Branchereau - Clos du Papillon 2022
Loire specialist Jacqueline Friedrich calls Savennieres “the most cerebral wine in the world.”
But you will be more than excused for asking, “What the heck is Savennieres?”. Producing just 45,000 cases, this Loire appellation is dwarfed by Vouvray’s 1,000,000 case production. Heck, Montluis, hardly a household name, produces 4 times as much wine as Savennieres!
Savennieres sits 80 miles to the west of Vouvray, just outside the city of Angers. Its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean results in fog and moisture in the vineyards come harvest time. Which means… botrytis, the famed "noble rot” that gives complexity and richness to the sweet wines of Anjou, Quarts-de-Chaume and Coteaux du Layon.
But Savennieres is a dry wine. Why? Who knows?But somewhere in the 20th century, producers turned to making a dry wine. This makes Savennieres a dry island in the middle of Anjou's sea of sweet wines.
What makes Savennieres different than other Chenin Blancs of Loire is the botryitis still presents itself, resulting in a more complex and unique flavor profile, along with higher alcohol (14.5%). Combined with the cooler climate and Chenin Blanc’s naturally high acidity, Savennieres can be quite a mouthful when young. Owners Stéphane and Séverine Branchereau tame this austerity by making three passes through the vineyard during harvest, selecting grapes of different ripeness levels, some with botrytis. A portion of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and the wine ages in large oak foudres, adding further roundness as well as complexity.
By enveloping the sharp mineral nervosity in a honeyed richness – due to the scant amount of botrytized grapes they manually harvest – they’ve created a more approachable version. If you can hide away extra bottles, the hidden aromas will start to emerge and the whole wine will evolve beautifully in 5-10 years. But the steeliness in this wine is not something that needs to be aged away because of the opulent texture to complement it. What greets you is an explosion of aromas - layers of pear, quince, almond, honey. First sip, the tart yet succulent palate is enough to make you drool. And it goes on forever due to the naturally high acidity of Chenin Blanc and the inherent minerality that Savennieres has become known for. It’s also known for its incredible longevity both in cellar and once opened. I can say firsthand, this white lasted an inordinately long time in my fridge, gradually becoming rounder and more expressive. If you like a white wine with substance, maybe a little muscular with ramrod acidity and layers of thought-provoking flavors, you’ve found your match.
Vinous Media: 91 Points
“The 2022 Clos du Papillon is an inviting wine with rich apple fruit, ripe orange and enticing spices. While the palate has an intense concentration of fruit and blossoms, it counterbalances that with ripe acidity and assured phenolics that hold the mouth satisfyingly.“
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