From: Saumur, Loire Valley, France
Varietal: Chenin Blanc
Taste: The Clos du Midi was a large walled section of the famous Breze Hill in Saumur. It’s now labeled as ‘Midi’ as of the 2022 vintage because a road (aka little dirt path) cuts between the vines and the wall so small trucks can carry grape crates out of the vineyard. Since the walled section is now split, it’s no longer ‘Clos de Midi,’ but other than the name, you can expect the same great wine as always. This 100% Chenin Blanc is scintillatingly crunchy and minerally, mixing a concentrated palate of citrus and soft honey with a zippy, salty-edged finish. Only 10% of the fruit sees any oak, and there is no malolactic fermentation to calm the bracing acidity. This is superb now, better in a couple of years, and capable of further cellaring—a gem of a Loire white.
Pairing: White Saumur pairs well with a myriad of fresh cheeses, as well as fish chowder, Dungeness crab, fresh salads, and soufflés, but our favorite pairing is the Lobster Roll!
Lobster rolls and Chenin Blanc from Saumur are like peas in a pod. The rich, apple-driven notes of the wine beautifully complement the sweet undertones found in lobster meat, while the wine’s ample amounts of acidity cut through the fat of the sandwich’s mayo content.
So, you know we had to share a recipe for Maine Coast Lobster Rolls by The NYT. It’ll yield 6 servings and only take about 20 minutes to make.
Chenin Blanc from Clos du Midi, now known simply as ‘Midi’
It comes from one of the colder sites on the Brézé hill and has nearly four hectares in production. The upper section of the vineyard, on the mid-slope of the hill, is primarily made of sand and at the bottom it’s richer in clay. These elements combine with the sandy limestone mother rock, tuffeau, and its vinification and aging in stainless steel to generate a broad range of complexities in this often laser sharp but pleasure-filled wine. Aromatically discrete, and depending on the vintage, the wine is often marked with honey, dried exotic fruits, herbal tea and sweet lemon. Although this wine is 100% Chenin Blanc, it bears the freshness of a young Sancerre, the soft richness of Chablis, but with the unmistakable charm of Chenin Blanc from Brézé.
About Arnaud Lambert, from The Source Imports
The rise of Arnaud Lambert is no surprise. Since our first meeting in 2010 at his home in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg, a dozen or more kilometers south of the Loire River, this unknown vigneron’s potential was obvious—not only with what skills he already possessed, but how clear it was that he would sharpen them and grow into the spectacular talent he has become. Every vintage seems to eclipse the previous, and with some of the most gifted Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc vineyards in the Loire Valley, he’s only getting started.
What’s most incredible about Arnaud is his ability to churn out such quality with nearly twenty different cuvées rendered from more than forty hectares of vineyards; although this is a lot, all of his wines seem like they’ve come from a domaine with no more than five hectares. His wines are spectacularly etched jewels, short on pretension and confection, and long on harmonious depth and purity. Everything from his entry-level reds (Les Terres Rouge and Clos Mazurique) and whites (Les Perrieres and Clos de Midi) is astounding, and the upper class of the range developed for more time in the cellar are striking and warrant exploration for any serious Loire Valley wine enthusiast.
Domaine Arnaud Lambert, a relatively new name, was established through the merger of two labels in 2017: Domaine de Saint-Just, his family domaine within the Saumur-Champigny appellation, started by his father Yves Lambert in 1996, and Château de Brézé, a historic Saumur estate whose enviable collection of vineyards for which the Lamberts signed a twenty-five year contract starting with the 2009 vintage. This is why some wines are labeled differently within some vintages (mostly between 2015 and 2017); for example, in 2015 there is a Clos David labeled under Château de Brézé as well as Arnaud Lambert—so long as they are the same vintage date, they are the same exact wine.
As mentioned, in 2009, a fortunate opportunity in the form of twenty hectares from the historic Château de Brézé vineyards, all of which are individual clos (walled in single climat vineyards), arrived at the doorstep of Yves and Arnaud. At the time, the quietly legendary history of Brézé was only a whisper and its storied glory nearly lost. This stroke of luck would forever change the Lambert family’s fortune and their place in the world of wine.
An intelligent and insightful approach to the use of sulfites.
An important practice that Arnaud likes to bring attention to is his approach to sulfites. He prefers that all wines he vinifies and ages to be sulfite free during their processes until bottling. In his opinion (one that I share), it offers the wines the opportunity to further build on characteristics influenced by the season and the nature he works to preserve and protect in his vineyards. These more delicate elements may be greatly affected by sulfites, with many of them entirely killed, except the strongest. It seems that sulfites reserved for later in the aging process also allows the fruit characteristics to open up further without expense to the seriousness of the wine. This may shed some light as to why many natural wines (when they don’t emit foul odors) are often abundant and unapologetically fruity—in the best sort of way, of course.
If sulfites are not carefully approached with wines grown from Brézé and Saint-Cyr, they can be unforgivingly potent and raucously acidic. Their razor-sharp edges need softening, and the administration of sulfur after the wine has had some time to sort itself out in the cellar is more often than not a wise approach. Early sulfite additions may (in theory) clip some of the wine’s potential authenticity, especially with subtle characteristics. It’s often my experience that early sulfited wines may be harder and squarer than those sulfited later. Also, wines aged in a properly run cellar—healthy and balanced grapes, temperature regulation and appropriate hygiene—without sulfites early on tend to build a sort of inexplicably higher resistance to oxidation, therefore it often requires less total sulfur to achieve the amount of desired free sulfur; hence, a wine with potentially more personality. Wines with more intervals of sulfite additions throughout the cellar aging process tend to need more sulfites (like an addict needs a drug) and by the end are typically far greater in total sulfur. They may also exhibit more dried out fruit characteristics and a potentially coarser tannin sensation due to the stripping nature of sulfites.
While sulfites are a useful preservative and antibacterial treatment, they also take away good qualities from a wine. The amount of sulfur needed to protect a wine is also based on its pH level. In this part of the world, the pH levels are extremely low, which renders them far safer with lower sulfite doses.
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