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July 09, 2015
Gerard Boulay - 2014's Will Have You Singing
Chavignol is a tucked-away hamlet in eastern Loire Valley, surrounded by slopes of walnut orchards and vineyards. The village is home to about 200 people, a mind-blowing goat cheese—Crottin de Chavignol—and a vineyard that’s one of the very best in Sancerre, Monts Damnés. It’s also home to Gerard Boulay, an essential Sancerre producer with family winemaking roots in the village that date back to 1380.
Gerard and his wife, Lucie, draw on their family’s tradition to farm their 9 hectares: manual harvest, no pesticides, minimal intervention in the cellar, native yeasts, no filtration—just like their ancestors had been doing for centuries. The Kimmeridgian limestone soil where there grapes are grown (“terres blanches” thanks to the white chalky clay component) is similar to what you’ll find in Chablis—and there’s a kinship to that chilly northern Burgundy region in Boulay’s wines. You’ll find more in common with a linear, sleek Chardonnay from Chablis than a Sauvignon Blanc from warmer climes like New Zealand or California. According to the Washington Post, “The Kimmeridgian soil yields fruitier, much more direct, pointed wines, aggressive in acidity and extremely age-worthy. Some of the top wines from a great year like 2010 can be laid down for 30 years.” (“With Sancerre, Soils Matter,” 07/2012)
The 2014 vintage was a bit touch-and-go in Sancerre, but all the nail-biting ultimately paid off. After a wet, cool summer, September was a dream, with three solid weeks of sunshine and warmth. Grapes reached full ripeness, and the wines built a nice kick of acid that will enable them to be enjoyed now or cellared. Antonio Gallonis’s Vinous gave 92 points to the 2014 rosé: “Vivid orange-pink. Pungent, mineral-accented aromas of fresh cherry and redcurrant, along with hints of rose oil and orange zest. Sappy and precise on the palate, with juicy acidity giving spine and lift to concentrated red fruit and floral pastille flavors. Smoothly plays power off of finesse and finishes stony and very long, with excellent clarity and thrust.” (JR, 04/2015) This is a seductive, dry rosé that we couldn’t pass up importing! (2014 is the first year Cream’s brought in the rosé.) The 2014 Chavignol Sancerre is similarly racy and very complex. Initially, you’ll find bright citrus and herbaceous notes on the nose. A few swirls in the glass, it opens up to melon, pink grapefruit and a light spice of white pepper and minerals. The palate has wonderful acidity, yet is still lush and mouth-coating. Very good balance on this superb Sancerre. (Log into the site to see pricing and availability.)
Boulay has holdings in the most celebrated vineyards of the village: Clos de Beaujeu, la Cote, and Monts Damnés, including a cuvee made exclusively from the oldest, steepest vines in Monts Damnés called “la Comtesse.” Vines average 45 years in age. It’s no wonder that his wines express such deep connection to the pedigreed soil of Chavignol. In fact, help yourself to a hunk of Crottin de Chavignol while sipping Boulay’s wines and you’ll be singing the praises of this hamlet for years to come.
Written by Kate Soto