Channeling Chenin's Energy In Montlouis

Frantz Saumon (left) and Ludovic Chanson have different signature styles but their Chenin Blancs all display the unmistakable imprint of Montlouis-sur-Loire.




Even if you’ve already had your “I looove this!” moment with Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, it is still likely that if you read “Montlouis-sur-Loire” on a wine label, it means very little to you. I’m gonna try to change that by highlighting two growers I think capture the new energy in the region. 

Montlouis is right across the river from the more well-known Vouvray, right where the Loire and Cher rivers meet. The soils in both places are quite similar: sandy clay on a base of tuffeau (a very hard limestone found in the Loire Valley, with very little clay topsoil). Some say that a slightly higher percentage of sand and pebbles in the Montlouis soils makes the wines a bit leaner than the wines of Vouvray. In many ways, this trait might lend to the charm of Montlouis's dry or sec wines, giving them a lively lift on the palate and a minerality that is outstanding.
The wines from Saumon and Chanson we have now are impressive and worth exploring for anyone interested in the depths of Chenin's bewitching beauty and power. While Saumon's 'Mineral Plus' is always a fan fave, Chanson's 'Les Cabotines' is still under the radar. For now. 


Ludovic Chanson is detail-oriented and science-minded for most things, but when it comes to Biodynamic farming, he finds freedom in accepting he doesn't have to understand everything on how it works. It’s more about trusting the process that so clearly makes a positive difference. His wines are ripe, fragrant and expressive, with an underlying energy that keeps them inviting.   

Frantz Saumon works about five different vineyards with a variety of soils, mostly clay over limestone, clay with silex, or clay with broken down limestone. Frantz’s winemaking style is about purity, always looking for clean wines and thriving for dryness and mineral cut. Less than one thousand cases are produced yearly amongst all cuvees. 
I find that the ethos for growers in Montlouis is far more independent-minded than in the more staid Vouvray. Leading voices like Francois Chidaine and Jacky Blot, both champions of expressing unique vineyards with natural methods, have inspired the work of a talented new generation of growers like Franz Saumon and Ludovic Chanson. Franz and Ludovic have very personal approaches to Chenin Blanc, but both are making their mark with careful vineyard work at the center. Both are trying to channel the boisterous energy of Chenin from Montloius rather than trying to control it. It's a grape that is often intimidating because of the range of styles it can pull off — thought that's what makes it endlessly fascinating and rewarding, too. Whether you're intimidated or fascinated by Chenin, the wines from Montlouis via Ludovic and Frantz are a great place to dive in.

Image of Ludovic Chanson "Les Cabotines" Montlouis-sur-Loire 2019
Ludovic Chanson "Les Cabotines" Montlouis-sur-Loire 2019
‘Les Cabotines’ is the signature cuvee from Ludovic, a dry wine in the Montlouis style, serious, textured and respecting the local terroir. 100% Chenin Blanc all from Chanson's estate holdings. Fermented and aged in barrel, this has bruised apple and rooty ginger notes typical of Chenin from Montlouis. Fuzzy stone fruit notes with subtle caramel and honeyed tones. There's a bit of botrytis, adding a richness that almost seems sweet but is really just creamy, sultry, and complex. Because it reads as less biting this vintage, it's great as an aperitif on its own, but it will truly shine alongside salmon, pork chops, or spicy Thai cuisine. BS/JK
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Image of Frantz Saumon 'Mineral Plus' 2020
Frantz Saumon 'Mineral Plus' 2020
A blend of different terroirs to represent the vintage in Montlouis as a whole. Always fresh and vibrant, some vintages have all been very linear and weightless, but the 2020’s show the vintage’s warmer character with more texture and aromatic playfulness. Bruised apple, bread dough, fried zucchini, and mouth-watering Anjou pear, matched with a stony presence fitting of the wine's name. An impressive mixture of richness and clarity that has plenty of layers that unfold after the wine is opened. BS/JK
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Image of Frantz Saumon 'Le Chapitre' Montlouis sur Loire 2019
Frantz Saumon 'Le Chapitre' Montlouis sur Loire 2019
Le Chapitre is only made in certain years, and always in tiny quantities: we have less than six bottles. 100% Chenin Blanc from a single parcel that ripens early and was historically farmed by monks from the chapter or chapitre just across the river. Fermented and aged in a mix of older oak and clay amphora for 15 months. Ripe and aromatic, it maintains a lean profile with beautiful, detailed texture. JK
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