Chateau de Brézé could become the most influential new producer of Loire Valley wines imported to the USA since Clos Rougeard.
Two Santa Barbara locals changed the fate of these wines starting with the 2009 vintage. It was a moment when one importer knew this was a producer destined for special attention from premier restaurants and private collectors…and when one very well known sommelier praised the arrival of this wine via social media. Ka-Boom. Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley goes viral and becomes allocated.
Chateau de Brézé
The first mention of this Chateau was 1063, in records from Saint Florent‘s Abbatial. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries the property was fortified and refortified into a defensive stronghold with deep expansive underground caverns and a moat up to 18 meters deep.
This recent discovery of Chateau de Brézé in the USA, and their quality wines, is not news across the pond. In classical literature from the 15th century King René of Anjou praised the wines as they were served to numerous royal courts in Europe. How praised you wonder? They were equally exchanged alongside the very famous Sauterne dessert wine of Chateau d’Yquem and became known in the 1600s throughout Europe as “Chenin de Brézé.”
In 1957 when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Chateau de Brézé at the time refused to label his wines as part of the new appellation. He claimed the estate vineyards to be the best throughout the region and demanded his own AOC. According to winemakers in the area, he was right about one thing—their vineyard parcels are considered truly unique and unmatched throughout Saumur Champigny. Unfortunately, word is the wines were terribly made throughout the 60s, 70s, 80, and 90s and these harsh realizations are openly admitted.
It wasn’t until 2009 when the new owner, Le Comte de Colbert, extinguished the past and found new life with winemaker and estate manager Arnaud Lambert from Domaine de Saint Just. Following a simple focus of organic farming as their guide, with biodynamic practices on the horizon, a monumental transformation is quietly occurring on this hill of vineyards that for decades before had been overlooked. We now look forward to what this revived parcel of estate vineyards will produce over the next ten vintages, and more.
During a summer 2013 trip in the Loire Valley our local Santa Barbara importer was discussing Chateau de Brézé with another very sought after producer, Romain Guiberteau. Romain claimed Arnaud Lambert and Brézé as the vigneron and label to watch, “Yes, I have ONE of the greatest vineyards on the hill (Clos des Carmes), Arnaud has the other EIGHT. He’s a great winemaker and he’s just getting started. Just wait, he’s the one to watch. He has them all.”
Vineyards & Wines
The hill of Brézé is a special site for Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. The vineyards sit on an elevated bump of tuffeau (a porous chalky limestone) combined with clay and sand. It is important to ‘know your dirt’ in the wine world. Limestone provides water retention and contributes a low pH, so the potential for high acid, age-worthy wines is present from the start, due initially to soil structures. Add the cool climate attributes of the Saumur AOC with properly timed vineyard management, plus minimalist winemaking techniques and Arnaud has the potential for regionally definitive expressions of these two varietals…and even the development of sparkling wines!
The still Chenin Blancs are all from estate fruit and made in stainless steel tanks. Additionally, all the parcels are clos vineyards (Clos du Midi, Clos David, and Clos de la Rue), walled many generations before to preserve and designate the soils and location as a singular place. You will experience amazing levels of minerality and texture with these Chenins, not like anything you have previously experienced.
We have heard the Cabernet Franc and sparkling wines mentioned above are exceptional. We expect to have a tasting opportunity in the near future and will report back on our findings. Word is the Cremant Blanc and Cremant Rose show fantastic execution for the price with subtle notes and a gentle fizz while the Cabernet Franc sees no oak, presenting a pure and clean expression of the varietal.
Chateau de Brézé, as our local Santa Barbara wine importer coined it, is home to, “The Greatest Forgotten Hill.”