Damien Laureau 2016 Savennieres Les Genets

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Savennieres is potentially one of France's greatest whites, certainly a candidate for its best dry, and not so dry, Chenin Blancs. Its reputation was built on highly mineral, pleasantly bitter, full-bodied wines that have decades of cellar potential. Damien Laureau was part of the new wave of producers 15 years ago, but now firmly part of the establishment, and although his production is pretty small, his reputation is large and formidable. Les Genets is the first of his three Savennieres and the most approachable in its youth. Full, flamboyant and satisfyingly rich, but with the rapier-like acidity as part of its DNA.

The Producer

Damien Laureau

Damien Laureau

Savennieres is one of France's most frustrating wines. Some of the greatest bottles of white wine I have ever tasted have come from this appellation (a collection of three appellations, in fact): vintages oCoulee de Serrant being the basis of that statement. The 1986, 1973 and 1969 of this legendary nectar have been burned into my memory - even 20+ years after the last time I drank them, I can still remember the way the wines danced and teased the palate with their mix of nervosity, beguiling aroma, and sheer beauty. Vintages of the modern era have impressed me less (much much less, in fact), but nonetheless I keep searching for the same emotion that I got from these wines.

Enter Damien Laureau.

Damien is a self taught winemaker who lept at the chance to buy a few hectares of Savennieres vineyards in the late 1990s, and latterly has added a few more. Whilst his wines possibly won't reach the dizzy heights of greatness of the vintages of Coulee de Serrant from bygone decades, he is now producing some of the best wines in the appellation. Having a few more vintages under his belt his style is developing: we reckon they're are becoming more elegant and precise, without the volume and richness of his earlier vintages.

The Region

Loire wines


The Loire Valley is a wine region in Northern France which rises in central France to its mouth on the Atlantic coast. The upper part of the valley begins with the regions dominated with Sauvignon Blanc such as Pouilly Fume, Sancerre, Quincy and Reuilly with many of these regions growing other varieties too, such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gamay.

Heading down river and towards the west one enters the regions of Touraine where some of the best reds are to be found: Chinon & Bourgueil which are (in their red versions at least) exclusively Cabernet Franc. Here, Chenin Blanc is also grown reaching its apogee with Vouvray: a wine which comes in all levels of sweetness from taut dryness to unctuously sweet with many points in between.

Further west, entering the subzone of Anjou-Saumur there are also some fabulous sweet wines from Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume alongside reds from both Cabernets, a splattering of Malbec (or Cot as it is know to some), and Gamay too. Here you will also find the powerful, mineral whites of Savennieres: whites which are some of the most ageworthy in the entire region, but almost unknown to the wider wine-drinking world.

Last but not least is the Pays Nantais which is largely dominated by the AOC of Muscadet, where the last of the major varieties of the Loire Valley, Melon de Bourgogne is found. Muscadet suffers from a less-than-illustrious reputation, but there has been a quality revolution in the last few decades and there are some very serious examples to be found.

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