ferment two months in stainless steel, and there's a second fermentation in the bottle that last five months more. This is an amazing sparkling, showing what a Chenin can do. Intensely alive and bright, spring-like, it demands your attention and demands you be happy. What a treat.

Catherine Champalou herself was there to pour, and obviously made happy by my appreciation of her wines. Loire winemakers always seem so modest. Catherine and Didier Champalou established their domaine in Vouvray in 1984. Didier works in the vineyards, and Catherine looks after fermentation and the cellar. They also apparently make sweet wines when the conditions are right, but they were not on offer.

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