As many of you know, Jean-Pierre Chavallier is a magician in the Loire Valley, and his whites and reds at Château de Villeneuve continue to dazzle new readers every year. If you haven’t tried a Cabernet Franc or a Chenin Blanc, I can think of no better place to start.
As I’ve observed on several occasions, the man is a perfectionist, meticulous in every last detail in the cellar. And he’s incredibly humble. Really, it’s the perfect mix.
He only releases his top cuvées when they’re ready – not when others release theirs. If the vintage isn’t good, he doesn’t even make his signature cuvees. But in what turned out to be a glorious 2020 growing season in the Loire Valley, Chevallier found a new gear, and he did something he never does, let someone take a crack at reviewing his Saumur-Champigny Cabernet.
But when Europe’s stingiest and most respected wine critics got their hands on Villeneuve’s S-C, something unusual happened. Decanter met their match!! Chevallier blew them away, as I’ve seen so many times when I put these wines in front of someone new. They awarded his Saumur-Champigny 2020 a 95(!) and waxed poetically about the Cabernet Franc made off 40+ year old vines grown on sloping limestone hills.
I’ve seen 95-point scores from Decanter. But you don’t see them for $20 Cabernet. Then again, you don’t see many artisanal, small production wines like Jean-Pierre’s in the market. When you do, you have to snatch them up when you can. You never know when our secrets may become the wine world’s news.
95 Points, Decanter
Dense and powerfully black fruited, this has some wood notes, good ripe tannins and a long finish. This is a lovely wine and is only the straight domaine cuvée. Given the consistent quality of his wines – both white Saumur and Saumur-Champigny – Jean-Pierre Chevallier is remarkably modest as well as being highly principled. His top cuvées are only released when they hit the required quality. In difficult vintages everything goes into the ‘domaine’ wine. The now organically certified Château de Villeneuve is based in Souzay-Champigny by the Loire river in the northern part of the Saumur-Champigny appellation. The Cabernet Franc for this ‘domaine’ wine is between 40-50 years old and planted on clay-limestone. The grapes are handpicked. After fermentation, 60% is matured in 40-hectolitre wooden vats and the rest in concrete and stainless steel.
A ridiculously good, chalky Chenin Blanc at a price point that can’t be beat.
Vegetable dishes or salads or a good, old-fashioned cream based dish.