Chenin blanc is the great white grape of the Loire Valley, king of Vouvray, Savenièrres, Montlouis, Anjou & Saumur. These wines, which can often age well for decades, can be made in a Sec (dry), Demisec (off-dry) or Moëlleux style, which usually means a medium or lightly sweet version of chenin, not a dessert wine (which is sometimes called Liquoreux). The "premiere trie" designation sometimes seen means simply that the grapes come from the first pass through the vineyards, hence the ripest, richest fruit.

In the Coteaux du Layon, its surrounding towns and its two Crus, Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume, the wine is always sweet and rich, made for desserts or after-dinner sipping

One striking thing about Loire chenin: the stuff is practically immortal, and often needs twenty or thirty years to begin to show its stuff. When we stopped at a little shop in Vouvray the kid who was selling his family wine mentioned that his parents had celebrated their wedding in 1972 by opening a bottle of their 1872. So in essence, by stocking up on the 2002 vintage I'm being very optimistic about my own longetivity.

Elsewhere, chenin can make friendly, fruity wines. Our friends in South African traditionally called it 'steen,' and it is also grown in California where for years it was a staple of jug wines, but doesn't anywhere else reach the heights of the great Loire whites. Trust me on this.

Anjou, Touraine & Saumur Blanc-- Yep, that's What I Said

Cousin-Leduc Saumur Brut NV (Doghead All Grown Up): Friendly, biscuit-chalky, frothy. 'Very nice' is what I remember, my notes are stained with what looks like vindaloo and give few hints. (11/04)

Robert Denis Touraine-Azay-Le-Rideau Vignes de la Gaillarderie 1989 ($17) (Baseball Jeebus): Pale, pale gold color. The aromas that drift up are rich but a bit stern, honey and muted pineapple, hay and perhaps a touch of botrytis over a stony-rainwater base of minerals. The wine tastes strong and vibrant but a bit austere, holding much in reserve. The yellow fruit is deep and tangy, the feel of the wine is an iron hand in a velvet mitt, rich and densely-packed but showing some softness and development right on the surface. Hold until 2014. (10/24/00)

Robert Denis Touraine-Azay-Le-Rideau Vignes de la Gaillarderie 1995 (Asylum): Pale and stony, with a light old-grapefruit musk on top of the rockpile. In the piehole it's quite a butch wine, with stern acidity that is just this side of offputting, more minerality laced with rainwatery lemon-citrus hints and finishing puckery-crisp and lemon-rocky. I find it a little unyielding, other hardier souls are undaunted. (9/8/00)

Château de Fesles Anjou 'B' 1997 ($12) (McNetta 2002): Pale to medium straw-gold. Smells baked yellow appley with a bit of quince and coaldust. Tastes a bit diffuse, flat and lifeless, with a sour streak that wells up in the midpalate and dominates the finish. Cooking wine? Very poor. (6/02)

Château de Hureau Saumur 1997 (Robin in the Big City): Pale lemony-yellow color; bright, vivid lemony-grapefruit-mineral nose, this has plenty of nose to give, and it seems happy about it, a friendly, assertive wine. In the mouth, crisp and almost-sharp acidity is couched in a light glyceriney-mineral base with plenty of good chenin fruit. Very bright and interesting. Not terribly complex, but a nice kickoff for the evening. (2/7/00)

Moulin Touchais Anjou 1959 (A New Low): Medium gold color. There is a quick flare of horror at the prospect of yet another tainted bottle, but we're okay, as it's just a combination of bottle funk and old chenin wet-woolliness. Oh my, this is luscious; layered and bright and oh so subtly expressive. The aromas of tea, quince, honey, leather lanolin and orange-apricot all swirl and flicker through my nostrils. Medium sweet, still vivid and bright, lemon-honeyed in the middle, spreading out in light, precise layers on the finish. Could use a few more decades, but drinking wonderfully right now. Drink or hold. (7/14/03)

Moulin Touchais Anjou 1976 (Cellar Gems): A real change of pace--slightly gold, interesting honey-marzipan-stony aromas waft up out of the glass. Showing its age, but still lots of life here--pleasantly sweet but with a good crisp spine, a nicely balanced wine with a sweet, nutty finish. (10/14/99)

Clos Rougeard Saumur Brézé 1999 ($34) (Shanks): Medium straw color. Butterscotch and beeswax hints, a vague chalkiness peeps out from underneath. A sip, and it's a dense, compact wine, firm to the point of being unyielding. Showing a great deal of wood and little else, some quiet chalky hints and traces of waxiness. I'm a little less optimistic about this wine than I was a year or two ago. The wooding is abrasive and pervasive, and, quite frankly, unpersuasive: the creamy-waxy tone that held it in check has receded into the background. Probably just closed for business for a few decades. Hold and hold, and cross your fingers. Not a particularly good match with Brad's lobster-mango salad with avocado dressing. (4/24/04)

Clos Rougeard Saumur Chacé 1998 ($32) (Foodies): This is tonight's chameleon. Upon first nosing it I am appalled--it's just as severely oaked as the Lynch Bages, and the wood sits even uglier on chenin than it does on semillon-sauvignon. But an hour later the loud vanilla-toastiness has melted away and a strong chalky-mineral streak has emerged in its place, allowing the chenin to peep through and begin to unfurl itself. Yet another hour later the oak has reasserted itself, but the minerality remains amidst a rising weightiness, an almost unctuously waxy-creamy mouthfeel like a young Rhône. After that I throw in the towel. Another wine that is way too young to be consumed now. If you're thinking of opening one soon, DON'T DO IT--FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T DO IT. (10/14/01)

Domaine des Sablonnettes Anjou 'Les Genets' 1999 ($12) (McNetta 2002): A medium gold colored wine, with aromatics that just leap out of the glass and flood my worried sinuses with ripely cheninistic smellies. David Lillie (the Wizard of Chambers Street) posits that this wine "pushes the envelope of dry chenin," and I see what he means. It's a big, almost loopily ripe-smelling wine, honey and tangerine and lemon-lanolin hints, all kinds of extravagances in evidence. It just loves attention, the strumpet, sitting in my glass and wafting all those saucy aromas for all to sniff at. Shameless. But drink it fast, before it oxidizes. (6/02)

Domaine des Sablonnettes Anjou 'Les Genets' 2000 ($10) (Winterfest 2003): Medium gold color, hinting towards amber throughout. Slightly zany nose: apricot, butterscotch, golden raisin, apple pie, honey, lots of honey. A sip, and it's a rising tide of weighty, almost overripe yellow chenin. Good acidity, but lots of pillowy ripe flesh as well. The yellowness of the initial wave turns layered in the middle, tangerine and almond, lemon tea flavors and a bright citric acidity wells up as well, setting up a humming tangerine-rind finish. Eccentric, almost overblown wine that leaves me feeling a little mussed. (2/03)

Domaine de la Sansonnière (Marc Angeli) Anjou Blanc 1992 (Occult Wines): Medium-pale straw-lemon color, has some interesting honey, chalk and lemon-tea hints on the nose and gets my attention with some grabby-tart chenin fruit right up front that turns racy and lean through the midpalate and finishes medium-length and lemony. Not a heavyweight, but a bright, pretty, amiably crisp chenin that goes well with the creamy horn dung soup. (5/15/00)

Domaine de la Sansonnière (Marc Angeli) Anjou La Lune 2000 ($26) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): It smells Creamsiclish, like a more-vanilla-less-orange version of his Anjou Rosé. Is Creamsicle the house style? Under that there's a rosy-floral note and flashes of lemon. Rich, full mouthfeel, rather like a dry dessert wine--the core is tight and the wine is a little monolithically rich and creamy, but there's interesting material here. (7/14/02)

Domaine de la Sansonnière (Marc Angeli) Anjou La Lune 2000 ($26) (A New Low): Always an impressive wine to nose at, this has lost some of the Creamsiclishness that it had when it was an infant. Now it's showing more muscat-apple spiciness laced with white roses; the hints of orange and vanilla are still there, but they've moved to the background. Dry, but not severely so, it's a big, friendly wine that I find irresistible. Focus isn't a strong point, but the smooth flow of spicy chenin eases my mind and momentarily soothes my psyche. (7/14/03)

Domaine de la Sansonnière (Marc Angeli) Anjou La Lune 2001 ($30) (Peach Tree Vines): Medium straw-gold color. Smells rich and chenin-spicy, apricot and orange, quince, hay, vanilla. More aromatically complex than last year's version, which had the whole CreamSicle thing going on. This has that too, but throws a lot of other stuff into the mix as well. Tastes robust, a big, creamy-earthy wine that expands on my tongue. Good, rich stuff, but Dressner grumps that it's "just too damn expensive." (4/03)

Château Soucherie (Tijou) Anjou Blanc 2005 ($12) (Boatloads VIII): Stony aromatics, chalk mingling with lemon and gardenia whiteflorality, pleasant but aromatically shy. Tastes pure and racy, with a certain looseness in the middle, tangy stonyfloral fruit that turns vague, but nicely vague. A pretty, charmingly inconsequential wine that has a light purity to it that I like a lot. [Buy again? Yup.] (9/06)

Bonnezeaux-- With Quarts de Chaume, One of the Two Crus of the Coteaux du Layon, Dessert Wines That ROCK!

Domaine des Petits Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux 1979 ($24) (New Value Region): which smells simply luscious, layers of honeyed baked-lemon and tea hints in a quincey base suffused with a light almond nuttiness. The wine isn't quite as complex in the piehole as it is in the nosal passages, but there's still a pleasant layering of flavors along with a firm thrust of acidity. Lovely rather than profound, it's roughly demisec-plus in terms of sweetness, but not desserty-sweet. (12/22/01)

Domaine des Petit Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux La Malabé 1989 (McNetta 2002): Smooth peach-apricot-hay nose, lots of botrytis. Dessert sweet, with zippy supporting acidity. Richly aromatic, richly flavored. Yum. That's all, just yum. Still a baby, but starting to come out of its shell and flap its butterfly wings. Really pretty, with the beginnings of complexity peeping through the babyfat, a pleasure. (6/02)

Domaine de Petits Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux la Malabé 1992 ($35) (Stupid Fizzies): Medium lemon-gold color. Lightly tropical aromatics, baked pineapple, lemon and almond paste. In the piehole it's crisp and middleweight, medium-sweet and small in amplitude. Soothing, sweet and unremarkable. Wine of the night! (9/14/03)

Domaine des Petits Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux La Malabé 1997 ($32) (Journey to Queens): Light gold color; bright pineapple-honey-hay-botrytis nose; Fat, viscous and rich on the tongue, sweet and dense and very flavorful. A big, round Bonnezeaux with a lot of sugar and just barely enough acidity to get by. I do like it, but it skates along the edge of goopiness. (10/30/99)

Domaine des Petit Quarts (Godineau) Bonnezeaux Vendange Grain par Grain 1997 ($90) (Prodigal Hawaiians): Holy cats! Gold, deep gold. A whiff of this blows the doors off my mental Cadillac--just a Poltergeistish blast of pineapple-apricot, amazingly concentrated and dense. Whew. A taste, and whoa Nellie, it's crazily dense, absurdly sweet and shamelessly concentrated. This is a brazen hussy of a wine, sweet as all hell but with a sashaying backbone of acidity that drives me crazy. It takes me over the top like the waves at Pipeline, but I don't mind eating sand all that much when it's as golden and sweet as this. Amazing. (1/12/00)

Rene Renou Cuvée Zenith Bonnezeaux 1996 ($60)(Cellar Gems): Quiet nose, seems a bit tight, I swirl and swirl but it's not giving much, soft pear-pineapple hints, but boy, one taste and it just explodes with flavors. Vivid pineappley tropical fruit zings around the mouth and echoes for ages. The fruit is young and seems a bit simple, but extremely concentrated. Crisp and bright and viscous and dense, not to mention sweet as hell. But still not much nose. (10/14/99)

Domaine de la Sansonniere (Marc Angeli) Bonnezeaux 1992 (Iron Winegeeks): Light-medium gold; distinct initial gunpowdery notes blow off to reveal a bright apricot-pear-botrytis cocktail underneath. Crisp & medium-sweet & tangy, very well balanced, lightly viscous tropical-apricot fruits make themselves heard over a mess o'botrytis and linger gingerly for awhile in the twilight of the palate. Very good. (2/19/00)

Coteaux de l'Aubance-- The Quiet Coteaux

Domaine de Montgilet Coteaux de l'Aubance 1997 ($18) (Farid Fete): "Quince!" I shriek, just to make sure everyone's awake. It's a lightly honeyed wine with hints of chalk, medium sweet and ripe. It's also rather flat and two-dimensional and gets weird in the glass with air time, coming up with an odd matchsticky note that slowly resolves into a distracting flintiness. Simple, sweet, decent but a bit weird. (7/28/01)

Domaine de Montgilet Coteaux de l'Aubance Clos des Huttieres 1997 (Bastard): Medium gold, ambering at the rim. Mess o'botrytis suffuses the creamy orange-apricot aromatics, dark caramel-earthiness underneath. Earthier and not as boisterously fruited as the same year's Trois Schistes, but still pretty darn large and sweet, perhaps a bit lacking in the structure department. Weighty, a ripe St. Bernard of a chenin, big and slightly ungainly, a fun wine that is devoid of finesse but quite rich and slurpable. (11/23/03)

Domaine de Montgilet Coteaux l'Aubance Les Trois Schistes 1997 ($10/.500 ml) (Boatloads I): Whole bunches of this stuff have turned up lately, heavily discounted. Suspicious, I try one before buying: nope, not cooked at least. What the heck? Great-vintage Loire sweeties for ten bucks? What's the catch? I can't figure it out, whatever, who cares at this point. Anyway, smells exuberantly botrytised, spicy hay and apricot-orange. Ripe and sweet, glyceriney-viscous and plump, with just enough acidity to get by. Spicy caramel-apple flavors well up in the quincey midpalate and are the last solo notes remaining as the finish glides off. [Buy again? As many as I can carry.] (8/04)

Coteau du Loir-- The River Without the 'E'

Domaine le Briseau Coteau du Loir 'Jules' 2002 (Buster Has a Little Lamb): Medium gold color, smells ripe and a touch oxidative, airy-minerally-CreamSicle nose, rocks dusted with hints of vanilla and orange rind. Just a hint of fizziness, medium sweet and creamy-smooth, with a rich, dense middle tapering into a ripe, lip-smacking finish. A rather offbeat wine, but very likeable. (8/04)

Coteaux du Layon-- Sweet Nectar In A Glass

Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon (Paon) 1990 ($30) (Geyservillainy): Medium-light gold color. Plumper than the QdC, more botrytised. Smells of pineapple, peach and spicy botrytis. Has some babyfat but enough acidity to get away with it. A big wine without the focus of the QdC, there's some heat on the finish that distracts a little but it's hard to stay miffed when there's so much else going on. Very nice. (2/17/02)

Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon (Paon) 1995($20) (Heat: A refined apricot-botrytis nose, touch of slightly underripe pineapple. I've always thought this a very decent base-level Paon, balanced and medium-sweet, not overenthusiastic, not at war with itself, with a smooth glyceriney mouthfeel and serene chenin fruit. Mellow, crisp and smooth. (6/16/01)

Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon (Paon) 1997 ($23)(Blind Syrah): Crisper, thinner, sharper than the Bise, more botrytisy, also a lovely wine in great balance, bit of an interesting aluminum note in the finish. (8/16/99)

Clos de la Bergerie Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1997 ($30) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): Medium gold color, ambering lightly at the rim. Yikes, vividly tropical smelling, mango and quince, light botrytis, butterscotch and honey. Tastes just as raucous as it smells, apricot-creamy at first sippage, turning quincy-pineappleish in the middle, finishes with a sweet butterscotchy flicker. It's big and viscous and very sweet, with just enough acidity to not cloy. Utterly unsubtle stuff, but a fun ride. (3/06)

Domaine de la Motte (André Sorin) Coteaux du Layon Rochefort Moëlleux 1988 (Continuing II): A nicely developed smell-package, almonds, lemon and tea hints over honeyed yellow fruit. Less complex in the gob than it is to smell, medium-plus sweetness, well put together but lacking somewhat in terms of strength and sustain. Nevertheless, it's an interesting, smooth wine. (9/23/01)

Domaine des Petit Quarts (Godineau) Côteaux du Layon Village Faye 1996 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Brightly tropical aromatics, pineapple and apricot, quince and lemon. Plump, glyceriney and apple-pie-spicy on the finish. A big, rich infant with medium-plus sweetness and fine broad shoulders. One to lay down for a few decades, at least if you're planning on being around in a few decades. (6/05)

Château Pierre-Bise Côteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1995 ($17/500 ml.) (Summer Mishmash): Amber-orange color, browning lightly at the rim. Smells of dried apricot and mango peel, spiced-hay botrytis and maple syrup, touch of acetone. Sweet and rich, light caramelized flavors infuse the stewy fruit, toasted marshmallow emerges on the finish. Big and rich and chock full o'flavor, it does seem rather advanced, the latest in a recent string of Pierre-Bise sweeties that seem to be maturing with striking rapidity. (4/03)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu L'Anclaie 1996 ($21/500 ml.): Pale straw color; zingy nose of pineapple & lilikoi; crisp, young and sweetly light--very light feel in the mouth--tangy pineappley/citrus flavors just burst onto your tongue; light again, fresh-tasting, crisp; concentrated & nicely balanced. Wheee--a fun, friendly, jazzy mouthful. (5/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1996 (Lucid Jeebusing): Medium gold color. Richly sweet to smell, honey pineapple and apricot. Tastes big and sweet after the two more delicate sweeties, but it's got zippy acidity to balance the sugar and it's quite tasty and a lot of fun to drink. The complexity is of a less delicate nature, but it's still there. Good slatternly fun, although the wine is darker and more developed than I'd have expected it to be at this point. (2/02)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu l'Anclaie 1997 ($22/500 ml.): Young, lush and vivid and monolithically fruity, this is a big, rich, vividly tropical wine with a lot of sweetness, a lot of fruit, a lot of everything. More lushly fruity than the '96, I think this one is my favorite of the 97 P-B CdLs, having better balance than the 97 Rouannieres, which is a bit more over-the-top (but which I like very much as well). Tonight I'm getting more apricot on the nose than the pineapple notes that usually strike me with this one, but whaddaya gonna do? Very tasty. (9/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu les Rouannieres 1996 ($20/500 ml.): class act--rich apricot/pineapple notes; sweet, but with plenty of zingy acidity, not as densely sweet as the '97, one of my favorites, could drink this all night. (8/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu les Rouannieres 1996 ($20/500 ml.) (Misplaced Weekend I): Medium gold color. Sweet-smelling, pineapple, warm quince jam and dried apricots. Big, viscous and sweet, with a firm acidic backbone. Quite crisp and vivid, but also beginning to seem like it's getting on in years. Alas, I can no longer avoid the inconvenient notion that these supersweet Layons are not destined to outlive me. (5/2/04)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieau les Rouannieres 1997 ($23/500 ml.): nice golden yellow/amber; effusive, spritzy nose--pineapple, tropical fruits, candied pear. Rich, sweet and very concentrated--sparkly, tangy dense fruity/hay/fig notes wander through the midpalate; rich as hell, denser than the '96 and a real pleasure. (7/16/99)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1995 ($20/500 ml.) (Lucid Jeebusing): My concern about the dark amber color of the first wine is repeated for the second, which is visually indistinguishable from the '59 Huet when held next to it. Still, it's got its mojo workin' and it's workin' for me--more botrytis here, apricot, pineapple, rocks, generally more exuberant than the last. Tastes equally extravagant, big and sweet and thisclose to being over the top. There is a streak of caramel that arises to mingle with the tropical-apricot midpalate that again raises issues of premature aging or damage. It's goofier and less focused than the '96 L'Anclaie but it's a whole lot of fun to drink. (2/02)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1996 ($20/500 ml.): lager-yellow, with hints of amber; lush matte nose of pineapple, apricot & fizzy-straw notes flitting in and out. In the mouth fairly round and sweet, not as much crispness as the '96 P-B Beaulieu L'Anclaie I had a month or two ago. There's a light tinny tang that hangs behind the wash of round citrus/pear/apricot fruit that seems a little out of place. Very viscous & glyceriney. Nice, but I like the better-structured l'Anclaie more. (6/21/99)

Châtea Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1996 (The Return of Marty & Jill): This has held up pretty well, medium gold color, only lightly orange at the rim, ambering in towards the core. Smells of apricot-pineapple, then more apricot-pineapple, then a tiny hint of overripe bosc pear juice sneaks in. I wait to see if it's going to do anything more, but it seems content to quietly sidle up to the apricot-pineapple and hang around nearby. Hm. At any rate, the wine is still very sweet and viscous, just a bit shy on structure but not alarmingly so. I do miss the happy botrytis of other vintages, but this is still a charming fat little sweetie. (2/06)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Rochefort 1995 ($17/500 ml.) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Medium gold-amber color. Smells of caramel, apricot and pineapple, lightly botrytisated. The amount of sugar is a little startling after the Huets, and the wine comes off as ponderous and borderline goopy. But on top of that there's a flattened-out quality to the fruit. I'm getting increasingly edgy every time I open a Pierre-Bise sweetie these days, as several have shown signs of premature aging. This one smells and tastes ten years older than it ought--the color is roughly the same as the Huet 1971. If it were just one bottle, I'd assume bad storage, but it has been a trend. (A troubling trend, as I've got scads of the stuff stashed away.) (7/14/02)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Rochefort les Rayelles 1996 ($20/500 ml.): Pale straw-gold. Every time I try the 97 I think I like it better for its lushness and exuberance, every time I try the 96 I think I like it better for its concentration and balance. Life is tough. Plenty of pineapple-apricot chenin fruit, not the botrytis of the 97, but whaddaya gonna do? Sharp and crisp, sweet and nimble, a delight, its youthful exuberance an interesting counterpoint to the profundity of the Hermitage. (4/19/00)

Château Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Rochefort les Rayelles 1997 ($20/500 ml.): Light yellow-gold. Rich nose of apricot/pineapple & that spicy hay scent that I want to call botrytis but am reluctant to because I'm just not sure that's what it is. Thick, sweet & tangy, this is the fourth P-B CdL I've had from this year, and it shows the really dense sweetness that I've found in the others. Not quite as richly sweet as the Rouannieres, this one also has the slight metallic/aluminum note flickering across the midpalate that I noticed in the Chaume. Anyway, the scales are a little tipped towards sweetness right now, but it's very nice. (8/99)

Domaine Roullet Coteaux du Layon Cuvée Harmonie 1998 ($8) (Boatloads I): Okay, eight dollar bad-vintage Layon from a no-name producer that's been sitting on a shelf in New Jersey for a few years, how can you go wrong? Actually, the joy of diminished expectations kicks in, and it's surprisingly palatable. Medium-light lemon-gold color. Light hint of volatility (odd for chenin, although I'm not quite sure why that should be), quince and lemon-tea hints, light apricottiness. The wine is medium-plus sweet and on the lean side, with firm acidity and a decent if not exactly striking follow-through. Really quite drinkable, and the Layon character is there, if perhaps in not entirely presentable shape, fraying at the edges. But really, for eight bucks it's a steal. [Buy more? Yes.] (8/04)

Château Soucherie (Tijou) Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu Cuvée de Latour 1997 (Five Jews): Okay, I'm probably drinking these in the wrong order, but whaddaya gonna do? Kane says this apparently sees "25% oak," but you couldn't tell it by me: nose of light apricot and pineapple in a rich minerally base, more minerals than I've seen in a '97 CdL. Tangy and spritzy, a lean and racy wine, not showing the lush dense fruitiness of some others from this vintage, but very nice nonetheless, with a crisp stony mouthfeel, good balance and a nice acidic bite. (12/99)

Montlouis-- Across the River from Vouvray, Perhaps Not as Ageworthy, But Always Charming

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Brut NV ($15) (Broken Rules): All chalk, pollen and honey, the usual suspects. It's beautiful as always, pure and taut, with a waxy midpalate heft that mingles with an eager frothiness for an attention-getting mix of focus and friendliness. (11/04)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert 1998 ($16) (Joey): Smells pleasantly rainwatery, nice nosal layers of white honey, lemon & chalky rocks. Tastes tangy and crisp, a wine with good grab in the mouth. There's some demisec sweetness, but there's plenty of happy acidity to balance it; a pretty wine, structured, seamless and delightful. Makes me smile. (1/6/01)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert 2001 (Bury My Heart at 360 Van Brunt): Pale straw-gold color. Robustly chalky-waxy nose, paraffin laced with quince and pollen. Maybe a touch of sugar, but at an almost imperceptible level, just enough to keep the wine from abrading as it slides down the gullet. A small-framed wine, lacking the intensity of the '02 but wonderfully balanced, a slight dilution in the midpalate might be a quibble, but quibbling feels mean in the presence of such grace and delicacy. (1/05)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert 2002 ($17) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Cheerfully aromatic, bright and friendly to smell, lemon zest and minerals galore, apricot and chalk. Tastes even brighter and zippier than it smells, with a wonderfully tart wave of stony-citric fruit coming right at you, then going all velvety with a touch of canteloupe softness emerging in the midpalate, finally narrowing to a single lean lemon-chalky note on the finish. Striking, complete, another lovely '02. (12/31/03)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert 2002 ($17) (Fear and Braising in New Jersey): Pale lemon-straw color. Just a shade off dry, sec-tendre. Really lovely stuff, a bit quieter now than it was on release, not so happily orange-creamy. We debate the wisdom of aging this wine, so delightful now. It hasn't the blazing purity and sheer tensile strength of the '02 Huets, the whiff of the immortal, but it has more grace and charm in its youth, and similar completeness in a smaller amplitude. I am entranced, and unilaterally declare it the wine of the vintage, at least tonight, in my glass. (10/04)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert 2002 ($17) (Birthday Engorgement): Medium straw-lemon color, a little more deeply hued than I'd have expected. Happily rich and layered aromatics--tangerine and honey, chalk and quince jam, touch of hay. Tastes calm and broadly spicy, with fine heft and rich flavors. Again, it seems a bit advanced for such a young wine, but it sure tastes good--lovely, gentle and expressive Montlouis, firm at the core with just a touch of sweetness, lots of velvety flesh, minerals and honey and citrus. At one point I even think I get a touch of botrytis, but I could easily be imagining it. (6/06)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert 2003 ($20) (Broken Rules): Medium light straw-gold color. Yow, smells like clapping erasers in a pineapple field, ripe tropical fruit and chalk dust, aromatically puppyish. A sip, and it's similarly boisterous to taste, lots of juicy yellowfruit pillowed out by sweetness that is pushing towards moëlleux level. A plush, bountiful wine with gentle acidity staggering a bit under the weight of all that Rubenesque flesh. Quite a departure from the pure, focused wine of the year before, there's a certain amiable sloppiness to it, but I don't know if this is one to buy and lay down--the lack of acidity concerns me. I have to ask myself: What would nathan vandergrift do? The '02 is Baryshnikov, this is Larry Csonka, running right over you and leaving size-fourteen footprints on your back. Connell will swear by it, but to me it seems overplush and underspined. Time will tell, I suppose, but I'm buying more of the '02 while I can still find it. (11/04)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis les Tuffeaux 2002 (Subdued Festivization): Rather shy aromatics, white peach, lemon and minerals. Not shy at all on the tongue, a crystalline wave of round, stony-fruity flavor with a sheath of cantaloupe softness, lightly sweet and crisply structured. There's a chameleonlike quality to the fruit flavors, they won't sit still. Shimmery, opalescent stuff, almost on a level with his lustrous '02 Clos Habert, lacking perhaps only that wine's sense of refinement and precision--this is a slightly broader, more sprawling critter. Nummy. (6/13/04)

Francois Chidaine Montlouis les Tuffeaux 2004 ($27) (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): Just a hint of sulfurous funk at first, blows off soon. Smells lightly orange-rindy, lemon and gardenia whiteflorality. Light hint of sweetness, precise, lovely, on the light & lacy side. Pretty, charming Montlouis. (7/06)

Domaine Deletaing Montlouis Les Petits Boulay 1997 ($35) (15 Fox Place): Smells of light lemon-apricot and hay, hint of pineapple, touch of honey. Tastes sweet, pallid and spineless, disappointingly dilute and watery, given the producer and vintage. Really quite disappointing. "What the hell?" I write in my notebook. (3/22/04)

Domaine Deletaing Montlouis Moülleux Grande R´serve Tris 1997 ($16/.500 ml) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): I'd been less than impressed with other big-sweet Montlouis from Deletaing in 1997, but this one turns my head. Medium-light gold color, extravagantly botrytised--apricot, hay, honey, quince jam. Lovely aromatics, quite sweet and broad-beamed. Damn, I opened this bottle after a poor showing of another at the carb jeebus in New Jersey earlier in the year: mistake, and a lesson in not drawing conclusions from one bottle--this needs more time. Firm acidic core, focused and sweet and honeyed, a real lulu of a chenin, really well-balanced big-sugar-big-botrytis sticky wine, taut and rich and vivid: superb. My last bottle, ugh, this cost me something like $16 when it was released. Double ugh. (11/06)

New World Chenin-- From the Insipid to the Competent

Beringer Chenin Blanc California 2002 ($6) (Boatloads I): Smells similarly mellony, honeydew, maybe a touch of canteloupe. Soft, fruity and vaguely plastic, it's lightly sweet wine in the jug mold. Painless enough. [Buy again? Er, probably not, no.] (8/04)

Dry Creek Vineyards Dry Chenin Blanc Clarksburg 2003 ($9) (Boatloads IV): "Produced in a crisp Loire Valley style," the label proclaims, and for once that's fairly accurate. Aromatically subdued, light lemon-honeydew underpinned with a rainwatery minerality. Tastes brisk and tart, a light bodied wine with lemony acidity--taut center, looser melony edges. The Loire Schnauzer's declaration of Clarksburg as 'The Vouvray of California' seems a bit less absurd after tasting this. [Buy again? Yes.] (6/05)

Hogue Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2001 ($8) (Boatloads I): Smells very mellony, like honeydew juice. Tastes surprisingly broad, a hefty green apple/melon juice mouthful. Maybe just a touch off-dry, there's some snappy acidity that supports the simple, friendly flavors. No delicacy or subtlety here, just a fresh-fruity quaffer that's quite drinkable. It does come apart rather quickly though, showing some heat and baked-apple lifelessness in the middle after a night in the fridge. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Probably not.] (8/04)

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch ($14) (Boatloads VIII): Pale lemon-straw color. Smells of stony lemon-pineapple with a light whiff of rattan. There's seems to be an unsubtle woodiness, but the wine carries it pretty well. Quite structured and vivid, crisply bright and well honed. Good, tart stuff. [Buy again? Yes, I think so.] (9/06)

Robert Pecota Chenin Blanc Monterey County 1998 ($13)(Wasted Hours): A pale straw colored wine, smelling of tapioca pudding, pineapple and peaches. With a bit of air, the tapioca hints fade into the background and the pineapple-peachiness asserts itself, but it's still a strangely artificial pudding/fruit cup combination. The wine has a fairly weighty mouthfeel but decent acidity, and works nicely through the midpalate until a bit of a harsh toasty-burnt note emerges on the brief finish. (7/15/00)

Samant Soma Wines Sula Vineyards Chenin Blanc Nashik (India) 2003 ($13) (Boatloads VII): Lightly sweet melon smellies--canteloupe, honeydew, along with a good whiff of gardenia. Plus an undercurrent of cementdust minerality. It's lightly sweet but decently crisp as well, a decent enough apertif style of wine. The ripeness gives it a plump nondescriptitude, but that may just be the vintage--I'll have to try a year besides '03 to be sure. As Indian chenins go, this seems to be a decent early effort. The label notes that the "Manufacturing Date" was January of 2004. I wonder what they did then? [Buy again? Maybe one or two for novelty value, otherwise not really.] (4/06)

Bodegas de Santo Tomas Chenin Blanc Baja California 1999 ($9)(Viva Mexico):Pale lemon-gold color, smells quite sulfury at first, burnt matchstick over a base of lightly stewed pineapple and yellow appleskin tones. Tastes tart and quite dry, rather ponderous in the piehole, with an oily consistency, but with plenty of acidity and good integration. It's no gem, but it's quite drinkable in a pinch. (3/01)

Scott-Clark Cellars Chenin Blanc California 'Acorn' 2001 ($27) (Sleeping Cats): Smells of sour green apple laced with white honey and lemon hints. A sip brings a hit of lean yellow-citrus fruit, but then some startling puckery-tart acidity clamps down on my tongue. Lean and racy, but the feeling in the piehole is deceptively sturdy. A little weird. The winery newsletter claims that there's some residual sugar in this, but you'd never know from tasting it. Stern, hard chenin, unlike any I've tasted from California. There's a lean, dominatrix side that reminds me of the youthful shrillness of some of Robert Denis's Azay-Le-Rideaus. Like them, this needs time. High-acid fans like Callahan and The Wine Buyer call this the best chenin ever to come out of California, but the sense of having my cheeks pierced with the steel-spring acidity makes me reserve judgment. This is half of my two-bottle allocation; the other one will sleep for a long long time. One sharpened iron Prong, the handle wrapped with duct tape, stashed under the sink in the bathroom of an Italian restaurant. (9/17/02)

Scott-Clark Cellars/Garage Scott-Clark Chenin Blanc Central Valley 'Acorn' 2001 ($27) (Axis Wines): This is showing very differently than the bottle at my birthday party--more open and aromatic, less coiled. Very cohesive, quiet and elegant, the previous sharp acidity here seems couched in gingery-almond flesh. Curious, but I suppose with these artisanal nonmanipulated wines you get a lot of bottle variation. vandernipper starts asking about getting on the mailing list, whimpering that he'd missed the whole Screagle thing and wanted in "on the ground floor" for this one. I said it with reservation before, I say it unreservedly now: the finest California chenin I've tasted. (11/3/02)

Scott-Clark Cellars Chenin Blanc Central Valley 'Acorn' 2001 ($27) (Misplaced Weekend II): This has shown very differently at different times, tonight's bottle is less effusive than it has been in the past, quiet yellow apple and ginger, hints of almond. Tastes smooth and loose, with the leanness and balance that comes from only the strictest selection of the most underripe grapes. "This is it," announces Connell, "the wine of the night!" He's a little premature, but it is showing very well. Brad had promised to bring the '00 El Ni–o as well as a special treat for Eden, but left it at home. Pity. When my paella arrives, this is the wine I return to. (5/9/04)

Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc Clarksburg Wilson Vineyards Cuvée CNW (Chard-No-Way) 2002 ($10) (Bastard): Smells quietly tropical and stony, hints of pineapple, yellow flowers and rainwater. Tastes quiet and ripe and friendly, a mineral spine laced with light tropical hints and underlain with a subtle flinty-toastiness. Perhaps a trace of sugar, but only enough to give the fruit a certain plumpness. Rather loosely wrapped, lacking in nervosity, but I don't mind, as the wine is a smoothly amiable whole, restrained and calm and soothing. Decent, friendly stuff. (11/23/03)

Weinstock Chenin Blanc Clarksburg "Contour" 1998 ($10) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): It's chenin, and it's quite ripe and rather tropical-smelling, pineapple and lemon with a light earthy streak underneath. There's just enough acidity to support the puppyfattish fruit, and it's smooth and silky going down. (7/14/02)

Domaine de Bellivière Coteaux du Loir l'Effraie 2001 ($16) (Peach Tree Vines): Ripe aromatics, lemon-quince and apricot underpinned with flintiness and a chalky minerality. A sip and waaagh, some startling acidity dives under my tongue and knifes into my soft palate, fervently whispering snatches from a tract. Strange and aggressively hard-edged, a zealot of a wine, not my favorite. (4/03)

Domaine de Bellivière Jasnières Calligramme 2002 (Misplaced Weekend II): Richly smelly, chalk and hay and lemon-quince. A firm, fully-packed wine, zippily crisp and tart but with a hefty mouthfeel. Impressive, dense and rich. (5/9/04)

Domaine de Bellivière Jasnières Les Rosiers ("Auslese Trocken") 2000 ($20/500 ml.) (Winterfest 2003): Medium-light gold color. Quite gushingly tropical-smelling; pineapple, apricot, lilikoi over a chalky base. A sip, and it's an edifice: big boned, weighty and squeaky-dry. The tropical aromatics aren't reflected in the flavor profile, which is mostly lemon-chalky, and the weight of the wine gives it a rather squared-off and slightly lumbering feel, but it has more cohesion and grace than most auslese trocken, and acquits itself very decently in the end. (2/03)

Savennières-- The Greatest Expression of Dry Chenin, Plus (In Very Ripe Vintages) the Occasional Sweetie

Domaine Aux Moines Savennières Roche Aux Moines 1990 (Wasted Hours): There's a pretty beeswaxy honey-lemon nose flitting around above the medium straw-lemon colored wine, and, when sipped, the fruit has a feathery quality that belies the elegant acidic structure. It seems a bit soft at first, velvety-smooth and quiet, but as the wine blooms in my mouth the nimble strength underneath the fruit makes itself known. Very smooth and balanced, a seamless wine whose elements shift and shimmer with nary a clashed gear or fault line to betray them. (7/15/00)

Domaine Aux Moines Savennières Roche Aux Moines 1990 (Recluse Convention): which I promptly horn in on. Hey, this is nice stuff, medium gold color, smells very beeswaxy, along with tart yellow apple and honey hints. A sip, and it's got some smooth lemon-pollen fruit right up front which recedes into the background quickly, leaving the middle dominated by chalky minerality and finishing with a yellowstony hum. A seamless package that moves through several phases effortlessly, charming mineral-driven young Savennières. (11/22/02)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos de St. Yves 1989 (Motor Oil): Medium straw color, with light hints of kerosene & wool over a lemon-pear-chalk background hinting at some nice development. Crisp, big, rich and slow to unfold. With a bit of time it expands and grows big, dry and powerful, a blunt-headed sperm whale of a wine, impressive but a bit unwieldy and without clear delineation. Still, nice and rich and very amiable in a cetacean style. (6/29/00)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos de Saint Yves 1994 ($12)(Asylum): A pale gold wine with a flinty, lightly honeyed yellowfruit nose, a bit woolly-waxy smelling. There's some nice complexity here, although the wine is not big it is expressive and friendly and a bit round, goes down easily and smoothly. The fruit flattens out and turns a bit one-dimensional in the midpalate but rallies again on the finish. Not a big range of flavors, but a smooth, easy ride. (9/8/00)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières 1996 ($15)(Asylum): Pale straw, quiet nose, lightly honeyed pear-almond, bright and light. Tastes bigger, blunter, slightly oily-rounded mouthfeel and a lot of body. Not quite as rich and impressive as its fraternal twin Papillon, but a very nice wine. (9/8/00)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon 1995 ($18) (Of Bass and Men): The wine is "Waxy-textured, but a little bitter" on the "finish." Fans of the Baumard style say that it's a "mellow" wine, "lightly creamy" and "smooth," with a "good spine." Critics say the "bitterness is distracting." (2/01)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos Papillon 1995 (Unclear Identities): Pleasant to smell, paraffin and lemon-quince, just a hint of almond. Peculiarly friendly and open, loosely knit and creamy, a mellow wine with fine firm acidity and pleasant minerality. SFJoe sneaks up behind me, "Does this wine seem suspiciously friendly to you?" I nod emphatically, but I'm not entirely sure what I mean. (8/8/04)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon 1996 ($19) (Kane Manor): Just lightly yellow off-straw color; bright nose, spritzy lemon, baking bread, rainwater, maybe almond? In the mouth it feels rich & rounded, nice citrusfruity flavors, crisp, but not too crisp. Very smooth & perhaps ever-so-slightly sweet? Nice lemony finish. Very easy going down, rich and smooth--pour me some more. (7/24/99)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon 1997 ($20) (Continuing): Less effusive than I remember, the pineapple-earth notes turning towards earth-pineapple, the squeaky-stern acidity coming to the forefront immediately and pushing the tight vein of minerality with it. A big rocky wine, expressive up to a certain point, then rather impenetrable. A winner. Give it thirty years, I'm sure it'll loosen up a bit. (9/23/01)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Trie Speciale 1995 ($30) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Matchsticky hint at first, blows off soon enough. Smells of candied lemon zest, white peach and minerals, laced lightly with pale honey. Large, balanced and rich, it's got everything in place and is firing on all cylinders. Very nice, well made, rich and prettily balanced, but cold around the heart. Maybe the fact that Kane is braying loudly about how SPECTACULAR it is makes me suspicious that something must be wrong with it, but this is yet another lovely wine of theirs that I can find no fault with but simply doesn't ring my bell. (7/14/02)

Domaine des Baumard Savennières Trie Spéciale 2000 ($30) (Winterfest 2003): Medium-pale straw color. Smells like textbook Savennières, earthy-chalky, hints of lemon, pollen, chalk and more chalk. Well balanced, a sizeable wine with a weighty mouthfeel but one that is light on its feet. Big, but not huge. Very decent. (2/03)

Becherelle (Joly) Savennières 1997 and 1992 (Occult Wines): Both are a pale straw-gold color; the '97 is quieter on the nose, with some buttery honey and Earl Grey tea notes tinged with limestone, tight but silky-smelling. In the cakechute it's a bit rounded at the edges, slightly soft and velvety-waxy around a tightly wrapped core. A muscular wine that has good heft and weight in the mouth, it's wrapped up tight but it's not unfriendly at all, richly flavored and clean. The 1992 is a good deal more aromatically complex, with a smoky-flinty quality that the younger sibling lacks, along with the limestoniness and honey-butter hints. The 92 doesn't seem to have the sheer muscliness and density of the 1997, but it's got a bit of complexity to make up for it. I prefer the younger wine, but this is still very nice. (5/15/00)

Becherelle (Joly) Savennières 1997 ($27) (The Longest Night): After the airy Puzelat this seems quite the menhir, a great serious wine with serious wax and lemon tea with honey hints over a serious base of moist white-quartzy minerals. With air the waxy note resolves into an earthier brown crayon sort of a thing. Quite serious, but when you sip it you sense a hint of a smile, there's some openness here, nice weight and density, a bodybuilder with a Schwarzenneggerrian sense of the absurd. Not a whole lot of striation, but rich and impressive. Serious Savennières, solid, stony and strong; seems somewhat stern, but strikingly smooth and straightforwardly satisfying. And serious. (12/31/00)

Becherelle (Joly) Savennières 2001 ($33) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Very funky aromatics, sulfurously stinky. Underneath the funk there's a big, ripe wine that isn't quite as far out as the '01 Coulee de Serrant, but is still a pillow-edged bruiser. Flint-edged yellow quince-apple fruit, smooth creamy midpalate dissolves slowly into a long minerally finish. Very nice, once you're past the funk. (12/31/03)

Château de Chamboureau Savennières Moëlleux 1990 (Robin in the Big City): Interesting nose, some odd stuff going on in this glass... almost a mint-tea quality over the lemon and mineral base, a quality that some find 'mediciney.' In the mouth it's a round wine, soft and fat and lightly sweet. Bit limpid, needs zip. (2/7/00)

Château de Chamboureau Savennières Moëlleux 1990 (Asylum): A pale lemon-gold colored liquid with a lushly aromatic nose full of stewed pear hints and minerals and a flickery-light Lemon Pledge kind of note, almost minty or mentholish. I take a taste, and it's quite ripe and rich, fleshily flavorful, a bit soft and rounded but the tanginess of the fruit balances it out well and the wine is prettily integrated and seamless. Lightly sweet, pleasantly fleshy and quite tasty, if a little unfocused. (9/8/00)

Château du Chamboureau Savennières Roche Aux Moines 1999 (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Pale. Hints of lemon, chalk and almonds. Tastes light and feathery, a Lilliputian Savennières. Small-scaled and vague, unchallenging and pleasant to sip. Don't age, drink. (7/14/02)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1983 (Viva Mexico!): Pale straw-gold color. Lovely to smell, many layers of noseability--waxy-lanolin, lemon and pollen, honey, Earl Grey tea. A sip, and it's much less giving in the mouth, shrilly acidic and tart, all minerals, with little in the way of living fruit (what yellow fruit is there is rather flat and has a baked-out quality). Rather deceptively stern, a ruler-bearing nun wearing Chanel No. 5. (3/01)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1985 (Manuel and Josie): Medium light lemon yellow color, with a quiet, intense nose that makes you want to dip your bill over and over again; honeyed rocks sauteed in mineral oil, oily rocks sauteed in honey, honeyed oil sauteed over rocks, what have you, it's understated but very supple and complex, if not at all fruity-fruity. Quiet in the mouth, quiet in the midpalate, only with a nice long lemon-stony finish does it come alive. A reticent wine. Why so reticent, Coulée? Will you not come out to play? Shhh, Coulée has to nap today... (4/23/00)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1985 (Occult Wines): Pale straw-gold. This is showing much more open and expressive than the bottle some of us had a few weeks ago. The nose is still rich and vigorous, but not as whispery-quiet this time--stony honey and minerals in lemon oil, with a trace of smoky nuttiness. Still a bit quiet and tight through the midpalate, rich and long and more layered than the younger specimens, but comes alive once more on the long, blooming finish. (5/15/00)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1989 (Occult Wines): Pale gold. More honeyed than the previous two, with orange and lemon-rind notes above a less stony base. Bit of oxidation here, traces of apple-juicy flavors in the midpalate, seems a bit older than it is, but it's still got a lot going on, a lot of stuffing and fine acidic balance, although it's softer than either of the first pair. With air even more of a honeyed character emerges. (5/15/00)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1990 (Occult Wines): Pale straw-lemon. This is a wine with a lot going on. Swirling brings out the waxy-pineapple tropical hints over the chalky-lemon-honey base, along with earl grey tea and a hint of that snap-pea greenness. Not as hard as the 91, not as soft as the 89, this hits a fine middle ground, with the coiled-spring density that is present in all these wines not intrusive or overbearing but decidedly there, giving a sense of weight and strength. (5/15/00)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1991 (Occult Wines): Pale straw-lemon color. The first whiff off this one is strongly marked by a sulfurous brimstone aroma, effectively hiding what lies underneath. With some time it recedes a bit, revealing celery-seed hints along with the requisite minerals, and a sharp snap-pea greenness underneath. Very odd, and not very pleasant. In the gob it's a crisp wine, crisp to the point of hardness, with tart fruit and a lemony-stony-sulfury finish. It's hard to cotton to a wine that is this sulfurous. (5/15/00)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1991 (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Always too sulphurous, this isn't quite as overwhelmingly so now, but there's a definite brimstone streak that just won't resolve. Under that there are nosewrinklingly angry green celery and chalk aromatics, a pointed stick to the nostrils. In the piehole it's hard at first and watery in the middle, with sour-tart lemony fruit and a chalky-matchstick finish. It's a testament to the quality of the vineyard that in this underfruited, hollow and ultimately unpleasant wine you can sense the lost possibilities and the ghost of greatness. Peculiar, and a little disconcerting to drink. (7/14/02)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1992 (Occult Wines): Pale straw-lemon. This is much better. The nose is spry, honey, yellow apple and minerals on the nose, lacking the greenness of the '91, more yellowfruity. Tastes rich and yes, it's hard, but it's got a velvety skin to cover its steel spine, and it's a fine match with Dutch Mess (salt cod-fish in cream sauce), a compact, rich wine like a steel spring. Delicious; strong and young and richly complex chenin. I go back to it after the others, and think it seems a shade friendlier and more accessible than the later wines, although not as big and dense as some. (5/15/00)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1995 (Fear and Braising in New Jersey): Medium-light gold color. Richly aromatic, wet wool, quince and a good dash of honey, along with some lightly oxidative apple-juicy notes. Tastes muted, flavorful and quiet, with good heft and bright acidity but with a flatness in the middle, a dried-flower-infused baked-apple streak that leaves it lacking vibrancy. A broad, sprawling wine that has decent cohesion but not exactly laserlike focus. This seems to be aging with the peculiar rapidity that we saw recently in the '96 as well. Drink up. (10/04)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) 1996 ($65) (Occult Wines): Pale straw-gold. Oh my. Strikingly rich, deep nose, so much going on... yellow nonspecific apple, beeswax, honey, tea, lemon oil, light chalkiness. After thinking the others were muscular, rich wines, this takes muscularity to a new level, dense and powerful and built for the long, long haul, but letting you in on its secrets even now. Wonderfully balanced for such a big wine, seamlessly integrated, with no element out of balance, a weighty mouthfeel and a spine like Trajan's Column. With a bit of air, white and yellow-flowery notes emerge. Most impressive, most impressive indeed, and my favorite so far, although ages from being properly ready to drink. (5/15/00)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) 1996 ($65) (Shanks): Medium-light gold color. Smells rich and appealing, a whiff of almond, paraffin, chalk and honey-lemon. A sip, and it's a big, solid wine, although not the stern monolith of past tastings. Substantial weight, powerful acidic core, seamless construction. Great stuff, lively and delicious, but also showing unexpectedly clear signs of development (though still younger than the wacky '01). When I last tasted this a few years ago I thought it was going to be a fifty-year wine, now I'm not so sure. Joe, concerned, swears that the provenance is impeccable: "Straight from the shelf at Garnet to Chelsea Wine Vault. I guess it's time to pull a few more out of storage," he sighs, "just in case." (4/24/04)

Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (Joly) Savennières-Coulée de Serrant 1991 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium gold color. Ripe, spicy apple-pie/quince jam aromatics, calmly oxidative, with air a light minerality pokes its nose out from under the plush ripe fruit, then submerges again fearfully. Big and ripe and spicy, almost muscattishly so. Reminds me of nothing so much as an over-the-top Sablonnettes Anjou blanc, I watch my glass carefully to see if the wine will darken while I drink it, but it maintains its ten-year-old medium gold color for as long as it remains. A wacky wine, a stylistic departure from any Coulée I've had before. I'm not sure what to make of it, it's just weird. (11/04)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon 1992 (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): This raises a few eyebrows with its beef-broth/baked lemon/shoyu/mineral aromatics. Well, beef-brothy to me: Kane makes a face and says "Vietnamese fish sauce"; Camblor offers up "sweaty socks"; Rahsaan is silent, lost in contemplation. Tastes rather hard and austere, like older Muscadet. Well, older Muscadet with a bouillon cube dropped in it. At any rate, there's not much pleasure here. (7/06)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon 1995 ($17) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Deep gold color. Oxidizatified. Flat, lifeless and apple-juicy, basically DOA. I suggest to Kane that this must be a mistreated bottle, he gets all animated and says "Nooooo--I had a BUNCH of bottles, they're ALL like that." I suggest he must've had a batch of mistreated bottles, but he cites no less an authority than Mme. de Jessey, who apparently confessed to him that all of her '95s were in their death spiral. I find this all very puzzling, as I've had at least a couple of '95 Clos_ls within the last year or two that didn't taste anything like this ruined. Plus, I thought I had reconciled with Mme. de Jessey after our late falling out and I'm hurt she's confiding in Kane. Nevertheless, he's the host, so I don't argue. He is delusional, though, you know that, right? (12/31/03)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon 1999 ($20) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Lightly honeyed nose, chalk and an odd hint of maple syrup. Another stony all-structure wine, this has a matte mouthfeel, a taut acidic core and a bit of sourness on the finish. Rather severe for my tastes, although I must point out that I'm an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about and wouldn't know a great wine if it bit him on the ass. (12/31/03)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon 2002 (Sedate Evening): Medium straw-gold color. Boisterously aromatic--quince jam, almond, bergamot, chamomile, hay. Hoo, it's a party in my nose and everyone's invited! A sip, and geez, here's a lumberjack of a Savennières, striding through my mouth with a song in his heart and his best girl by his side. There's a lot of muscle here, a bit of waxy-oiliness to the midpalate texture, a long quincey-orange finish. It's a large-scale Papillon but the usual honeyed minerality is there to bind everything together. Noted pessimist Andrew Munro Scott complains about residual sugar, but try as I might I don't find it distractingly sweet. Go figure. (6/05)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon Cuvée Speciale 1989 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Pale lemon-straw color. Spicy aromatics, minty high note, lemon and chalk underneath, chamomile herbiness, charming and prettily complex. A sip, and ooh baby, there's an insistent rip current of chalky-lemon-quincey fruit washing me out to sea, and I'm powerless to resist, so I relax and let it sweep me away. Vivid, humming midpalate, pulsating with universal energy, I start to hear the beating of my own heart in my eardrums, the midpalate keeps expanding until it hurts, it's stretching the inside of my head, and the pain is good too, and suddenly that's gone as well and I'm left with a tingling, twitching finish, tingle, twitch, tingle, twitch. God wine. After the first encounter I go back to it and try to be more analytical; I note the solidity and heft of the wine, the sheer broadness and closely-packed flavorosity, the core of muscular acidity and delicate, tickling layers of flavor out at the edges. Confirmed as best Savennières ever, still twenty years too young, but what a ride. I choke back my Howard Dean impression only through sheer force of will. (11/04)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon Cuvée Speciale 1996 ($20) (Island Jeeb): This bottle doesn't sing as clearly as some that I've had, but this is one of Closel's finest efforts, brightly substantial chenin, mouthwateringly crisp and weighty, a big wine that's light on its feet. There's textbook Savennières earthiness underneath, wax and white honey-lemon above, all in a beautifully poised wine that has always been supple and never had the youthful severity that can make some big, young Savennières more of an intellectual experience than a pleasure to drink. Hold, drink, whatever, it's a real dreamboat of a wine. (3/23/03)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon Cuvée Speciale 1996 ($20) (Guess Who's Coming to Guzzle): Medium light straw-gold color. Richly and earthily aromatic: chamomile, quince and almond notes with just a hint of nutmeg, smells vibrant. Tastes big and hefty, an imposing wine with a firm spine and a great deal of substance. Still quite coiled at the core, but the once-hard edges are rounding slightly. More quince, more chamomile, Earl Grey tea flavors. The combination of size and balance is compelling, the way it takes the almost oversized flavorosity and focuses it into one pure, layered whole. Strangely, this wine has never had the unfriendly phase that so many Savennières seem to go through; it's been a pleasure to drink throughout its short life and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. Just exquisite, in my book of Savennières this takes a backseat only to the holy '89 version. (7/4/04)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Cuvée Speciale 1997 ($14) (Bastille Day): This is a more effusive specimen than usual, and it's never been a shy wine. Lushly smelly--earth, honey and wax, hay and pollen flicker around in the pale gold heart of the glass. Lacks the laserlike focus of some of the other bottlings, more friendly than refined, a wine to drink while you're waiting for the 96 Papillons to ease up a little. (6/16/01)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Cuvée Speciale 1997 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Pleasant, layered, loosely-wrapped. Ripe and rich, happily aromatic-- hay, wax, pollen and muted earthyquincey yellowfruit. A bit loose, not the greatest in terms of focus, but rich and lively, with medium-firm acidity. The happy exuberance of the vintage is shining through; this is probably a wine to drink sooner rather than later, but it's a great package this evening. (11/04)

Domaine du Closel Savennières 1998 ($15) (Prodigal Hawaiians): Chalky-lemony hints on the nose, tastes crisp but not sharp with a nice minerally base behind the fruit. Elegant, bright Savennières. (1/12/99)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Les Caillardieres 1999 ($16) (Joey): The rechristened Cuvée Speciale does indeed seem a bit soft, a bit mellow and unfocused after the Cazin. It's a little off-dry and somewhat diffuse, minerals on the nose as always, but somewhat spectral. I try to shake it off, but I'm not getting much with this one. (1/6/01)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Les Coulées 1995 ($20) (Threesomes): A quiet quinciness mingled with light honey and lemon-tea/paraffin-pollen aromas over Savennières earthiness. Reticent at first, opening up over about twenty-four hours into a wine that I'm charmed to finesse my proboscis into, really delightfully complex Closel nose. I was a little disappointed at first, but this is just a shy one, although it does fess up to a certain lack of mouthgrab, a purposeful nondescriptness. In the piehole not as structurally pure as many of the 96s nor as fun and rich as the 97s, but is very cohesive and just a bit on the ungiving side, with an uncharacteristic roundness to the structure. An odd Closel, but it's still a Closel and thus hard to beat. An intellectual wine, a professor of Elizabethan literature who is also a weekend runner and part-time marathoner, a wine that doesn't know how attractive it is because it thinks of itself as an ivory tower type. (2/02)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Les Coulées 1995 ($20) (Nine Characters): Reliable honey-quince aromatics, flecks of lemon zest and pollen up high, light Savennières waxy-earthiness below. Tastes light, chalky and evanescent above the stave, a mediumweight wine that has fine flavor and balance. The '95 Closels have always struck me as being the shyest of the '95-'97 run and this is not going to be the bottle that breaks my ironclad predispositions. The acidity is sufficient but yielding, the core of fruit is warm and earthy but rather loosely-wrapped and delicate. Smoothly harmonious middle-of-the-road Savennières, lovely in the center, trailing off in the highs and lows. (11/02)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Les Coulées 1999(Joey): More substance here, light honey on the nose, hints of peach. More focus than the Caillardieres, not a powerhouse but solid easy-to-drink Savennières. (1/6/01)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Cuvée Isa 1989 ($30) (Lucid Jeebusing): Pale straw-gold color. Striking, distinctive nose, leather and dirt mixed with yellow fruit accented with spicy-hay botrytical notes. Could not be anything other than Savennières. Tastes not quite medium sweet, on the light side of moëlleux or the heavy side of demisec. Smooth, strong and oh so long, a subtle wine with hidden depths and a spine like a steel spring. What vandergelder might call God Wine; I'm in love. It's young and coltish now, tight and somewhat angular, but in a few decades this will be one to sit around the fire and tell stories about. (2/02)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Cuvée Isa 1989 ($30) (Greg Gets Us Wasted): I know I sound like a broken record, but I'm smitten with this wine. It's such an individual expression of chenin, so clearly of its place and yet such a different animal than a dry Savennières, that it never fails to sweep me off my feet. Less sweet than I remember, just the other side of a demisec. Kane starts yelling "Wine of the night! Wine of the night!" which is a little worrisome, but what can be done? Twelve hours of air has given it more expansiveness and partially allayed the youthful awkwardness of the last bottle, although it's still a lithe, nimble young wine, Leslie Browne in The Turning Point. Don't mind me, I'll just sit here awhile with my glass. We have a lot to say to each other and some of it is rather private.

Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Les Coteaux 2002 ($32) (Football Fever!): I do love Closel wines, but I wish they'd stop renaming the various cuvées every few years. This seems to be the former Cuvée Isa--there's some story here that I remember Mme. de Jessey telling about Isa not being in the family anymore or something, but with all the football excitement I can't call the details to mind. Anyway, it's straightforward medium-sweet chenin, pretty and balanced. There's a supple midpalate earthiness, but it doesn't speak to me vividly of Savennières the way the astonishing '89 and the light-and-lovely '97 do, I find it rather closed. Shutting down, or not terribly expressive? (1/05)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Vieilles Vignes 1990 ($30) (Farewell My Lovely): Medium light straw-gold color and smells simply delicious, more serious minerality, paraffin, pollen, honey, still more chalk, richly layered and delightful to sniff. A sip, and it's got a cool earthy-chenin thrust of stony yellow richness, all supple strength and layers of flavor clothed with some pleasingly plush flesh. The word that comes to my mind is 'noble,' as this is a beautifully poised, rich yet restrained wine, really hitting its stride. (6/01)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Vieilles Vignes 1990 ($30) (15 Fox Place): One of the crop of heat-damaged bottles that floated onto the retail scene a few years back, this isn't as cooked as some, but there's an unmistakable whiff of sherriness--the light almond character has a baked-nut quality to it. Robust, rich, and nutty. I did have one good bottle, back in June of '01, in the old world. (3/22/04)

Domaine du Closel Savennières Vieilles Vignes 1990 (Misplaced Weekend I): The thirty-fifth in a series of slightly-to-moderately heat damaged '90 Closels, this is perhaps a little less cooked than most, still retaining a bit of freshness and giving peeks at the potentially wonderful wine underneath. I did have one good bottle, once: it was good. Good, I tell you, good! (5/2/04)

Clos de Coulaine (Papin-Chevalier) Savennières 1997 ($17) (The Longest Night): One whiff of this and Andrew blurts out "Smells like an ashtray!" I posit that the charry note that he's speaking of reminds me more of the used charcoal in an aquarium filter; we agree to disagree. He sees me jotting this down, leans in and suggests "Disaster in a bottle?" as a possible summation, a notion that I find somewhat extreme. Smoky, flinty smells are the first impression. The wine has nice weight and balance, but is tight and says little, except for an unpleasant charcoal note that floats up in the midpalate and lingers on the finish all by itself. This is odd. A sport. (12/31/00)

Clos de Coulaine (Papin-Chevalier) Savennières 1997 ($17) (Sedate Evening): No, no, no. No, no, no. No. Make it go away. Like licking ashtrays that have been sprayed with Lemon Pledge™. Please, somebody, make it stop. Gone belly-up. Pushing up the daisies. Rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible; this is ex-Savennières. (6/05)

Clos de Coulaine (Papin-Chevalier) Savennières 1998 ($18) (Joey): Smells lightly of honey, hints of lemon and those white coral chips that are in everyone's yard out west. Another mellow Savenièrres, lightly pillowy fruit covers some acidity, but there's a dark streak that runs down the spine, I can't quite place it, perhaps an almost charcoalish note, but it's rather bitter. Odd, not my favorite. (1/6/01)

Clos de Coulaine (Papin-Chevalier) Savennières 1999 ($20) (Heat): A lighter style of Savennières, white coral and quartz on the nose, yellow pollen, a hint of sweetness. Not very concentrated or self-important, a light, bright wine that washes the dust away with a flirtatious wink. Where's the oak? (6/16/01)

Château d'Epiré Savennières 1994 ($14) (Sitting Jeebis): Pale to medium gold. Light apricot and mandarin-orange citric notes over a base of quiet honey. Somewhat limpid, not terribly concentrated, crisp, with a lightly oily feel in the piehole, slightly oxidizated. Decent, unremarkable. Shrug. (3/31/01)

Château d'Epiré Savennières 1995 ($15) (Bradcave): Pale straw again; light honey-mineral nose, tropical hints, not giving much. This one tastes a bit limpid, a bit low-acid and round--good lemony stony yellowfruit flavors, but lacks structure. (12/19/99)

Château d'Epiré Savennières Cuvée Spéciale 1995 (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Smells of lemon, chalk and green apples, with a light trace of lavender. Lavender? Yes, lavender. Happily lacking in the limpidity that I've come to expect from Epiré, this has good stucture, nice crispness, a sharp and focused wine that comes to a skitterish lemony finish. Pretty good, not a whole lot of character but good balance and cohesion. I've never been a big fan of Epiré, but I'm quite content to drink this. (7/14/02)

Château d'Epiré Savennières Cuvée Spéciale 1996 (St. Andrew): Pale tan-gold color. Honey, apple-juice muck about in the base of the nose while high above a light minty note flits around. The wine is very waxy in the mouth, slightly apple-buttery and seems at first to be a bit limp. At second I decide it's just the waxy quality that makes it seem a bit limp. Then I go back to thinking it IS a bit limp. Then I change my mind, then forget which I just thought. This is the second Epiré wine I've had in a month, and I've not quite cottoned to the house style. I keep wondering out loud if this is a damaged bottle, but I am assured it most certainly is not. This is a richly aromatic wine, but I find it mostly puzzling. It's saying something, but I just don't read it, man. (1/15/00)

Château d'Epiré Savennières Cuvée Spéciale 1999 ($10) (Best Wife): Medium-pale straw-gold color. Stony-smelling, chalk with a touch of quince and wax. Tastes hard and stony, lots of rocks, very little else. Bright and young, but not very interesting. Shrug. Wets the whistle, that's about it. (9/03)

Château d'Epiré Savennières Cuvée Spéciale 1999 ($10) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Light lemon-chalky nose, hints of quince and chamomile. Tastes rocky, hard and minerally, all structure. Underfruited Savennières, rocklicker's delight. (12/31/03)

Joly Savennières les Clos Sacrés 2002 (Pigfest): Fairly straightforward Savennières, waxy-chalky smelling, hints of hay and lemon, with maybe just a touch of oxidative quality but nothing along the lines of some of his other recent wines. There's good midpalate heft and firm acidity, overall it seems quite foursquare and on the stolid side, but pleasant enough. (1/06)

Papin-Chevalier La Pierre de Coulaine Savennières Doux 1995 ($18) (Loirenatics): Rich gold color, with a sprightly honey-apricot-mineral nose. Thickly sweet and viscous, with apricot and apple-juicy flavors. A very nice sweetie, crisp, but it could be crisper--to me it seems a bit round compared to the '97, and it comes thisclose to cloying, but skates jauntily away from the precipice. (11/99)

Papin-Chevalier La Pierre de Coulaine Savenni&egave;res Doux 1997 ($20) (Chateau Joe): Pretty light gold color; spritzy apricot/hay/pineapple notes just leap out of the glass at you. Crisp in the mouth, a lively, very sweet and rich sweetie with a nice backbone of acidity that keeps it from even beginning to cloy. Very tasty. (8/99)

Domaine Jo Pithon Savennières La Croix Picot 2002 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Smells apple-juicy, surfboard wax, Lemon Pledge and pollen streaks on a thick aromatic frame. Big, ripe and oxidative in the nouveau-Joly style, an utter turnaround from the nervy Tijou. Rather awkward, a busy wine: lots of noise, very little focus. (5/05)

Château Soucherie (Tijou) Savennières Clos des Perrieres 1995 (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): Flat, apple-juicy and oxidized. The latest in a long list of cooked Savennières from Kane's apparenly malfunctioning storage unit. Why is he doing this to us? Is he trying to tell us something? Does he hate us this much? While he's in the kitchen the rest of us mutter darkly, and the mood grows threatening, ominous. (7/06)

Château Soucherie (Tijou) Savennières Clos des Perrieres 1997 ($23) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Here's a young brawler, boisterously aromatic: yellow apple, white peach, almond, paraffin and the telltale earthy streak playing timpani underneath it all. With air a pollen note rises out of the glass and insinuates itself into the mix. It's a bright, focused wine with big flavors--more apple and quince, with a beguiling floral-chamomile streak emerging in the midpalate and lingering saucily on the finish. Young, tight at the core and jovial at the edges, an impressive, complete Savennières that could use time but is hard not to like now. A big wine with a bit of a swagger, maybe even wearing an eyepatch and a pair of jhodpurs and cursing in Portuguese. Ding ding ding. My favorite so far. (7/14/02)

Château Soucherie (Tijou) Savennières Clos des Perrieres 1997 ($23) (Backlash!): or at least something masquerading as such. Bah. I love this wine, but this bottle is damaged. Not undrinkable, but oxidized and flat-tasting, a feeble shadow of itself. (9/05)

Château Soucherie (Tijou) Savennières Clos des Perrieres 2002 ($27) (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Bit of mustiness at first that has me scratching myself, but it soon blows off. Underneath there's white peach, lemon and a rockbed's worth of minerals. Not the knock-you-down-and-grab-your-lapels wine that the '97 is, not quite the balletic purity of the '96, but a lovely stony-muscular youth, shut down now but showing all the potential in the world, little flickers of grace and strength lighting up the inside of my mouth like sparks of wintergreen. Lovely stuff, pure and focused and taut, a wine to dream on. (5/05)

Soulez Savennières Roche Aux Moines 1985 (Cellar Gems): Yeasty, minerally nose, light lemony hints. A sip, and zing! some lip-smacking, tongue-yankin' acidity reaches out and says hello. Not much fruity-fruit, a very minerally-based wine. Brian, translating the label, says something about monks and wonders aloud about the 'grand cru' status and whether there were grand crus in Savennières. We all look around, but there is no one to explain. (10/14/99)

Vouvray-- Dry to Sweet, It's All There. If I Was Limited to One Wine, It Would Be Vouvray

Maison Ackerman-Laurence Vouvray Clos le Mont 1945 ($120) (Subdued Festivization): A negociant wine from immediately before Huet acquired the vineyard. It's brownish-amber colored, actually it looks very much like this. Smells very leathery, like my old bomber jacket, leather and honey, marzipan and pressed flowers, with just a touch of preserved quince remaining at the core by way of fruit. Spicy-brown and medium sweet, this is well past its best years but rises above the status of a mere curiosity. Complex, pretty and delicate, an interesting artifact. SFJoe conducts sensory experiments in an attempt to locate the vineyard in his glass. We wait breathlessly, but his results are inconclusive. (6/13/04)

Domaine des Aubuissières Vouvray Cuvée de Silex 1998 ($14): Pale tan; rich nose of mineral/limestone with hints of creme soda & honeysuckle. When first tasted it was way too cold and seemed tart, but on second tasting that impression went out the window--crisp & bright mouthfeel, rich tangy mineral flavors start out quiet in the mouth, then outshine the lighter fruit-fruitiness and dominate the finish. Hint of sweetness, just a hint. Very nice Vouvray, although as it warms a touch of alcoholic heat becomes apparent on the finish. Still, I'll buy some more. (8/99)

Domaine des Aubuissières Vouvray Moëlleux Le Marigny 1996 (Recluse Convention): Quiet stony-honey aromatics, botrytis, apricot, pineapple, rich and fun to smell. A sip, and it's pineapple-apricot sugar syrup, Vouvray candy. Moëlleux my ass. There's acidity, but the wine is just too syrupy-sweet to enjoy more than a sip or two. Kane loves it, of course. Connell too, but, as he takes pains to explain, "just for the nose." (11/22/02)

Barton & Gustier Vouvray 2002 ($7) (Boatloads I): Quiet lemon-tea aromatics, touch of peach, light chalkiness. Medium bodied and loosely knit, not much focus, but the flavorous elements are there. Just a hint of sugar, sec-tendre, almost-decent acidity, bit of quince in the middle, trace of almond on the finish. Yes, it's bland industrial Vouvray, but it's recognizable as Vouvray, and it's only seven bucks, so I think I could do a lot worse. Even boring Vouvray is still better than most other cheap crap by a good measure. [Buy again? Ummmm... nah, probably not.] (8/04)

Domaine Bourillon-D'Orléans Vouvray Moëlleux 1990. It's a pale gold color, with light aromatics, a quiet, faint nose of rainwater, lemon & odd hints of cheese curds. A taste, and it's not faint of heart in the piehole, robust and richer than the nose would suggest, quite sweet, although not at dessert-wine levels, with nice crisp acidity. The lemon-mineral chenin fruit has a velvety edge that, along with the sweetness, gives one a smooth ride all the way down the gullet. Very tasty, a fine apertif, if you don't mind a bit of cheese. (6/6/00)

Domaine Bourillon-D'Orléans Vouvray Vieilles Vignes 1993 (August): Smells waxy-polleny with honeyed hints but tastes tart and matchsticky, thin and smoked. Odd, not good, seems dead or almost dead. (8/7/01)

Domaine Bourillon-Dorléans Vouvray La Bourdonnerie Demisec 1997(Blind Whites): Pale, pale yellow; soft, light nose with a kind of a gunpowdery note that apparently only I have the ability to discern, as I get a few blank stares when I mention it, along with some light banana-candy/lemon notes. In the mouth fairly thick-textured, some sweetness, just off-dry. Chenin blanc? (7/8/99)

Domaine Bourillon-Dorléans Vouvray la Bourdonnerie Demisec 2002 ($14) (Boatloads III): Pale straw color. Light lemon-chalk aromas, touch of chamomile. Touch of sugar, medium acidity, light-bodied and ethereal, silky tasting but indistinct, lacking focus and heft. Finishes on a quiet chalky note. A pleasant little Vouvray without much character. FAKE GREEN CORK! [Buy again? Um. Maybe not, no.] (2/05)

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2002 ($14) (Boatloads V): Lemon, white honey and stony minerality laced with flinty-smoky notes. Firm, straightforward Vouvray that's rather distractingly smoky-firecrackery right now. Is it too much toasted wood? Too much sulfur? Not sure. Just a hint of sweetness, sec-tendre perhaps, with moderate acidity and good heft. Medium bodied, nice composure and good substance, a wine with presence but without a compelling personality. Good, decent Vouvray that has all it parts in place leaves me a little cold right now. Maybe needs time. [Buy again? Not really.] (10/05)

Marc Bredif Vouvray Nectar 1985 (Loirenatics): Getting into the sweeties now. Nice nose on this one, chalky and lemony, but I find it a bit limp in the mouth, a bit lacking in zip, a bit sweet and simple. (11/99)

Vignobles Brisebarre Vouvray Demisec 1989 ($13) (Baseball Jeebus): A pale wine that exhibits a light chalkiness under some bright honeydew and kiwifruit notes. Lightly sweet, nice crispness, a middleweight wine that is friendly but doesn't have a lot of character. With some air light tea hints emerge and mingle with the chalk. It's not profound but it's a perfectly serviceable middleweight demisec that has some friendly bright fruit, a bit of zing and the beginnings of complexity. (10/24/00)

Champalou Vouvray 2002 ($13) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Smells of yellow apples and light quince, hints of chalk. Maybe a hint of sugar, just enough to plump out the fruit. Tastes blunt and friendly, a loose, easygoing Vouvray that seems lost in this company but is probably a very pleasant little quaffer. (12/31/03)

Champalou Vouvray La Cuvée des Fondreaux 2002 ($16) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Smells of yellow apples and quince dusted with chalk and chamomile. Just a touch of sugar, sec-tendre. Leaner and more minerally than the last, but a step above it in terms of focus; there's greater density here, more layering of the quincey-minerally-lemon tea flavors. Very good, flavorful and balanced Vouvray. (12/31/03)

Champalou Vouvray Trie de Vendages 1997 (Muscajeeb): Medium gold color. Small, quiet nose that's fully packed with botrytis-laced apricot and pineapple. Very sweet, with just enough acidity, the fruit is dense and glossy in the piehole, just skating away from the precipe of goopiness and finishing with a pretty mandarin-orange note. Big, flashy and interesting, somehow leaves me cold. Champalou is the Baumard of Vouvray; the wines are always correct and well-made but just don't press my buttons the way they ought. (11/10/02)

Francois Chidaine Vouvray les Argiles 2002 ($15) (Subdued Festivization): Bright and minerally-smelling; chalk and more chalk, hint of lemon zest, touch of almond. Taut, nervy wine, impressively focused and lean. (6/13/04)

Francois Chidaine Vouvray les Argiles 2004 ($22) (Birthday Engorgement): Smells shy, quiet Earl Grey tea and medicinal herb notes, quinine and chamomile with some lean quince. Maybe just a touch of sugar, tangy and full flavored foursquare Vouvray that I don't find particularly inspiring. The midpalate is narrow, choked off, and there's a clumsiness about the wine, it seems awkward and a little severe. I want to like it, and it has some interesting pieces, but they don't fit together into an inspiring whole. (6/06)

Régis Cruchet Vouvray Moëlleux 1996(August): Hints of almond and plaster of paris over the yellow apple fruit, and an interesting bug spray note. Or perhaps that's the bug spray that is being roundly applied to lithe young limbs all around me. The wine has a light touch of sweetness and a pleasant chalky streak, but is more about structure than anything else right now, a bit hard and tight, cushioned somewhat by the light sweetness. (8/7/01)

Domaine des Douveliers (Claude Pinon) Vouvray 1953 (Pinon): We all sit smelling the wine for awhile, taking in the aromas of mature Vouvray--leather and honey and apricots, truffles and tea. Beautiful. Smiles start breaking out, small chuckles. We catch each others' eyes and smile and shake our heads in wondrous appreciation. "What do you think of it?" he asks. "Pas mal," I say. This amuses him, which is good. I sip at it; there's a leathery-honeyed taste up front, along with light sweetness, then the midpalate turns towards a duet of truffles underneath, dried apricots, quince and lemon tea above. Truly striking mature chenin. I ask if it's moëlleux or demisec, as tastewise it seems to fall somewhere in between. "It's Vouvray" is the answer. "On paper it's moëlleux, but they tended to just throw it all together back then." The wine is wearing its age very well but it hasn't the uncanny freshness that the '59 had a few months ago. (3/02)

Domaine des Douveliers (Claude Pinon) Vouvray 1959 (September 15, 2001)): The same medium gold color as the Huet, perhaps a trace more amber. The aromatics have more of an orange-rind quality, tea, honey and a rich vein of chalkiness. Tastes more robust than the Huet, larger and more weighty in the piehole. There is a touch more sweetness (although there is no sweetness designation on the bottle--is this a moëlleux?), and the general impression is of a brawnier, more expressive wine that might not be as balanced or delicate but has its act together better on this night. (9/15/01)

Domaine des Douvelieres (Claude Pinon) Vouvray Demisec 1983 (Bradcave): Pale straw color; limestone and gardenia hints on the nose, flowers & stones, smooth and restrained; in the mouth it's very crisply acidic, with nice balance and weight--tangy and richly flavored, but light in body, with a long minerally finish that seems a bit more complex each time I try it. Very nice Vouvray. (12/19/99)

Domaine de la Fontainerie Vouvray Sec 1997 (Asylum): Pale gold and minerally-smelling, chalky and pollenous on the nose with light floral hints. Tastes crisp and nicely honed, some pear-tinged fruit wells up, makes its presence known, then bows aside for the persistently chalky finish. Bright, nimble Vouvray. (9/8/00)

Foreau/Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Brut Reserve 1995 ($25) (Fear and Braising in New Jersey): into his all-too-punctual hand. Haven't checked back with this bubbly in a few years, let's see... breathe, don't forget to breathe. Medium-light straw-gold color, finely and effusively fizzy. Lots of chalk and lemon-quince in the nose. Tight, almost puckery acidity, deep mineral-laced flavors, a lovely combination of substantiality counterbalanced by fizziness, still fairly young and taut, but very pleasing. Probably needs another decade before it begins to really hit its stride, but it's deep and bright and young tonight. (10/04)

Foreau/Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Demisec 1997 ($22) (Iron Winegeeks): Pale gold color; waxy honey-lemon & minerals, bright and vivid-smelling. Tastes rich and dense and tangy, with a soupcon of sweetness in a strong stonyfruity frame, a brawny wine with a lot of fruit and a lot of structure. Kickass Vouvray that appeals to my fondness for bruisers, with a long rich finish. Bright and impressive. Where can I buy some of this? (2/19/00)

Foreau/Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Demisec 2000 ($22) (McNetta 2002): and it's young and fresh and bright, apples and lemon and quince all in light balance, the most pleasurable young Foreau demisec since the kickass '97. It doesn't have that wine's extravagance or density, but it's an equally valid wine on a smaller, more easygoing scale, without the vagueness or dilution of the past few years. A friendly, complete Vouvray of medium amplitude. (6/02)

Foreau/Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Demisec 2002 ($27) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): Very pure aromatics--rainwatery minerality, hints of lemon zest, with air some flickery pineapple notes emerge. Tastes clean, crisp and pure, surprisingly ethereal, given the producer. There isn't a great deal of substance or focus, instead the wine relies on a light prettiness and a subtle, dignified finish to win me over. It's nice Vouvray, but not at all what I'd have expected. Where's the usual Foreau heft? Curious. (3/06)

Domaine du Clos Naudin/Foreau Vouvray Moëlleux 1990 (Island Life): is an alarming reddish-amber color. It's a recent purchase, so my guess is that it's been stored behind someone's radiator since just after release. Still, it smells fun, lots of orange rind and apricot, scorched sugar, light botrytical hints. Fairly sweet, a broad-beamed moëlleux that, were it not a bit cooked, would probably be pretty darn good. Actually, even cooked the bottle is quickly two-thirds empty. (5/06)

Foreau/Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moëlleux 1997 ($32) (NEVER Say 'Spit'): Medium-gold color, ambering slightly at the rim. Oddly funky at first, with an almost Savennièresish earthiness under the quince/apricot/orange rind aromatics. With air a woolly note emerges, the earthiness fades gracefully and leaves the stage. Medium-sweet, the light botrytis mostly masked by the citric-apricot notes, this bottle is just a bit cooked. It's actually pleasant enough, but just a bit off-kilter, the upfront fruit more advanced and orange-rindy than I'd expect and the midpalate flattened out and somewhat lifeless. Still, the raw material transcends the minimal damage, and the bottle is drained quickly. (4/03)

Foreau/Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moëlleux 2002 ($40) (Subdued Festivization): Pale straw-tan color. Mmmm, smells wonderful, chalk and quince, touch of paraffin, hint of botrytis, bright and fresh-smelling. A sip, and it's a large-bore wine, firm and crisp and pure. Very flavorful but equally restrained and just a bit coy; loose at the edges but with a tight core. Very minerally in the middle, finishing with a waxy-polleny hum. Wonderful stuff, momentarily belying the notion that '02 is a demisec-only vintage. (6/13/04)

Foreau/Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moëllleux Reserve 2003 ($80) (Spuds, We Hardly Knew Ye...): Yipes, gonzo Vouvray. Vivid, tropical and spicy-smelling. I don't get a lot of botrytis, or much at all really, which is odd for the wine but I suppose reflective of the weird heat that year. Hugely sweet, but with enough of a spine to carry it off, it's orange-apricot spicy and broad, a wide-beamed, viscous wine with all the subtlety and concomitant appeal of a drunken deb on prom night. Provided you like that kind of thing, of course. If not, fill in your own metaphor for fascinating unsubtlety. (12/05)

Château Gaudrelle Vouvray Réserve Personelle 1997 ($22) (Wasted Hours):Medium gold color and smells nicely ripe and rich, hints of botrytis, hay and tea over honeyed apple-apricot-pineapple fruit. There's an odd smoky-plastic note that won't stay down, but it doesn't detract too much. A big wine, Liquoreux-sweet, with some weight and density in the mouth but with plenty of supporting acidity to keep things moving along. Tangy, sweet, pleasant and rich. Not profound, but very nice. (7/15/00)

Domaine Guertin-Brunet Vouvray Doux 1989 ($10/375 ml.). (Summer Mishmash): Medium pale straw-lemon color. Slightly flinty lemon-quince aromatics, just a whisper of spiced-hay botrytis. Tastes follow the smells, with more of a light apricot flavor emerging in the middle, then fading quickly as the quince flavors dominate the finish. Sweet and smooth and still quite young, not profound or terribly complex, but supple and fresh and friendly, with enough age to lend a bit of complexity. (4/03)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Demiscec 2000 ($20) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): Ah, for the days of $20 Huet demisec. Sigh. Life was sweet back in the halcyon days of 2002. Anyway, it's aromatically closed down, chalk and lemon over a neutral stoniness. Tastes mediumweight and almost not noticeably sweet, opens very slightly with time, an almondy hint begins to emerge after a few hours' air. Never a garrulous wine, this has gone turtle, but it'll come around to loveliness in a decade or three, I'm confident. Hold hold hold. (11/06)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux 1959 (Party House): The beautiful nose is there, layers of beeswax, pollen, honey, lemon tea and butterscotch, but the smellies have a pressed-flower feel to them, they don't dance as they ought. That feeling carries over into the taste as well--the elements are all there, medium sweetness, chalky honeyed fruit, supporting acidity, but the feel is a bit limpid, the wine seems flattened out, finishing chalky-almondy but with a marked flare of heat that I find unusual in an older Huet. High expectations aside it's a nice enough drop--this bottle simply doesn't reach the heights that the wine ought to be able to hit effortlessly. (1/5/02)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux 1970 (Huet-a-Thon): This is paired with the '49 Haut-Lieu Moëlleux, and the color of the younger wine is a slightly deeper gold than the older one. Smells lightly ______ (my note is illegible), hints of vanilla, almond and burnt orange rind over a honeyed base, the nose is a bit more zaftig than the older wine, and when I sip the impression of Rubenesque charm is amplified. Medium-sweet, creamier and more of a burnt-sugar/caramel impression than was present in the 1949, with more weight and substance, minerals coated with honey. The wine has lovely balance and crispness and the fruit is tangy, solid and flavorful. Very pretty, rich Vouvray. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux 1985 ($35) (Culling Me Softly): Smells of lemon, hint of quince, touch of wool, trace of pollen, more lemon, chalk. Medium sweet, rather primary, seems hard up front, swells perceptibly in the middle, gaining flesh, then glides into lemon-stony finish. Bright, coiled and snappy-taut, strikingly young and fresh. One of the oldest wines on the table, still a babe in arms. Don't touch for a decade at the very least. (9/03)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1996 ($50) (Huet-a-Thon): It's a medium straw-lemon color, and smells brightly tropical and lightly waxy, hints of pineapple and apricot over a firm base of stony minerality. Weighty in the mouth, intensely packed with lemon cream-tropical flavors and more chalkiness, quite sweet and intense but also very crisp and balanced, giving a sense of holding some strength in reserve, biding its time. Quite a trick, to be so rich and yet have a sense of firmness and reserve at the same time. Delicious. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1997 ($55) (Huet-a-Thon): A lush noseful of exuberant pineapple, botrytis, hay, apricot, a bucketful of bright, vividly fruity nosecandy. The wine tastes equally exuberant, hard to tell if the mineral component is there under all the puppyish fruit, but it hardly matters to me. Seems a bit softer than its younger brother, but that might be a trick of the fruit-forwardness hiding what's underneath. Desserty-sweet and rich, a creamy, happy mouthful that waltzes close to the edge of over-the-topness, then dances nimbly away from the precipice. Beautiful. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1997(The Longest Night): I find this most extravagant of the three 97 PT wines, and tonight it's as compelling a youngster as any of us can envision, layered and rich, exuberant but with a happy, festive sense of balance. There is a nice firm spine, but it's covered with silky, sexy layers of velvety flavors and scents. Truly profound and sinfully pleasurable, a wine that stirs the intellect and the loins equally. Medium-sweet and then a bit more, it's not really desserty-sweet. Jennifer looks thoughtful and says "I don't even like dessert wines, but I'm going to buy some of this." (12/31/00)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Mo‘lleux Premiere Trie 2002 ($65) (Doghead All Grown Up): Medium-pale lemon-straw color. Smells bright and rather shy, quiet lemon/underripe-pineapple yellowfruit, minerals, paraffin, not much botrytis in evidence. Tastes pure and crystalline, taut and finely-honed. I've grown used to drinking the last round of 1ere Trie wines, the '97s, and this is racier than those: not as sweet, less botrytis. Atypically delicate Bourg, more in the mold of the '96s, but even sleeker, like speed-skating a frozen lake on a breezy day. (11/04)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec 1961 (MoJoe 2004): Medium amber-orange color, uh oh. Smells of toffee and orange rind, caramel and hay. Tastes pleasantly spicy, the fruit has tang but the mouthfeel is a bit round and lifeless, a pachydermish wine that won't get up and stand on one leg for us no matter how hard we implore. I haven't had this wine before, but an Haut-Lieu demisec from the same year a few months back was a fresh and newly middle-aged Vouvray, medium lemon-gold color; this is amber-orange and tired, although still pleasantly pomander-spicy. I suspect this bottle has met with some travails on the journey to our table. (7/10/04)

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec 1999 ($20)(Impostors): It's a pale wine, smelling lightly chalky and pearish, flecks of lemon-citrus tickle my nose. A sip, and it has lovely balance and cohesion, but it's a bit dilute in the middle, the yellow fruit lacks oomph and depth. And yes, it is indeed marginally bitter, markedly so in the midpalate. Still, even if it's a lesser effort for a great domaine it's no slouch and I don't judge it as harshly as Mr. Louis does. Frankly, I could drink this most nights. (11/4/00)

Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1989 ($150) (Trilateral Offline): There is more talk of corkiness when this is poured, but I'm not sure--there are rich, lush apricot-pineapple aromas, and something like the mythical wet wool in there with it--Drezler calls it 'off,' but there's a great deal of sweetness and power balanced with firm acidity. A big, powerful sweet and viscous wine. Finishes with wool and tea notes as the lush fruit subsides. Maybe a bit off, but still a lovely mouthful. (3/14/00)

Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1989 ($150)(Sitting Jeebis): The wine is showing very atypically tonight in that there is no trace of corkiness, breaking a two-year streak of consistently tainted '89 Huets of one stripe or another. Without the usual TCA the wine shines like a beacon, lighting up the inside of my glass with vibrant smellies and tasties: pure pineapple, apricot and botrytis, dessert-sweet but only just, with a whiplike acidic spine behind creamy dreamy fruit and spicily noble rottiness. It's a tremendous relief to finally taste this the way it was meant to be tasted; this is a philosopher-king among wines. (3/31/01)

Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1989 ($150) (Shanks): This is as always a wonderful, intensely flavorful wine, but this bottle isn't quite firing on all cylinders, not as vivid and vibrant as it ought to be. The usually phosphorescent pineapple-lemon fruit seems more laced with marmalade than usual, a little more advanced, and the botrytis has faded into the body of wine instead of hovering spicily above. Still, even a slightly off '89 Constance is a delight, layered and impeccably balanced and beautifully complex and seductive, a class act all the way. (4/24/04)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1959 (September 15, 2001): Medium gold. There is a trace of funk at first that blows off fairly soon, leaving a quiet, somewhat reticent nose with all the usual goodies: baked lemons, honey, pollen, wax and a chalky core. A sip, and here's a warm, gentle upfront wash of layered flavors couched with light sweetness, so gentle that the acidity kicking in on the midpalate is a bit of a shock, but an invigorating one. The wine is very pretty and the goods are there, but it seems tentative and not quite cohesive at the moment. Perhaps it needs more air to come around. (9/15/01)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1961 ($50) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Medium gold color. Oh yeah, that's the stuff. Smells wonderful, leather and earth notes hit my nose first, followed by amber honey, apricot, lemon and wax hints. Utterly charming, nosalistically speaking. A sip, and it's a superbly balanced, wonderfully whole wine. No discernable sweetness, not a great deal of weight or substance, but very pretty and charmingly coy and elegant; Noel Coward in a smoking jacket, graying at the temples. The character of the wine reminds me of the few '49s I've encountered--small, expressive, puckish. The finish takes a surprisingly lubricious turn, spicy apricot and honey-leather just linger, linger and linger some more. Give it another ten years to really hit its stride, retry. (12/31/03)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1971($33)(Trilateral Offline): Light gold color; crikey, this smells amazing. Lush, honeyed nose that just shimmers and changes as you smell it--lemon-honey, earth, caramel, earl grey tea, leather--so complex and layered that I want to just keep swirling and sniffing, swirling and sniffing. In the mouth there's only a very light sweetness, which serves to bring out the pretty, still young and tight at the core chenin fruit, which just doesn't finish at all but keeps humming and echoing in your mouth throughout the evening. This wine still seems young, like it could go another thirty years with one hand tied behind its label. If this isn't the wine of the night it's going to be a memorable evening, because this is a real beauty. (3/14/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1971 ($33) (Cape May Geeks): Medium gold color. Ah, I love the way this wine smells; honey, yellow crayon, lemon-minerals, Earl Grey tea. This bottle is not as youthful and exuberant a specimen as the one we had a few months ago, but it's no slouch, either, filling the glasso-nasal cavity with layered, honeyed, earthy aromas. There's a core of tight chenin fruit, but it's not quite as tightly wrapped as the earlier example, which was positively adolescent. Still, comparisons are odious, and this is a beauty of a wine, with just a trace of sweetness and a well-stacked column of fine acidic vertebrae to keep you coming back for more. (6/3/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1971 ($33) (Huet-a-Thon): This bottle is showing the freshest and youngest of the three I've had in the past year--a pale lemon-gold color, smells lushly lemon-chalky and bright, with a very light waxy-wooly sheen to the nosal impression. Tangy and fairly tight, this is still a baby, with a closely-wrapped core of yellow fruit that flows into a crisp lemon-tart finish. Give it another thirty years to loosen up and it'll be a real gem. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1971 ($33) (The Longest Night): The most interesting thing about having this one every two months or so is discovering the individual personalities of the various bottles: each and every one has had its own character, a slightly or not-so-slightly different variation on a theme. This one seems more layered, less intense than the one at last year's Huet-a-Thon, but still with a core of youth and vibrancy that gives the impression that's it's only halfway to where it's going. I am still vigorously kicking myself in the ass for not picking up more of this. Ow. Ow. Ow. (12/31/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1985 ($15) (McNetta 2002): Light gold color, with a bit of light funk that blows off after a few minutes. Happy smells emerge from my glass, pollen and flint and lemon with just a tiny trace of quince. Still young and primary, more so than the various moëlleux from that year have showed lately. A sip, and the impression of youth is reinforced--an aggressive thrust of tight yellow fruit comes at you quickly, swells briefly in the middle and glides into a long lemony finish. Infantile; I'm not touching another for ten years. (6/02)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1989 ($20) (Motor Oil Marvels): Medium straw color. A dispute breaks out over this one, because it's got a hint of a wooly quality that some at first perceive as maturing chenin and some perceive as very light TCA. I start with the first crowd, then move into the latter after some time has elapsed, as do most others. Lisa calls it contaminated from the gitgo, which is good enough for me. Still, this has to be one of the tastiest corked wines I've had, with a base of very lightly honeyed lemon-limestone behind the wet wool hint. Tastes fairly lush in the mouth, there's enough acidity to balance, but there's more roundness than I expected, as well as a bit more sweetness than other LHL demisecs I've had lately. There's a nice mineral rush in the midpalate that fades into a white-honey flavor that lingers on the finish. Easily wins the Thunderbird Prize, perhaps a landmark for a corked wine. (6/29/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 2002 ($31) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Similar aromatic profile to the intact Sec--lemon, paraffin, chalk--but deeper and fuller in the piehole, with a warmth and langour that the racy Sec lacks. Young and coiled, but beautiful, complete, breathtaking. Having a wine like this for the first time is like being at the opening night of a Sondheim show--there's history in the air, electricity, genius. (12/31/03)

Huet Vouvray le Haut-Lieu Sec 2005 (Chateauneuf-du-Joe): . Hey now, smells quite ripe, with almost tropical pineapplicious hints over the usual taut lemon-chalk. Not as severe as young Huet secs can sometimes be, not as focused and nervy as the '02, more broadbeamed, more heft, with an almost languid friendliness that I find striking. Perhaps a hint of sweetness takes the edge off, but it's very happy to be consumed tonight. .sasha ponders aloud that it's almost rieslinglike, "Could be an Urzinger Würzgarten, perhaps...?" This doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me, but because it's .sasha I nod solemnly and pretend to understand. At any rate it's a very nice match with the wild boar sausage. (11/06)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu 1947 (Huet-a-Thon): There is no Moëlleux designation on the bottle, but it is assumed. The wine is a deep orange-amber color, the deepest color of the evening, and the nose is profound and dark, apricot, iron oxide, tea, orange rind and almonds. Quite rounded and glyceriney in the mouth, the flavors are weighty and orange-apricotty. The wine is quite crisp, but the fruit has somewhat of flattened-out, pressed-flower feel to it. Sweet, but more moëlleux-plus sweet than desserty-sweet. With air a vanilla-bean component emerges in the nose to mingle with the darker orange-apricot aromas, and the taste takes on a toasty-marshmallow creamy aspect. Really quite delicious, but this is the only wine of the evening that looks its age, and those who have had it before suggest the color ought to be more of a deep gold than an orange-amber. It's a bit earthbound, but it's still got a lot going on, layers and layers of rich smellies, a slightly battered old soldier. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux 1949 (Huet-a-Thon): It's a pretty medium gold-bronze color, and it smells honeyed, earthy, light and lush, beeswax, sweet pear tart, lemon tea, more honey still, all in a buoyantly light-smelling aroma envelope. A sip, and it's a light wine, sweet but lightly-medium sweet and delicately strong in the manner of a prima ballerina. I would guess this might be twenty years old. Really impressive. I smell and smell and put an ounce or two aside for later research purposes. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux 1959 (Lucid Jeebusing): I take a noseful and immediately want another; the Huets from this vintage that have been kicking around New York geek circles lately have a history of spottiness, of firing on three cylinders or just missing the brass ring, but this one sings the way they ought. Medium gold-amber color. Pretty pretty package of smells; lemon and chalk, tea and honey, apricots, almonds and butterscotch. Swirling makes the youthful chalk and lemon character come to the fore, letting it sit allows the darker tea and apricot-almond tones to dominate. A sip, and it's medium-sweet and layered like the banks of the Colorado, flavors piled upon flavors. Lemon and chalk again dominate the initial surge, then the midpalate spreads out kaleidescopically until it refocuses on the daintily thrumming finish. Whee, what a ride. The Isa is a young marvel, but this has the weight of years and the refinement of high breeding behind it; it will not be denied. 86 points. (2/02)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux 1976 (Spuds, We Hardly Knew Ye...): This one is a proper medium amber-gold color, smells calmly complex and earthy, orange rind and Earl Grey tea, hay and quince jam, only turning minutely minerally with air and thought. Just past demisec sweetness, just a bit tired, firm acidity, possessed of an almost Savennièrish earthiness. Quite charming, not a wine I'd hold much longer. (12/05)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux 1989 ($55) (Huet-a-Thon): This has a bit of development, smelling of chalk, light earth and a touch of honey, with a slightly funky wooly streak. Tastes lightly sweet, not quite desserty, rich and a bit rounded, with the usual strong crisp spine, flowing into an apricot-honey finish. After a few minutes the wooly component of the nose starts to seem like a very mild cork taint, much as it did in the 89 Constance that we had at an offline a few months back, and I pass my glass around to survey opinions. Denials at first, but with a bit more time it becomes more apparent, and I think a consensus was reached by the end of the evening. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1947 (Chateauneuf-du-Joe): . The few occasions I've had the opportunity to taste the storied '47 Huet, the bottles have been a bit off, not in good form, damaged or just cranky. This one isn't, and I begin to understand in my gut what all the fuss is about. Topaz-amber color at the core, with that greenish-tinged rim that so beguiles Joe. Smells like love, all quince paste and dried apricot, honey and tangerine rind, clove, toffee, hay, other unidentifiable spicy things. Tastes quite sweet, perhaps not as sweet as the modern Constance Cuvées, but certainly the equal of the big '97 1ere Trie wines, markedly sweeter than the '02 1ere Tries. There's firm but not aggressive acidity, a bit of tannic fuzziness on the caressingly long finish. Spicy, delightful, happymaking stuff. (11/06)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1997 (Huet-a-Thon): To oversimplify, this wine seems to strike a fine balance between its two vintage siblings, with a velvety fruity pineapple-wax-apricot-mineral nose that isn't quite as fervid as the Bourg but is happier than the Le Mont. This is the silkiest of the three, with the best compromise between structure and lushness, you sense the stony undercurrent while being tickled by the happy fruitiness, hitting both bass and treble. Botrytis is there, as it is in all three, but it doesn't dominate and serves to spice things up and add another layer to the mix. The wine has great fullness but is balanced to the point of zero-G, velvety and nimble. Extraordinary, and my favorite of the three, although it feels a bit silly to make nice distinctions between three such wonderful wines. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 1986 ($30) (Occult Wines): Medium gold. Wax, honey, apricot on the nose, hints of orange rind and Lipton brand tea. This wine seems far more mature than the 1971 Demi-sec we had a month or two ago, indeed it seems a bit off form, tasting sharp and tart, a bit metallically sour. Smells much better than it tastes; this bottle doesn't seem quite intact to me, but what the hell do I know anyway? (5/15/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 1986 ($30) (Huet-a-Thon): Pale gold, it smells vivid and chalky, powdery-polleny aromas dancing quickly in the glass. Tastes bracingly crisp and squeaky-dry, with weight and substance but vivid, happy acidity that makes me want to get up and do a hornpipe. A racy, strong wine that Dressner is moved to call "celestial." Only Kane doesn't much like it, but my kind offer to pour a spoonful of sugar into his glass to "sweet it up real purty" is not accepted. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 1990 (Robin in the Big City): Pale, pale golden color; oh, a great nose, plenty of citrus, honey & rainwatery hints. Slightly soft and creamy in the mouth at first taste, but some stealth acidity wells up behind the yellow fruit and pairs off with the background stoniness to leave a nice crisp impression by the time the finish rolls around. Pleasant, but I almost sprain my tongue trying to pronounce "Le Haut Lieu" in my cracked high school French. (2/7/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 1997 ($19) (Kane Manor): Pale straw, with a slight greenish cast; light nose, slightly bready/green-grapey notes. Nice crispness, minerally background, slightly soft mouthfeel. Nice, but doesn't make a big impression on me. (7/24/99)

Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 2002 ($23) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Ah, that's more like it: fresh lemony-waxy aromatics, chalky streak emerges shyly with a little swirling. Racy and pure, bright and crisp but with good heft and a certain aloof, fast-lane quality. A vivid, exciting young Vouvray that leaves me feeling a little tousled. (12/31/03)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demisec 1952 (Huet-a-Thon): Medium gold color, looks about ten years old. I take a sniff, and my nose-o-meter goes right off the scale. Not to use hyperbole, but this is the best smelling liquid in the history of the universe. Here's only a partial listing of the individual aroma components that one could discern with careful attention:

1) Beeswax, the kind in the comb;
2) Earl Grey tea;
3) Almonds (both raw and roasted);
4) Chalk;
5) Orange rind (navel and mandarin);
6) Marzipan;
7) Lemon;

and many more. But really, this one is much more than the sum of its parts. The aromas mingle and dance in the glass, changing hues and tones like a kaleidescope, shifting one way, then another, first almond dominating, then orange rind, then chalkiness, all interweaving and singing together like the final septet from Marriage of Figaro. The wine is very lightly but discernably sweet, has festive acidity, is balanced like a Wallenda (one of the non-falling ones), layered like a cliff in the Grand Canyon, and flows into a long, humming Earl Grey and mandarin-orange finish. Simply exquisite, still startlingly youthful and vibrant after almost fifty years, really and truly a marvel. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demisec 1969 (Loirenatics): Cloudy gold color; ooh, baby, dig that nose... tea with tangerine-peel, hints of waxy rose petal, floral and pretty. I just swirl this for awhile, savoring. A taste, and it's a beautifully balanced wine, muted gravelly, citrusy fruit with some fine steely acidity. Beautiful. (11/99)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demisec 1969 (Huet-a-Thon): Medium-pale gold color; smells of fresh-cut apples, apple juice with nutmeg, and is ever so slightly petillant, sparkling lightly on the tongue. There is speculation that the bottle is going through a malolactic fermentation, and Dressner attempts to corner the market by yelling "Keep this one away from the gentiles!" to no avail. Lightly sweet, layered, yet another beautifully balanced, richly flavorful wine. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demisec 1998 ($23)(Swedes Invade): Pale straw-tan. After having the '71 earlier this month, this infant is like the ghost of wine yet to come. Limestoney, lemon, honey, wax, dried apricots and probably some other stuff on the nose, but tight, tight, tight. Tastes tight too. I think this swillperb wine needs about thirty years, when it will be something extra-swillnificent. Right now, it's sharp and wrapped almost painfully tight. With air the nose opens up a bit and spreads, but the taste is unyielding, at least in the five hours I had to try and coax it into submission. (3/24/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1953 ($125) (Island Jeeb): Medium gold-amber color. Smells wonderfully layered--pollen, leather, wax, caramel and lemon tea all flicker in and out of my nostrils. Tastes lightly sweet, just past off-dry, with a bit of caramelized flatness lurking like creme brulée in the middle, but plenty of vigorous lemon-marzipan-leather flavors as well. Long waxy-caramel finish that leaves you tasting amber honey and beeswax. A beautiful if slightly weary wine, suffused with character. (3/23/03)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1953 ($125) (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium gold color, tinged with amber, hint of orange at the rim. Prettily and expressively aromatic: quince, tangerine rind, golden honey and leather. A good bottle, more lively than the last few I've tasted. With air the nose spices up, turning pomanderish. A sip, and there's just a bit of sweetness, demisec-plus. The wine is lovely: spicy and layered and long. Almost sings, almost sings. The only thing holding it back is a certain flatness around the core that tells me that even a good bottle of these '53s is probably best drunk up soon, within the next decade or two. (11/04)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1971 ($100) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Hmmm. This ain't quite right; the honey and lemon and waxy-lanolin hints that one would expect are all there, but there is a caramelized candy-brown quality to the aromatics--what ought to be bright and fresh has a pressed-flower quality. I take a sip, and the trend continues; the wine is rich and medium-sweet, but after an immediate burst of honey-lemon flavors it turns flaccid and caramel flavors seep kudzulike into the vibrant heart of the wine. A listless, damaged bottle, a real shame. Jay Miller registers his disappointment by pouring his glassful all over Jayson. (7/14/02)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1971 (Doghead All Grown Up): Medium gold color, just a hint of ambering towards the rim. Richly aromatic, calm and mellow smelling layers of lemon-quince, flint and pollen notes down deep, flecks of orange rind up high, traces of hay-botrytis spiciness above that. Tastes medium sweet, there's a weight to the midpalate of this wine that gives it more substance than the demisec version but also keeps it more earthbound, chunkier. But oh, the finish is ever so delightfully flickery-ticklish on my tongue. (11/04)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1985(I Get the Shakes): Pale medium gold color. Weighty-smelling, with a lush, layered nose with a boodle of things going on--honey, wet stones, Earl Grey tea, as well as a trace of sherrylike nuttiness which makes me think this bottle has been slightly stressed. Still, it's a beaut, glyceriney mouthfeel, dense and packed full of goodies with some medium sweetness bringing out the lemon-floral elements on the finish. Even not in top form, this is a beautiful wine. (6/6/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1985 (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Medium to pale gold color. Brightly and sweetly aromatic, lots of pretty dancing smellies--lemon and honey, chalk and quince. A sip, and here' a frothy wave of deep yellow fruit, bright and lemony at first, then broadening and spreading, turning stony and honeyed in the middle. Beautiful, fresh and nimble. A great balance of light sweetness and acidity, and immediate front runner for wine of the night. As with other Huet '85s there's no perceptible botrytis but complexity in spades. Of perhaps half a dozen bottles that I've tasted this is the best showing I've had of this wine--it's bright, light and young, with considerable intensity and a nervy vivaciousness that has sometimes been missing in past bottles. Makes me want to jump up on the table and dance the lambada, the forbidden dance. (7/14/02)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1985(Fridge): Honey and white flowers, lemon-tea and toasted almonds. Medium sweet, nicely concentrated, good heft in the mouth, not perceptibly nobly rotted. It's rich, flavorful and impeccably balanced, but I've always been a little ambivalent about the '85 moëlleux, the first made in almost a decade. These are fine, rich wines but have never showed extraordinary complexity and seem almost free of botrytical influences. I know, I know, we've all been spoiled by the '89s, '95-'97s, etc., but I can't escape feeling that these are solid, well-packed and complex wines that don't quite sing. Of course they're still babies; I'll check back in a decade and see if they've begun to slip the surly bonds of earth and head skyward. (5/12/02)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1985 (15 Fox Place): Medium gold color. Rich aromatics, honey-chalk, quince jam, touch of wool. Bright and fresh-tasting with medium sweetness, almost botrytisless but with plenty of other action going on: vivid acidity supports some good heft, intense flavors, the beginnings of development. Big but light on its feet, a very nice showing. (3/22/04)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux 1995 ($55) (The New Year, With Bordeaux): Aromatically shy, shut down and not giving much away at all. There's a gentle earthy-funkiness right up front that settles slightly with air, then light lemon-quince, touch of chalkiness... that's about it. Demisec-plus sweetness, lacks focus, just kind of ambles around aimlessly in the middle before finishing with a whisper of almost Savenni¸resish wooly-earthiness. Rather disappointing: a wan and listless wine is the last thing I'd expect from Huet, but here we are. (12/31/05)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1989 ($50) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Despite the shameless theft of the word "Trie" from the Bordelais, this is lovely stuff. Joyous apple-apricot-quince-honey-tea smellies jump straight up my nose, all laced with a healthy dollop of spicy botrytis. In the piehole it's the sweetest of the three, medium-plus sweet, crisp and juicily fleshy, with a slight baked-apple flavor in the middle. Maybe a little off, but even so it's a beautiful wine, just oozing complexity and depth. (7/14/02)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moëlleux Premiere Trie 1997 (Huet-a-Thon): Not quite as brash as the Bourg, although that's not saying much. Chalkier-smelling, less botrytisy, the nose is a bit lighter and less tropical, although all the same components are present. A taste, and a bit more structure is in evidence, more of a sense of focus, although not nearly to the same extent as the 96 Bourg. This one may be a touch sweeter, with a bit less weight in the mouth than the first '97, although again that's not saying much and this is still quite a dense, richly packed mouthful. Very nice. No, scratch that, I'm getting spoiled: Another beautiful wine. (9/17/00)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec 1996 ($20) (A New Low): and it's like water on a wilted fern. Medium to medium light gold color, brightly aromatic, all lemon-honey and rocks. In the piehole it's zippily crisp, squeaky-dry and weighty, wonderfully nimble for such a bruiser. The middle blooms with quince and more lemon, which hang on with the rocky underpinnings all the way through the long, flickery finish. Damn, this is good. (7/14/03)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec 1996 ($20) (Winterfest 2003): Medium to medium-light gold color. Richly aromatic, rather more developed than I'd expected, apricot and quince-laced waxy-polleny smells, aromatically open and rather intense. Squeaky-dry, but with enough flavorosity and weight to couch the usual severity of chenin trocken. Long bergamotish finish, Earl Grey style. A wine with a lot of weight in the piehole, substantial and tangily crisp, lots of tart citric acidity. Seriously good stuff, cohesive and wonderfully focused for such a broad-beamed wine. (2/03)

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec 1998 ($20) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Smells of chalk and more chalk, lemon zest and a touch of white honey. Quite a crisp slap to the palate upon first sippage, spring-tight and a little puckery. From there it opens daintily in the midpalate, the steely acidity clothed with a velvety skin of yellow fruit, then moves into a long lemony finish. This brings my mouth to life, tastebuds standing up and saluting. Bracing wine, snappy and on the haughty side. I like it. (7/14/02)

Lemaire-Fournier Vouvray Sec 2002 ($10) (Boatloads III): Medium-light lemon-straw color. Smells big and kinda stern, lemon tea and chalk, pollen and paraffin, yow, the aromatics are forceful and insistent. Hey, it's a bit fizzy, a minipetillant, tastes big and intense as well, crisp but not shrill, a wine with some heft, very young but promising. I don't know these guys, but this is damn decent Vouvray for ten bucks. [Buy again? Yes.] (2/05)

Monmousseau Vouvray 2002 ($10) (Boatloads VII): Pale straw color, smells of lemon tea and rainwater. Crisp, tart and bright, on the lean side, touch of sugar. Simple, pleasant Vouvray, nothing wrong here but frankly B&G puts out the same thing for $7. [Buy again? This wine seems to vary in price a lot--I saw it for $10 and for up to $14. At $10 it's a Yes, at $14 a No.] (4/06)

Clos du Petit Mont Vouvray Moëlleux Selection Balzac 1998 (Birthday Engorgement): As the bottle is opened we all smile, for it has that telltale rubbery-chemical gardenhose aroma that so marks the cream of the '98 moëlleux. Thin, just a bit sweet, quite unique and charmingly bad-tasting Vouvray. Honoré de Balzac (whose image graces the label) would be proud to be associated with such a wine! (6/06)

Domaine le Peu de la Moriette (Pichot) Vouvray Moëlleux 1990 ($25) (Misplaced Weekend I): Medium gold color. Smells like Vouvray: bit o'honey, some quince jam, dried apricot, almond, no botrytis to speak of. Medium sweetness, decent acidity, lacks focus and complexity but not too bad, certainly drinkable. A decent if uninteresting Vouvray from a third-tier producer that can usually be counted on for decent, uninteresting wines. Someone claims that this recently received one hundred and ninety-seven "points" from one of the "points" guys, which strikes me as rather odd. Can you really get that many "points" into one .750 ml bottle, or did they mean a magnum? Those guys have a cool scam going, though, I must admit. God bless 'em, every one! (5/2/04)

Michel Picard Vouvray 2005 ($12) (Boatloads XI): Lightly aromatic, quinine and chamomile hints, subtle minerality, calm and quiet. Tastes simple and straightforward, just a hint of sugar, medium body, loose and languid. Amiable little Vouvray, nondescript but decent enough to pass muster, if muster is kind of sleepy. I understand from the label that Michel Picard is the great-great-grandfather of Jean-Luc Picard, but I'm not sure what that means. Fascinating. SCREWCAP! [Buy again? I think the screwcap pushes it over the line--yup.] (11/07)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Botrytisée 1996 (Drinking & Driving): Wow. Takes the intensity up a notch. This is wild stuff, startlingly concentrated and coiled. In the same mold as the 1er Trie, but larger and dusted throughout with spicy-hay botrytical notes. A sip, and the flavors are nervy, tense and stony, white peach and rock dust, all hung on a spring-steel spine. Quite sweet and yes, there is botrytis here: not the overflow of the stuff that's evident in the 1997 Botrytisée, just enough to add seasoning to an already complex and balanced wine. Truly breathtaking young Vouvray that will outlive everyone reading this. "Almost no sulphur," he adds as an afterthought, "Just a tiny, tiny bit. You have a winery in California whose bottles say 'minimal process,' that is what I try to do as well."

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Botrytis 1997 (Kane Manor): Pale gold; aromatically light, spritzy-straw, honey-apricot, but in the mouth bright & sweetly rich & dense, apricotty/apple flavors, hints of mandarin orange; very sweet & still balanced, tangy & complex. Yum. Hits your tongue in a tiny quantity and the flavors advance like a wave. Very, very tasty indeed. (7/24/99)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée de Novembre 2002 ($22) (Misplaced Weekend II): Medium-sweet and crystalline, no noticeable botrytis but great clarity and balance. The finish is long and full of quinine. I've got limited armload-space, this is the one wine I buy. (5/9/04)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Moëlleux Cuvée Novembre 2002 ($22) (Memorial Day): Rather similar in tone to the Belle Pente, if a bit more substantial. Light pineapple, yellow apple, nice lick of quinine on the finish. It seems a little sweeter than I remember, but the balance is still impeccable: taut and firm and deeply coiled at the core. Lovely, minerally young Vouvray. (5/31/04)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Moëlleux Cuvée Novembre 2002 ($22) (Sedate Evening): Should've bought more of this, damnit. Lovely, fairly small-framed, but ever so flavorful and flickery-ticklish. Long quininey finish, just really nice medium-sweet Vouvray. Ahhh, so pretty. I've called Quintarelli the Huet of Italy--Francois Pinon may very well be the Huet of Vouvray. (6/05)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition (Demisec) 1997 ($13) (Bradcave): Pretty, pretty nose--velvety lemon-honeysuckle-rainwater, expressive and elegant. Not a blockbuster, but some very well-balanced white tangy chenin fruit makes this a pleasure to drink. An absolute QPR steal at around $11-12. Our host made us buy some, and I'm glad, Brad, I'm glad. (12/19/99)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition (Demisec) 1999 ($14) (Joey's First Jeebus): Quite happily aromatic, light and clean and minerally-smelling, like a freshly-scrubbed quartz doorstop that your relatives gave you and you have to put out when they come to visit even though you stub your toe on the damn thing every time you walk past it. Tastes quiet and smooth, less dense than in the past few years, the usual hint of sweetness. A small, quiet wine without a lot of density that sips smoothly. Not bad at all, but I'm going to grab a few more of the '98s. (1/6/01)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition (Demisec) 2000 ($14) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Fresh and young, yellow apples and Barlett pear juice poured from a white stone flagon. A touch of sweetness brings out the colors of the fruit, here's balance and harmony in a satiny-smooth package. Amid the heavy hitters of the region the unassuming Tradition cuts a smart profile, holding its own very nicely. Of course, I'm biased towards the man because he has a really cool car and a coopful of the brawniest pigeons in the Western Hemisphere, so take what I say with a grain of salt. (7/14/02)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition (Demisec) 2002 ($15) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Smells of rainwater and lemon tea, touch of white honey. Taut, tight, lemon-honeyed, with a middleweight mouthfeel and zippy acidity. Racy and light, wrapped quite tight now, rather hard to figure. Not as robust as the '97, more substance and heft than the '98, '99 or '01, better focus than the 2000. It's a subtly rich, lightly sweet wine that sneaks up on you; its seamlessness makes it seems rather easygoing right up front, but then it deepens and stretches in the middle and finishes with a small quartet of lemon, honey, chalk and quinine. It's no Haut-Lieu, but it's a step above the Champalous in terms of interest. (12/31/03)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition (Demisec) 2003 ($16) (Buster Has a Little Lamb): I reflexively blurt out YES yes I have, and the little guy's so disappointed that I assure him I'm willing to pretend I haven't, and proceed accordingly, with many surprised and enthusiastic oohs and aahs thrown in for good measure. No one can fake it like me, brother: I have a degree in faking. (8/04)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition (Demisec) 2004 ($18) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): Pale pale straw, the palest young Tradition I can recall, almost colorless. Bright, nervy-herby aromatics--chamomile, limeskin, quinine and a gentle chalkiness. Tastes tart and lipsmackingly crisp, or perhaps crisp and lipsmackingly tart. Pleasantly aromatic but rather lean and vivid in the piehole, with just a whisper of sugar as a cushion. A small, nervy Tradition, bright and crisp but lacking substance. It's very pleasant to drink, but I don't think I'll be stocking up on this one. (3/06)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Moëlleux 1er Trie 1996 ($16) (Robin in the Big City): Minerals, light lemon & rainwater nose, pretty and velvety-vivid smelling. This wine has impeccable balance, lightly sweet, not a dessert wine, but a highwire act balancing crisp acidity, vivid stonyfruity flavors and small sweetness into a seamless and rich package that manages to be light and rich at once. Lovely. (2/7/00)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Moëlleux 1997 ($15) (Bradcave): Pale straw-gold color. Light, airy, spritzy nose, not yielding up too much... some light minerals... light floral hints.... Whoo, but it tastes much bigger than it smells--persistent earthy, honeyed minerally chenin fruit, big and rich and smooth, with a good balance of light sweetness and crisp acidity, and a glyceriney mouthfeel. Very richly flavored. Tasty. (12/19/99)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Goutte D'Or 1990 (Loirenatics): Darker than the 89 Botrytisée, deeper gold color, more honey on the nose, less botrytis. This wine is a bit heavier, a bit rounder, sweeter and more viscous, and the flavors are more honey-apricot yellow than floral-citrus white, but this is very nice too. (11/99)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Petillant Sec 1996 (Guess Who's Coming to Guzzle): Hints of wax and pollen over a lean chalky frame, toasty almond traces underneath, hints of fresh-baked bread, more pollen on the finish. Happily cohesive and cheerful, there wine has passed its young-chenin awkward phase; the pear-apple fruit is muted and smooth, but I can't help thinking a few more decades might be called for. Still, it's got enough going on now to be quite enjoyable in its youth. (7/4/04)

Francois Pinon Vouvray Reserve Botrytisée 1989 (Loirenatics): Pretty, rich nose--peach and citrus and hay and, oddly enough, botrytis. Lightly sweet, rich and tangy in the mouth, more great pale, citrus-edged fruit, wonderful balance, nice grip in the mouth, a really delicious sweetie. (11/99)

Prince Poniatowski Vouvray Aigle Blanc Vin de Tris 1989 (Lou Turns the Worm): Quietly sweet-smelling honey-pollen aromatics, hints of chalk and Earl Grey tea. Demisec sweet or perhaps a bit more, on the flaccid side but with enough complexity to maintain interest. Well, some interest anyway, as the flaccidity expands in the limp midpalate. Finishes with a nice chamomile hum. Decent, but not particularly compelling Vouvray, could use a bit more focus. (10/05)

Prince Poniatowski Vouvray Aigle Blanc Cuvée Abbe Baudoin 1993 (New Wine Achievers): Medium lemon-gold color. Smells lightly honeyed, trace of oxidation, apple-juicy notes, chalky minerality underneath. Fairly heavy in the mouth, with some sharp acidity that dances to its own tune. A bit flattened, a bit shrill. A dense wine with a trace of sweetness, this bottle seems to have had a hard journey to reach our table. Rest now, friend, your troubles are past. (7/00)

Prince Poniatowski Vouvray Aigle Blanc 1996 ($17)(Cape Mayhem): No sweetness designation, but seems like a demisec, with a light touch of sugar. Airy minerals and traces of lemon rind on the nose. Not bad, not particularly interesting, a middleweight, decent but undistinguished Vouvray. (5/27/01)

Vincent Raimbault Vouvray 1989 ($20) (Iron Winegeeks): Lemon, limestone & tea on the nose, which is a bit reticent, showing more stoniness than anything else. In the mouth it's brightly acidic, a bit lean and sharp. Refreshing and crisp, but just this side of knife-hard, not giving a lot. (2/19/00)

Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray 2002 ($8) (Boatloads III): Simple but recognizable Vouvray, plain and unadorned. Crisp and bracing, maybe just a touch of sugar, with a decent quinine-mineral surge in the middle and a lemonstony finish. Compact and kind of stripped-down; were these grapes ripe? Has the feel of a petillant gone flat--well-honed and composed but not a lot of action going on. [Buy again? Well, it is only eight bucks, so I guess yes.] (2/05)

Quarts de Chaume-- With Bonnezeaux, One of the Two Crus of the Coteaux du Layon, Exclusively Dessert Wines

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1967 ($65)(Return to Kane Manor): This wine is a medium pale lemon-gold color, and the first thing I get on the nose is a hint of kerosene, followed quickly by sweet honey-lemon mineral fruit laced with tea and ginger. Very interesting to smell, a bit lean to taste, the fruit having faded to a pressed-flower quality, more lemon tea & slightly mummified yellow apple tastes, with a medium level of sweetness and some hard acidity. Fades a bit quickly, seems a wee bit tired. (6/10/00)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1971 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Medium gold color, ambering lightly at the rim. Smells spicily apricot-honeyed, with a bit of a burnt-sugar hint. Tastes crisp and rich, the flavors swing towards apricot-orange citrus in the midpalate and back towards honey again as it heads into the finish. Generously sweet (What?! Not magically turned dry!?), but with bright acidity and lovely cohesion, a wine in a good place, possessed of great sustain and persistence, still with the pink of youth but oh so nice to drink now, really coming into its own, the rare Baumard wine that I find genuinely exciting. (6/05)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1991 (Geyservillainy): Medium gold color. Light apricot and pineapple over a slab of white rock. The fruit here has a pressed quality to it but the wine is compact and balanced, on the lean side for a Baumard but very pleasant. (2/17/02)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1992 (Adlers): Medium gold-amber. Smells honeyed, hints of orange rind, apricot and quince jam. Medium sweet, only the vaguest trace of botrytis. Loosely knit, smooth and cohesive, it nevertheless has a baked-apple quality and seems older than I'd have guessed. Decent enough, just not much character and not particularly interesting. Guess that's why you don't see it a lot. (9/2/02)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1997 ($75): Pale straw-yellow, with hints of gold. Fairly quiet nose on this one, rich & soft & tropical, slowly coming around with some air and swirling, gradually becoming effusively pineappley-botrytisy-apricotty. A big, rich, sweet wine, not quite as stuffed-full as the Pierre-Bise QdC, but doesn't dance quite as close to the edge of over-the-topness either, with plenty of spine to balance all the fruit and sugar. Turns nicely pineappley on the finish. Very good stuff. I'll say it again so you can be sure I meant it: very good stuff. It's overpriced, but it's sure tasty. (12/25/99)

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1998 ($40) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): Medium gold color. Very quiet nose, light apricot and quince. A small, relatively taut wine, medium sweet and compact. No botrytis so as I'd notice, anyway, but a sense of calm politeness and good focus keeps my attention from wandering. Not bad, really, but not really all that exciting either. Pleasant, smallish Quarts de Chaume. (3/06)

Château Bellerive Quarts de Chaume 1996 ($40) (Yo-ho for Pinot): Pale gold. Lean nose, vivid and racy but not giving up too much. Tastes bigger than it smells, richly sweet and with good crisp acidity, this has the good balance I've found in a lot of 96 QdCs--plenty of tangy apricot-pineapple fruit in a lean base, crisp acidity and a mess o'botrytis. Good stuff, if not quite the lush over-the-top style that tickles me in places that I like to be tickled. (3/19/00)

Château Pierre-Bise Quarts de Chaume 1996 ($26/500 ml.) (Shanks): Medium gold color, ambering slightly at the rim. Smells rich and vividly fruity, lots of lemon/apricot/lilikoi notes laced with orange rind and a touch of hay. Tastes big, glossy and crisp, a firmly-packed mouthful of sweet sweet chenin. I've always liked this wine, which I find to be the most robust of Papin's '96 sweeties and the only one that seems to have a soup¨on of botrytis. It's got some development but it's holding up nicely, still very poised for all its size and density. (4/24/04)

Château Pierre-Bise Quarts de Chaume 1997 ($30/500 ml.) (Return of the Jeebi): Dainty sipping is required with this one, as it's so ridiculously sweet and densely packed that even a tiny sip is almost too much. This is the biggest and craziest of the Pierre-Bise 97s, and just a tiny taste of it is like surfing a pineapple-pear-lilikoi-botrytis tsunami with a reef of minerals many fathoms beneath your tongueboard. There is structure, but it's buried deep beneath waves of technicolor fruit and sweetness. SFJoe has warned me to save it for last because "you won't be able to taste anything else." It's almost too much even for me, a known sugarsucker, but it sure is fun. (10/7/00)

Château Pierre-Bise Quarts de Chaume 1997 ($30/500 ml.) (Steamed Steaks): Medium gold color, ambering towards orange at the rim. Always a bit of a freakazoid, the hugeness has calmed down and the tropical guava-lilikoi flavors have turned toward autumnal apricot and spiced pomander-orange. This is holding together better than any of the various '97 village Layons, but it too seems to be experiencing an accelerated aging curve. The shiny viscosity has taken a turn towards a matte texture, but the outsized facade hasn't collapsed like a soufflˇ; it's still a big, fun wine with a ton of sugar and a ton of botrytis and a ton of everything else. (10/2/04)

Château de Suronde Quarts de Chaume 1988 ($17.50)(Blind White): Okay, everyone's been bandying 'marzipan' and 'almonds' around all night, finally I find it in this one (in the interest of full disclosure, Lisa & I brought it). Deep first-pee-in-the-morning yellow, light, sweet, nutty, marzipany aromas, light apricotty notes; knowing this was a Quarts de Chaume I was taken aback by how unsweet it was compared to others I've had--it seemed to have a slightly funky, mushroomy quality to the nose, especially at first. Nice balance, but a little wan, and not really what I was expecting. (On a side note, Andrew, sitting next to me, said "I'm writing down the name of a grape" on first tasting this, and showed the words "CHENIN BLANC" to all after the unveiling. Woohoo!) (7/8/99)

Château de Suronde Quarts du Chaume 1988 ($20) (Scheduling): Medium-dark yellow-gold color. Smells slightly pomanderish, scorched orange rind, hints of marzipan and mushroom, traces of lemon, vanilla bean. Flattened out and limpid in the middle, there's an offputting lifelessness here. Tastes more moëlleux than desserty, I'm not sure when the Age of Big Sugar began but I don't think this would pass muster as a Quarts de Chaume these days. Still, it's a pretty nice match with Laura's sinfully good cheesecake. (12/8/02)

Château du Suronde Quarts de Chaume 1999 (MoJoe 2004): Orange-amber color, just about the same color as the '61 Huet. Smells very tangerine-apricotty, tastes viscous and weighty. Broad, simple and sweet, like a decent generic Layon. I'm not sure anyone made decent sweeties in the Loire in '99, so I guess it's a good effort, but it seems to be covering up a lack of character with a great dollop of sugar. If Kane were here he'd be shrieking "WINE OF THE NIGHT! WINE OF THE NIGHT!" (7/10/04)

Château de Suronde Quarts du Chaume Trie Victor & Joseph 1996 ($60/500 ml.) (Cellar Gems): Pale gold; interesting, small nose, with a nice flinty note mixed in with the honeyed tropical fruit. The intense sweetness, almost goopiness of this wine is a big surprise, as I'm only familiar with this house's late 80s bottlings, done in a much MUCH lighter style. Rich and flavorful, but a bit cloying, just not quite enough acidity to cover all that sugar. It tastes thick and concentrated and rich, but after a sip or two I'm done. (10/14/99)

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