Chinon is sometimes decried as a region with uninteressing Cabernet Franc wines, as Chinon was known to be in the past the basic wine served in the Paris bistrots, along with Brouilly for example. Some consider the wines of this region as green and too acidic, but that is maybe when you only taste the wines found on the supermarket shelves. There are a few valuable estates to contradict this opinion, among them Domaine Bernard Baudry. Stories like that often begin with strong-willed individuals, and Bernard Baudry is one of them. I must confess that I didn't know Baudry wines myself, and this visit helped me correct this omission, in addition to the pleasure to meet friendly people. Here is a medium-size winery where the care of the vineyard side goes on pair with a non-additive vinification. Bernard Baudry started the winery with only 2 hectares in 1975 and it now makes an impressing 30 hectares, proving that you can keep an organic vineyard-management philosophy on a relatively large surface. The winery is located along the Vienne river, which is one of the rivers (along with the Loir and the Cher) which drain the Loire basin and ultimately flow into the big mother river. The house and facility sit at the foothill of the limestone cliffs where turned-into-cellars quarries offer large and naturally cool storage room for the élevage in barrels.
We walked into several of Baudry's vineyards with Matthieu Baudry, who is now mostly in charge of many of the winery's work as I understood. The first plot we saw was the vineyard of Les Granges, one of the base cuvées of the estate, a 6 hectare block right below the facility, on a gentle slope between the cliff and the river. Planted from 1985 to 1989, not massal selections (the later plantations were massal). Sandy soil, mostly, easy to plow and easy to manage. Not a great terroir as there's no limestone or clay but no hydric stress and makes nice wines, Matthieu says. They regularly add organic compost there (vegetables, horse manure, straw). They're happy with this block because it's getting better every year.
The second plot we drove to is Les Cheneaux, which yields Cabernet Franc grapes which are going to make 80% of the cuvée Le Domaine. the vineyard is located on the plateau overlooking the Vienne valley. About 30-year old vines, on sand and limestone (beneath), plus some clay. The place is always windy, in summer as well as in witner. On a small part of the plateau they also planted a square of truffle oak trees, a bet on the future as the trees need time to reach adulthood. This will help diversity also in the vineyard. This Clos Guillot is very close to a very good climat/vineyard of Charles Joguet : le Chêne Vert.
The last vineyard we went to was Les Grézeaux (pic on left), which lies near what was formerly a marshland. You can see the house and winery in the far, along the cliff. The vines were planted in 1945 (67 years old). Lots of gravel here, brought by the Vienne river. It's lightly sloppy here too.
__We first had a rosé (from a vat) made with direct-pressing of Cabernet Franc, good refreshing way to open the tasting round. From the long horizontal metal vat on the right, if I remember. This rosé is made from young vines of good terroirs (like Clos Guillot) and from vines planted below in the valley, on the sand.
__ a first red from a vat. Bernard Baudry is a very friendly person, he is attentive to what people say and he is very humble about his work. Here we tasted Les Granges 2011 from the cement vat (Bernard Baudry filling, above). This wine was vinified in stainless steel vats, and it has its élevage in cement, for 6 months. It will be ottled in two stages, one in spring and the rest in september. It is a 50 000 bottles cuvée. Tastes quite nice already, with nice tannins. 2 or 3 months ago they weren't so sure about how this wine would turn out, it was aromatic but with lots of reduction. It changed for the better since then. Fermented on wild yeast in Stainless-steel vats (3 weeks), with a bit of SO2 added at harvest (2 to 4 grams) for protection against oxydation. Then, no more SO2 until the end of malolactic fermentation. They blend the first press with the freerun juice but keep separate the 2nd press by precaution, adding it later if it's not harsh or unpleasant.
__ Baudry Cabernet Franc, franc de pied vines (non-grafted), from a 0,3-hectare vineyard, on Clos Guillot. There is not enough room with sand to plant more. Very nice nose. I heard that non-grafted vines yield more aromatic wines. Ripe vegatal notes, says Mathieu, meaning the good vegetal side. Very nice to swallow, very fresh. Malo is probably mostly completed. Tastes like morello cherries, says someone. 4 barrels of this.
__ Baudry Chinon Clos Guillot 2011, from another group of casks, similarly aged, some casks being 8 years old. Very long mouthfeel, fresh too. The stony, crystal-clear thing in the mouth comes from the soil particularities, Mathieu says. Grapes are destemmed, but they sometimes add a bit of wholeclustered grapes as experiment. Mathieu says that he is still wary about the wholecluster thing, at least here in Chinon.
__ Baudry la Croix Boissée 2011, from a cask. Back on the chalk-type of soil. Very earthy, with almost root notes, Mathieu says. No SO2 except at the harvest here, he says, because the malolactic was not completely finished when they racked it all into the casks. Anyway it's too cold right now to get oxydized. As soon as the temperature will rise, the wine will find its own place. The élevage here is two years in casks, because of the chalky tannins. They used to age it a single year but they found out it was not enough and raised the cask time to two years, in casks dating from a few years. Will be bottled september 2014.
__ Baudry Chinon les Granges 2010. Tasted back in the winery. Alcohol is 12,4, very moderate in alcohol. For easy drinking in summer, Mathieu says, but better with food. He sees customers who had a terrific time drinking this wine in a restaurant and were a bit disappointed when tasting it again here (and it was the same vintage/same bottling). That's why eating with this wine is primordial, from his experience.
__ Baudry Chinon les Grézeaux 2010. From a bottle. Very nice nose, juicy feel already, gourmand, I'd say. Lots of energy in this wine, Mathieu says. Goes down well indeed. The gravel soil explains a lot. 2010 was an average year and on this terroir it yielded very nice wines that can also age well. This vintage 2010 is for the Baudrys a year with very refined wines. Many people think 2009 is better but they love 2010 more.
__ Baudry Chinon Clos Guillot 2010. From a vat where the casks were blended together. No notes, sorry.
__ Baudry, Chinon blend of Clos Guillot & Bel Air 2010 (two climats, Bel Air being planted on sand). Elegant but not too strong, keeps its freshness, Mathieu says.
__ Baudry Chinon Clos Guillot 2010. Without the sandy Bel Air part of the blend. Taken from a cask (picture at the top, with Bernard and Mathieu Baudry, also pic on right). Very nice wine, superb mouthfeel, juicy and pure. So good to drink. 12011633
Speaking of filtration, they decided years ago to leave the wines (most of them) unfiltered, but they made the step^after very careful checks and experimentations : They began with Les Grézeaux, which they both had filtered and unfiltered. They kept bottles of the two modes on the side during 5 years, checking them from time to time. After that delay, the filtered wine was having these cooked fruits aromas, not a bad wine but lacking life and energy, while the unfiltered one was alive, juicy, vibrant. the difference was really obvious after these years, and 10 years later the filtered wine was mostly bland on the tasting side while the unfiltered had body, shoulders and was so enjoyable, no question. they checked that with several wines before generalizing the unfiltered mode. Bernard Baudry (Mathieu's father) made his first experimental filtered/unfiltered cuvée in 1992 or 1993 and following the striking difference in tasting pleasure, they extended the unfined-unfiltered mode to all the wines aged in barrels. For the cuvée les Granges and the cuvée Domaine, it depends of the vintage and their tasting impressions when they check the wines, sometimes they just make a light diatomaceous-earth filtration.
__ Baudry Chinon cuvée Domaine 2009 (red). As we were beginning our tasting, a private customer walked in (this was a late afternoon) to buy a case. The young guy who works at the Chinon N plant is a regular customer and he takes always the cuvée Domaine to which he seems to be hooked to.
__ Baudry Chinon les Grézeaux 2009. Appealing nose, fruit, seducing wine. Richness. Mathieu prefers the 2009.
__ Baudry Chinon Clos Guillot 2009. I still remember the 2010 which we tasted from the cask, so I of course prefer the former. Still, refreshing nose, juicy feel, quite good.
__ Baudry, Chinon La Croix Boissée 2009. I like that... Very nice wine. Bottled last september (2011). The wine has also this chalky side of the 2010, but on a minor mode.
__ Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine Chenin Blanc 2011. 5-year-old vines (one hectare block). Malolactic fermentation completed. Acidulous nose. Lightly fizzy. Grapefruit aromas. They usually let the malo unwind, they don't block it. There's still an acidity feel. This bottle is a micro blend made with all the caskls of Chenin. The bottling will take place in may, hopefully. Soil here is clay/limestone. There's very little Chenin wines produced on Chinon, about 2 to 3 % of the total volume.
__ Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissée white (Chenin Blanc) 2011. Perly, acidic. Soil very chalky, here, Mathieu says. Two people note the salty feel on this wine, which I aknowledge too : Mathieu says that it comes from the many shells and sea sediments found in the middle of the chalk/limestone. Mathieu Baudry says that in spite of the mouthfeel which seems to say differently, the acidity is low in this wine, and the saline feel compensates. The casks will be blended in september 2012.
__ Baudry Chinon white Cuvée Domaine 2010. On the market now. Filtered because there was 2 to 3 grams of residual sugar. Aromùas of lemon, iode.
__ Baudry Chinon white La Croix Boissée 2010. Turbid chenin Blanc. There were 8 grams of residual sugar, too much for the AOC rules, so they brought lees from another cuvée to have it finish ferment. It's working, it's already down at 6 grams. Interesting nose with lychee notes. Also grapefruit, pineapple. Very pleasant and fresh, with a bit of bitterness, I like that. This wine will have the time it needs. 3000 bottles in all.
__ Baudry. Other mystery bottle. The nose is almost roasted coffee, even perfume, says Bernard Baudry. It is a Cuvée Domaine 1990, a 21-year-old wine... Swallowed : great experience, very pleasant wine, which tells us stories while we sip...
Tip about a good restaurant (and wine list) in Chinon (in a very elegant and old building of Chinon) : Les années 30
Read the Wine Doctor's page on Bernard Baudry.