Les Sables, from the sandy soils within the Clos, is the domaine's entry-level wine. Remarkably fresh, with fully ripe, snappy red fruits and beautifully integrated tannins, it is a testament to this appellation’s capacity for producing elegant Cabernet Franc. This wine epitomizes a favorite descriptive term of Jean-Philippe’s old colleague Philippe Gilbert: “digeste”—meaning, literally, “di- gestible,” but with a strong connotation of appetizing harmony. It’s the kind of wine that just feels good to consume.
Château de Chaintres, in the heart of the lovely appellation of Saumur-Champigny, perched high above the Loire River just to the west of Chinon.
The Château de Chaintres itself is stunning: a mid-17th-century mansion that combines bucolic charm and gentle majesty in a manner quite particular to this part of the Loire. In 1675, the Oratorian monks of the Notre Dame des Ardilliers constructed a wall around fifteen hectares adjacent to the château, in the sunniest and most favorable _terroir_ in the immediate area. This clos is situated on a subtle but notable slope and contains a variety of different soils within its confines, including _tuffeau_chalk, clay-limestone, and sand. The de Tigny family has owned the property since 1938, having revived viticulture in the _clos_ upon acquiring the estate; in fact, a good number of the vines planted back then are still in production. Fortuitously, our paths crossed in 2017, when the family hired our friend Jean-Philippe Louis as their new cellar master. Rigorous, intelligent, and deeply committed, Jean-Philippe was the long-time right-hand man of none other than Philippe Gilbert in Menetou-Salon—a keystone of our Loire Valley portfolio for many years. In fact, it was Jean-Philippe who encouraged and facilitated Gilbert’s adoption of biodynamics, and he has already begun converting the vineyards of Château de Chaintres in that direction. He expressed unbridled enthusiasm about the possibilities inherent in _terroir_ of Château de Chaintres from the get-go, and our two visits have only confirmed his assessment. Jean-Philippe’s precise, intuitive, non-interventionist hand in the cellar has already greatly improved the quality of wine here in just one and a half vintages (he oversaw the vinification and _élévage_ of the 2017s but was not present during the growing season), and the future here looks very bright indeed.
Whereas grass was previously retained in the clos, Jean-Philippe works the soil in order to aerate it and to stimulate microbiological activity. Harvest is conducted entirely by hand—not necessarily the norm in the central Loire—and fermentations from 2018 on will proceed spontaneously. A variety of vessels are employed for the vinification and _élévage_, but the ultimate aim is to allow for the purest expression of terroir and to capture the fruit’s inherent mineral-driven vibrancy. Indeed, these are wines of energy and freshness, with even the longer-macerated, more structured cuvées showing remarkable drive. The property’s _tuffeau_ makes for Chenin Blanc of vigorous acidity and penetrating precision, and the ever-transparent Cabernet Franc thrives in the heat-retaining sand that covers the limestone in many parts of the clos. Notably, Cabernet Franc from this appellation—a small and particularly gifted appellation within greater Saumur—can possess a complexity and longevity that belie its fresh, finesse-driven demeanor, and we are fortunate enough to be able to offer a scant quantity of library wine to prove that point (more on that below).