No, this is NOT a genderist or sexist post, have patience all will be revealed! Our arrival at the port of Le Havre and subsequent departure for a Savennieres wine tasting was not without incident; returning to our car parked on an outside deck the previous night we discovered we were not to be the first car off the ship but the last, and also that everyone in our lane had to reverse for 30 metres because we’d been parked in a cul de sac! Some 40 minutes later we’re off, now only to find that the French gendarmerie have decided to check every car passenger’s passports manually! The queue snaked around for about 500 metres, inching forward ….. very slowly. Again, 40 minutes later …. we’re off! You don’t want to hear about the car satnav throwing a tantrum 30 minutes later so having to switch to dear old Google maps on an iPhone, so I’ll just say that 3 hours later, after a ham baguette apiece for lunch, we arrived in the village of Savennières in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France near Anjou. Savennières is the home of Chenin Blanc, the grape used to make long-ageing white wines of outstanding quality and excellent value.
The Domaine du Closel is one of the top vigneron in the appellation and their Clos du Papillon so highly rated it is on my Wines 101 Bucket List, the next one to be tasted as we spend a week in the Loire Valley. We were met inside the walled entrance area by Adeline who was to be our host for tasting a range of the domaine’s white wines. First up was La Jalousie 2015, a fresh example of Chenin Blanc of some minerality, drinking well NOW and a bargain for such quality at €26.90. Next was Les Caillardieres, more closed but with a longer finish and which would peak in 2-5 years. Excellent value at €33.90. Finally, the big one, Les Clos du Papillon 2016, this wine had total Chenin Blanc character, balance, elegance, and would continue developing for another 15 years in bottle. Strong minerality from the schist terroir but balanced with the typical pear/honey notes of this appelation. Definitely a 90+ scoring wine and well priced at €38.90 which would cost around €50 from a specialist U.K. wine merchant. But ….. it’s not about the wine!
Clos du Papillon is a butterfly shaped vineyard, hence the name. The soil is very shallow here, full of schist, but wines have been made here for generations. The Fief des Vaults is mentioned in 1495 in the Chateau des Vaults archives, with its vineyard, orchard and garden. The chateau was built in the XVII century and remastered in the XIX century. The park with its current design was created around 1850. The property has been in the hands of members of the upper class of Angers and of the prestigious family of Nantes shipowners : The Walsh, Count de Serrant. Later, in the 19th century, the family of Emmanuel de Las Cases, Napoleon’s biographer, inherited the estate. Since that day, the Château des Vaults and the vineyards have been managed by the descendants of Las Cases, including Evelyne de Pontbriand the current owner/Manager.
Evelyne is from a long line of women winemakers, first started by Marque de Las Cases du Closel. Her niece, Michèle Bazin de Jessey, developed the vineyard and created the company: Les vins Domaine Closel, which she has handed down to her two children one of which is Evelyne. As far as I can work out she is the 5th generation of women winemakers here, and my tongue-in-cheek question of “is this a wine for women” as we tasted the Clos du Papillon had Evelyne laughing her socks off!