Joel Gigou continues to be the iconic producer of Jasnières. This miniscule appellation is 25 miles north of Tours in the Coteaux du Loir (itself an appellation barely larger, where Gigou also has holdings). The whites are a product of that magical Loire symbiosis between Chenin Blanc and tufa. Arguably, the expression here is the most singular and extreme in all the Loire region.
Gigou is a conscious archaist. One look at the ancient photograph on his labels of peasants tilling the vineyards will confirm that. But the wines will hold their own against all that modern wine-wizardry can throw forth. They have that thrilling fusion of fruit and mineral which only the greatest Rieslings, white burgundies and Savennières can offer, surmounted by an ethereal floral perfume that brings tears to the eye. Son Ludovic has been groomed to take over the estate, and he has proved to be as attuned as his father to the qualities that are Jasnières’ hallmark. When tasted amongst other wines of the appellation, they were as palpably dominant as any producer we have ever encountered in a comparative tasting. A big hit with David Schildknecht.
Always the flagship of the estate, the old vines of Clos St. Jacques give rise to greater vinosity and texture without sacrificing in any way the signature ethereal scent of Jasnières nor its searing minerality. It bears mentioning that Gigou patiently ages his wines in small old casks in his perfect cellar until he deems them ready for release. This is very much the exception to the rule in the area, but the resultant benefits are easy to appreciate. Until very recently, these barrels were exclusively made of traditional chestnut, but, starting in 2006, oak has begun to play a role in the aging as well, with a gain in finesse.
This is our first wine made by Joel’s son, Ludovic, and what a calling card it is. The signature piercing Jasnières scent is unmistakable – recognisably Loire Chenin but utterly unlike any other appellation. Sappy, dry, vibrant and long, with a huge mineral charge and tremendous length on the palate. This is a great portent for the new regime.
While we wait for the perfect Cru Beaujolais to come our way, we offer you this remarkable essay in Gamay from the north. Uncommonly well coloured, it was aged in used Bordeaux barriques for upwards of two years then aged patiently in Gigou’s labyrynthine caves before release. Plummy, smoky and not insubstantial, it should make a true believer of any doubters in the possibilities of Loire Gamay.
It takes a specially warm year like 2014 to elevate the maverick Pineau d’Aunis to a level of vinosity that regular red wine drinkers will acknowlege. This normally pallid grape has a distinctively briary, almost foxy tone that not everyone warms to – in some ways it is like Zinfandel’s spindly but clever foreign cousin. But Ludovic has made something singular from it here – slender but innerly sweet, with an insinuating earthy flavour. This really is something completely different.
Tempting though it might be to cite the off-the-charts hipness factor of this wine (sparkling Pineau d’Aunis from one of France’s most obscure appellations, made without malolactic fermentation and left with a dollop of residual sweetness), we prefer instead to concentrate on its ebulliently original aroma (blackberries licked with tar) and its unspittably delicious flavour, allied to alcohol of just 11.5%. It has all the charm of a good Lambrusco but with a degree of character that leaves it in the dust.
And if that were not enough, along come its big brother, all dressed in red and sporting a most unusual lick of sweetness to add to its spice-box full of flavours.