The Loire is one of France’s most diverse winemaking regions. The most well-known terroirs are the schist soils of Anjou (around the city of Angers), the chalk and marl of Sancerre (much further inland) and the south-facing slopes of Vouvray (Touraine.) However, to leave it at that is to ignore the many other jewels which are well worth discovering.
One of these is the Cheverny AOC. Cheverny consists of 574 hectares (roughly 1400 acres) which are home to approximately 40 producers. Half of the Cheverny production is white wine and the other half is made up of red and rosé wines.
Most of the Loire Valley white wines are mono-varietal (meaning that the growers work with just one particular grape variety) but a Cheverny Blanc can be made of three different grapes. These are: Sauvignon Blanc (as with many of the other whites in this area) but also Sauvignon Gris (yes, that exists) and Chardonnay (because it is so versatile and pleasing to work with.)
The terroir in Cheverny is predominantly silex and, while imparting a discreet minerality to the resulting wine, this allows for a large range of potential expressions to be decided upon by the vigneron.
Yesterday, I was sipping the Domaine Sauger Cheverny 2015. They’re an independent winery, based in Fresnes – not too far from Blois, which is a 2 hour drive from Paris – and the current winemaker Philippe Sauger is the 5th generation. He cultivates 30 hectares of vineyards (approximately 75 acres) all in Appellation Cheverny Contrôlée.
The Domaine Sauger Cheverny Blanc is composed of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay. 2015 being a hot year means that the wine is relatively fuller than previous vintages (I’ve also tried the 2014 and 2013.) If you like new world Sauvignon Blanc, this could be as close as you’re going to find an equivalent in France. The nose is fruity (with gooseberry and whitecurrant) and floral, reminiscent of a millefiori honey. Upon tasting, all the different components are delicately aligned: there’s an acidity of mandarin and yuzu peel, there’s onctuosity from the chardonnay and finally, the silex minerality brings a thirst-quenching satisfaction to the end.
There are many natural winemakers in Cheverny; most notably, Thierry Puzelat, whose “Frileuse” – a cracking blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Fié Gris and Chardonnay – you should definitely look out for.
Hervé Villemade is another name to watch for – he also making pure, low-intervention wines, from biodynamic methods somewhat akin to Puzelat.
A common theme for these Cheverny white wines is their light and fruit-forward character. They’re not white Burgundy or Bordeaux, nor to they pretend to be. They’re unoaked, easy-going wines which can slurped back throughout the summer. Either alone or paired with delicate fish dishes (cod with yuzu or lemon peel and some buttery, minted new potatoes, for example) or an aged goat’s cheese. It would be delicious!
For more information on Cheverny and Cour Cheverny, there’s only one website to go to… and it’s this one.