August 4, 2008

Francois Chidaine "Les Argiles" 2005

French / Loire Valley
Chenin Blanc / $21 - $27

Chenin Blanc is originally from the Loire Valley in France. Over the years, its reputation has been sullied, especially in the United States, because of its use in many low quality generic box wines.

This grape is represented worldwide. In the United States it grows very well in California. Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina also has a suitable climate for growing success. In South Africa where it is called "Steen", it thrives. It is often used in all of these countries to bottle as a varietal, and quite often blended to boost the acidity of Chardonnay. When Chenin Blanc is made well, it is a beautiful wine. From bone dry, to sweet dessert wine, this grape has incredible versatility.

Francois Chidaine has been growing grapes and making wine most of his life. He worked side by side with his father Yves and learned bu "hands on" experience. Learning from his father, Francois still manages the vineyard using tried and true methods. "Les Argiles" refers to the water retentive clay in the vineyard where these grapes are grown. Although the vineyards are certified organic, he does not make a big deal of this fact. The old fashioned methods of viticulture still ring true for him, and in his opinion make the best wine.

This 2005 vintage is luscious. It is straw colored and fragrant. Tropical pineapple, lilac, quince and grapefruit attack the nose. It is full of fruit, but beautifully balanced with acidity. It has good concentration of fruit, and has a wonderfully long finish.. This wine is almost dry. Chenin Blanc is one of the few white varietals that can be cellared. This wine should age extremely well.

This wine surprised me. I did not expect I would like it this much. I thought I had been exposed to some decent Chenin Blanc in my travels, but this one has been the nicest to date. I was able to buy this wine for $22. This is a lot of wine for the money and I guarantee that the quality belies the price.

This is imported by Louis Dressner out of New York. It may be a bit tough to find, but it is worth the effort. It is sold in the DC area at MacArthur's Beverage in Northwest, DC. You can also find it on-line.

If you have not had a chance lately to try this varietal, do so. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with what you find.


  1. Good stuff!
    Yes, Chenin Blanc is great and arguably the best dry one can be found in Vouvray.
    But you somehow forgot to mention other dry ones and the botrytized dessert wines Savennières ,Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume for example. Those are some of the real superstars of the Chenin Blanc. But good article. Have a nice day!
    "Savennières is the most underrated great white wine in the world" Robert Parker, Decanting Robert Parker by Eric Asimov, The New York Times March 22, 2006"

  2. Anonymous11/8/08 12:52


    Thanks so much for the great comments. Yes, the sweets were not mentioned in my post, but are not unloved. Quarts de Chaume is one of the greats in my opinion and I have 3 or 4 years stocked in my cellar. I hope to get to these greats in future posts. Yes, the site comments have to be moderated to prevent SPAM. Believe it or not, I get 2-3 bogus posts with each article I put up on line. I do not believe in censorship, but I despise spam, and do what I must to prevent it. Please continue to post. You have my word you will be published word for word.

  3. This is one of my favourite favourite resonably priced whites. In the the wine bar I try to push it all the time to open peoples eyes & mouths to the other villages of the Loire!!! Try it along a sweetbreads parfait. Delicious!!


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