It is uncommon, across the world of wine, for a producer to cultivate a single grape variety alone. Of the nearly 200 growers whose wines we import, a tiny fraction do this. Thierry Allemand in Cornas (Syrah). The Raveneaus and Lavantureux in Chablis (Chardonnay). The Lapierres in Morgon (Gamay). Then there are the Champalous, who live and work in Vouvray, just downriver from the Château du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years. Of this small and impressive set of single-grape devotees, Catherine, Didier, and their daughter Céline draw the widest range of styles out of one material. From a dry sparkler to two of the most sublime late-harvest wines on this planet—and three styles in between—they have not only found, but mastered the diverse, exquisite possibilities of Chenin Blanc. The best introduction to the Champalous’ Chenin magic is their refreshing, elegant, classic Vouvray AOC bottling, which is an equally good candidate for your porch apéritif, dinner table, and cellar. At table, it is stunningly versatile, having paired well recently with a beet and goat cheese salad, two different summery pastas, and an assortment of Chinese dishes. Aromas and flavors of pear, apple, flowers, honey, mouthwatering citrus, and minerals take turns coming in and out and back into focus as you drink this wine, giving it a mesmerizing complexity that is rare at this price. Best of all, it is a real joy to drink—a strong contender for your go-to summer white.
Catherine and Didier Champalou both came from vigneron families, yet their mutual sense of independence prompted the couple to brave it on their own. Since starting the domaine in 1983, their label has become one of the most highly-acclaimed in the appellation. Vouvray is home to the noble Chenin Blanc, more commonly known as Pineau de la Loire in their part of the world. The Champalou family farms 21 hectares of vineyards, embracing sustainable farming while integrating the use of the lunar calendar. Their soils are rich, deep, and aerated though regular plowing. The Champalou house style produces wines of great elegance and tenderness, highly aromatic with impeccable balance. No one comes close to copying their distinct style.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
Drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages may increase cancer risk, and, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/alcohol
Many food and beverage cans have linings containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical known to cause harm to the female reproductive system. Jar lids and bottle caps may also contain BPA. You can be exposed to BPA when you consume foods or beverages packaged in these containers. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/bpa