If you ever visit Bernard Baudry and his son Matthieu in Chinon, you will notice some very useful tools around their cellar and winery that help you to better understand their six or so distinct terroirs. One is a cross-section map of the landscape that shows the elevation and soil changes of their plots as you move away from the Vienne river. Another is a series of terrariums, side by side, that contain soil samples from each of these terroirs. Looking at the map first, you will notice that Le Clos Guillot is their highest plot, located right outside the town of Chinon. Turning to the glass containers, you’ll see the striking color of the yellow limestone in Le Clos Guillot. It begins to make sense why this cuvée is markedly distinct from the others. Even though all of the wines hail from Chinon, the soil, elevation, and exposition all combine to make Le Clos Guillot their cuvée with the most finesse. Enjoy this bottle over a few nights if you can and follow how the complex flavors of dark berries and graphite open up and become more delicate. This will be a study, in miniature, in how well this wine will evolve over the next five to fifteen years.
Bernard Baudry is unquestionably one of Chinon’s most outstanding producers. Not only does he have the talent to make delicious and consistent wines, vintage to vintage, but he is also fortunate to have vineyard land that showcases the varied soil types of the appellation. After completing his viticultural studies in Beaune, Bernard returned to the Loire Valley and purchased his first two hectares of land in Cravant-les-Coteaux, a village from which almost half of the production of A.O.C. Chinon is sourced. Over the years, the domaine has grown to 25 hectares and Bernard’s son, Matthieu, has joined the family domaine. The Baudrys are staunch traditionalists, and you would have a hard time finding a Chinon more classic than theirs.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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