Domaine du Closel Chateau des Vaults Clos du Papillon Savennieres 2004 Tasting Notes
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Domaine du Closel Château des Vaults Clos du Papillon Savennières 2004 Tasting Notes

Savennières will never be a mainstream manifestation of Chenin Blanc, that versatile grape so closely associated with the middle Loire. The appellation fits snugly on the north bank of the river, just south of the city of Angers. Total production is small, allowed yields are tiny, and devotees in northern France and Paris gulp up (or, better said, cellar) nearly all of the production.

Savennières, compared to most wine wines and nearly all Chenin Blancs, is exceptionally dry, and the $20 Clos du Papillon (the Papillon name is derived from the butterfly shape of the vineyard) is no exception. This wine is hand-assembled, the result of selective (and multiple) late season pickings from vineyards that, though small, represent a variety of soils and micro-climates.

The first notes are mineral; this wine presents its own rocky mix: slate and volcanic stones. The bitter notes dovetail with the mineral: bitter almond at one level, quinine on a more pervasive back-of-the-throat level. Because the quinine is so well integrated into the wine's fruit, it reminds me of the aperitif St Raphael Quinquina, which I used to drink many years ago, rather than of the tonic water I might drink, without the gin, now. This is top quality bitterness, but if you don't like bitter, this might not be your wine.

The fruit in the Close du Papillon is extremely refined: apricot and white peach are the major notes, oranges come through as a quality marmalade, while honey and light floral essences permeate the mix.

In the finest sense of the term this is a “serious” wine, one that expects respect, and gets it without having to shout. Use it to start that elaborate evening you have been planning, as an aperitif to filter out the cares of the day, to be followed by a more lighthearted white with the first course, then further permutations that reflect your own unique ability to honor your guests.


Verdict: Classic
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Some wines can make their mark even though they can never attain broad popular appeal.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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