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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc à François(e)

France (Loire)

chenin blanc

[no website]

It has been my most rewarding wine discovery of the trip to the Loire. It’s a gem of a wine, made at the hands of an engaging 29-year-old vigneron who approaches winemaking with humility and respect, and very considerable talent. He is quietly working to make the best wine he can, and if appearance on the wine lists of some of the most prestigious restaurants in Paris is an indication of initial success, then he has made significant strides in a short time.

I was introduced to the wine by the caviste at Aux Saveurs de la Tonelle, in Saumur, having asked for a recommendation of an exceptional wine from an up-and-coming organic winemaker. And as it turned out, Gérald Beaumont from La Bellevue, our home away from home while in the Loire, is a friend of the vigneron, and a number of phone calls later, here I am sampling from the barrels of Thibault Boudignon.

Boudignon works two jobs. He is winemaker at the 27-hectare Château Soucherie, where the quality of the wines and the press attention they have received have grown steadily since he took over. And in his off-hours, by agreement with his employer, he works his own small accumulation of vines, amounting to less than 2 hectares, his prime vineyard being in the prized Loire region of Savennières. In fact, it borders the famed Coulée de Serrant’s holdings there.

It is Boudignon’s attraction to exceptional terroir that has brought him to Savennières, after stints working with wine estates in Bordeaux, Languedoc and Australia. He did not come from a wine-making family, though his grandfather’s work as a supplier of wooden stakes for Médoc vineyards (which he sometimes traded for wine) meant Thibaud was exposed to very good wine from an early age. The notion of becoming a winemaker seemed to have triggered something in his soul, and with the support of his mother he was able to set off to realize his dream.

Hard work drives the passion. It begins with a concentration on maintaining healthy soil. It involves well-timed green cutting in the vineyard, and the aim of sustaining a lower acidic level as the fruit comes to maturity. The juice flows by gravity into the chai, followed by careful monitoring of the natural fermentation. (My ear to an unplugged barrel confirms that fermentation must be the music of winemaking.)

With each successful vintage Boudignon reinvests in the infrastructure that will steadily improve his operation. (It doesn’t come overnight, not with the Austrian oak barrels he prefers costing 2000 euros per unit.) His long term goal is to increase his vineyard holdings to something manageable and income-sustaining, without sacrificing the quality of the wine. He has been organic from the start. It has never been a question in his mind. There must be life in the soil if the vines are to take full advantage of the terroir.

He produces two cuvées only, both chenin blanc. This, the foremost one, was named in memory of both his grandfather and his mother.

Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc à François(e)

From the first moment it is clear this chenin has special qualities. The nose is both airy and uplifting. Clean fruit aromas, slightly sweet, seem to gently burst in the nose. In the mouth there are similar qualities, sophisticated white fruit flavours erupt, making for a full mouth experience. Such fine structure and acidic balance. Complex, but lively. Honest wine, very much admired.  $

All in all, it was great fun meeting up with Thibaud, to share in his enthusiasm for the work he loves. Not only that, but he steered us in the direction of the best tarte maison we had in the Loire, from the delightful owner of the small café directly across from the church in the village of Savennières.

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