25th June, 2014 by Lucy Shaw
Chenin Blanc is as complicated to grow but as rewarding as Pinot Noir in the right hands, according to one Loire Valley producer.
Eric Morgat of Clos Ferrard among his Chenin vines in Savennières
Speaking to the drinks business during a recent trip to the region, Eric Morgat of Clos Ferrard in Savennières said: “Chenin Blanc is the white version of Pinot Noir in terms of its character. It can reach great heights but it’s hard to find good middle ground Chenin.
“When it’s great it shines. Winemakers in the Loire have a similar mentality to the Burgundians, but it’s far easier to make a good white Burgundy with Chardonnay than it is to make a standout Chenin in the Loire.
Chenin Blanc grapes
“Like Pinot Noir, Chenin is a finicky grape and is both hard to ripen and prone to noble rot. In order to make good Chenin you have to keep yields low.
Morgat admitted that in not being an aromatic grape, Chenin can often be austere in character with a bitter edge, though he believes it reflects the terroir better than any other white grape.
“In a great terroir, Chenin is exceptional and has a fantastic capacity to reflect the differences in terroir depending on where it’s grown. Also, there is nearly no age limit to Chenin, but it depends on the quality of the vintage,” he said.
Emmanuel of Domaine Ogereau in Coteaux du Layon is equally enthusiastic about Chenin Blanc’s capability to reflect its terroir: “We’re lucky in the Loire Valley as the region is like a mosaic in terms of the differences in soil types.
“Chenin Blanc is hard to grow but worth the effort. In order for it to successfully express the minerality of the soil it needs to be grown perfectly,” he told db.
“Chenin and sulphur make for a disastrous combination so we only add a tiny amount of sulphites on bottling,” he added.
Morgat’s wines are imported into the UK by Fields, Morris & Verdin, while Ogereau works with Les Caves de Pyrène.