I read with interest the recent post by David McDuff on his McDuff's Food and Wine Trail blog about Francois Chidaine Montlouis. David finds that Chidaine white wines may be aging more quickly than expected, and apparently he's not alone. Vintage variation could very well be an issue here, but if Chidaine is not using much sulfur, as some people suggest, perhaps that is a factor.
My data point is probably controversial. First, it's not Montlouis, but rather Vouvray, across the Loir river to the south and the more well known village of high quality dry and sweet chenin blanc wines. The technical difference aside, Vouvray should probably age more slowly than Montlouis, so that's not an issue to me.
The real issue might be that I'm trying a 2003 vintage wine, from the "vintage of the sun." If any wine would show advanced characteristics before its time, '03 wines should. Right? Well, maybe. I've tasted a number of '03 whites from various regions of France, all similiarly hot in this vintage. No wine has seemed as advanced as this Chidaine. There could be "bottle variation," the excuse any odd showing begets. Or this could be indicative of Chidaine's style, razor sharp in youth but relatively soon giving way to the roundness of age.
I didn't have this wine young, to be clear. This bottle of 2003 Chidaine Vouvray Le Bouchet appears perfectly intact, and the wine is quite good. But the color is medium gold in color, the fragrance is quite mature with lots of creme brulee notes, baked apples and pears and a round, rich spicy jelly candy aroma. The flavors are fairly sweet and low acid, not unexpected in this vintage, but rather than simply ripe, rich fruit and mineral flavors, there are apricot and honeyed notes of a light dessert wine and some significant age. Again, this is delicious wine, but dessert level moelleux in character and fairly advanced at that.
This wasn't a typical vintage for any Loire producer, or any European producer. Still, I'm left wondering if Chidaine wines in fact are aging uncommonly soon. What I'm tasting sounds a lot like what David describes. Again, I've tried plenty of other '03 whites that are big and rich, but not yet this advanced. Perhaps it's the bottle. Or perhaps not. I want to investigate this further, so next I'll pull out a bottle of '01 Montlouis Les Truffeaux. The last one, several years back, was indeed razor sharp and gorgeous. Will it still show that with some age? Or a significant change to "old" wine? Anyone else had experience with aging Chidaine wines? They are delicious, but most curious.
Edit 1/17/2010 -- I've continued to enjoy this bottle over several days and it's remarkable for its interest and durability. Reading more about the Le Bouchet bottling, I learn that this wine is usually rich and sweet, and it's ability to hold up for days after opening suggests there's no sulfur issue. It's just the character of the wine.
I see that Huet's Clos du Bourg was perhaps a part of the Le Boucher vineyard at one point. Writing in the Wine Advocate, David Schildknecht notes that Fouquet harvests a moelleux wine from this botrytis-prone site. The wine is variously described as a demi-sec wine, or "rich" demi-sec, whatever that means, or moelleux. I'll opt for the latter, which can be surprisingly sleek with some producers, or clearly botrytis-affected as this wine is. Read more from the Wine Doctor. I'm enjoying his post with another glass of Chidaine Le Bouchet.