1999 Domaine aux Moines, Savennieres-Roche aux Moines, Loire Valley, France.
The surprisingly fresh 1999 Chenin Blanc from Domaine aux Moines in Savennieres starts with mature aromas and a slight waxy/honeyed note, but the palate is much more vibrant and mineral driven than you’d expect from a 20 year old white and its layered citrus, peach and quince fruits stay pretty vivid throughout, very impressive stuff. Of course with air, which I gave it in the glass, despite it being so delicious, it does take on some oxidative nuttiness and lingers with a bit of baked apple, but that is not a fault at all it is a celebration of its maturity and evolution. Domaine aux Moines is wine cult winery and is treasured by a niche set of wine enthusiasts and Chenin freaks, these wines are cherished much the same way as the Nicolas Joly (Savennieres) and Domaine Guiberteau (Saumur) wines are, and they are celebrated for their austerity and earthy subtle character. My experience with these wines makes me certain that they are much more enjoyable with age on them, like this one shows, they really come alive and show their true depth with at least 10 years, this is a blessing and a curse to casual wine drinkers as they tend to not know what they are missing in the younger versions and give these wines a meh, and the blessing is that they are solid values in their youth if you can be patient and putting them away for future rewards. This lovely yellow/golden hued wine really needs to be paid attention to, it speaks softly and to really get what is going on here, you’ll need to be at peace and listen with all your focus and maybe have in with some goat brie and or lighter dishes that don’t over shadow this brilliant wine.

This all organic under-the-radar estate, located in the Loire’s Savennières AOC and in the sub-appellation of “Roche Aux Moines”, is right next to the famed Coulee de Serrant, one of the most famous biodynamic and hollowed vineyards in France, owned by Nicolas Joly, one of the most renowned vignerons in French wine, making it on some prized terroir. According to the winery, the Domaine aux Moines estate was founded in 1981, though there are records of vineyards planted in the region since the middle ages when the monks (“moines” in French means monks) from the Abbaye de St Nicolas tended vines in this part of the Loire. Domaine aux Moines is now run by mother and daughter Monique and Tessa Laroche, who hand tend their vines, which are mostly Chenin Blanc, though there is some Cabernet Franc here too, which are set on predominantly schists with some sandstone and clay. Savennieres is located on the Western edge of the Anjou region near the city of Angers and the vineyards are set on hillsides on the Loire itself and the wines here tend to be intensely drier in style with flinty/stoney flavors, which is especially showing in these Domaine aux Moines Chenins. This wine, which retains nice acidity and has a pear butter textural quality was naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks and then aged on the less mostly in tank, but with a small portion in used French oak casks of various sizes and was made with extremely careful sorting and small yields to make a delicate, but concentrated wine that adds dried pineapple, wild herb and floral notes. Luckily, because this is such a geeky wine and a well kept secret, the domaine does have older vintages like this available and this wine is out there and not outrageously expressive, keep an eye out for it if you love Chenin with some age.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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