Thibaud Boudignon Savennières Clos de la Hutte 2020


”The 2020 Clos de la Hutte is a wine that makes your shoulders drop such is its tranquility and sense of comfort in your mouth. It blooms in the mouth and does so without any sense of heaviness. The finish, scented with flowers and nectarines, is long, fragrant and textural. I hate using the word minerality as it means so many different things to people, but in my opinion, this has it in spades. It is incredible that the vines were only planted in 2011 on the schistous site on the grounds of a former monastery. Aged in larger format barrels, there’s no sense of oakiness, allowing the purity of this wine to shine bright.” 96 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous Media, June 2022

”Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stone, tree blossoms, lemon pith, and grapefruit. In the mouth, incredibly silky flavors of lemon pith, lemon oil, unripe pear, acacia blossom, and quince have a cistern-like minerality with deep stony depths. Incredible acidity, great length. One of the best mouthfuls of Chenin Blanc I have had in a long time. This wine ages in 30% new oak of various sizes for 18 months before spending another year in the bottle before release. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10.” Vinography, Alder Yarrow, August 2022

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Producer Profile

Much of the literature surrounding Thibaud Boudignon begins with phrases like “bright new star”, “most exciting”, or “young star” and so on. I’m not sure what a man needs to do to be the star, or how many vintages one needs to work, or wines made to become part of France’s vinous establishment, but Thibaud Boudignon is now the defining vigneron of Savennieres and one of France’s greatest white wine makers.

All winemakers are restricted by the quality of their fruit source, but when it’s 7.5 hectares of some of the best vineyards in Anjou, Savennieres and France, you have achieved Clausewitz’s first dictum, securing your base. The beating heart of Thibaud’s enterprise are his vineyards –  organically certified, planted to a density of 5000/ha from a massale selection sourced from the Loire’s finest vineyards.

All the whites are 100% Chenin Blanc, and there is a delicious Rose too, made from 80% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Grolleau. With so much attention given over to the single vineyard Savennieres it is easy to overlook a wine made for the sheer delight of drinking. Grown from mature vines planted in meagre soil of sand and schist. Naturally fermented at low temperatures in steel and aged on lees for a period of between 4-6 months. Process goes some way to defining style and here we are able to taste tension and freshness coupled with a depth of fruit and rich texture. Thibaud’s rose salivates and titillates – a crescendo of last summer’s memory.

No longer the “up and coming star”, Thibaud has redefined Anjou and Savennieres whites in much the same way Didier Dageneau has done for Pouilly Fume. The Anjou Blanc is from old densely planted vines, rooted in shallow sand and schist soils. Aged for up to 18 months in 500L and Stockinger “cigar” barrels, 30% of which are new. This is certainly the estates signature style, if more approachable, fuller and rounder than the more aristocratic Savennieres. Clear, tender, transparent and pure, with great textural complexity. A wealth of flavour and palate depth, silky, almost voluptuous and skewed by a lance of citrus acidity. I’m not entirely sure how long this will age, as they seem so approachable when released, but the depth, balance and length suggest a long future. But who can wait? Drink this whilst waiting for the Savennieres.

I think it was Andrew Jefford who said that Savennieres (from Pierre Bise at least), could rival Corton Charlamagne. Bise’s examples certainly display remarkable depth and energy with a line of acidity you would only expect to find in Rheingau Riesling. But that was over 20 years ago and Bise’s wines are as compelling as ever, yet the argument has proven decisive, only with the emergence of Thibaud Boudignon.

There are 3 single vineyard Savennieres, all quite different, yielding as little as a 1000 bottles.

Clos de Fremine is planted just below the winery, across the lane from Clos de la Hutte. The soil is sand over schist and what’s most surprising is how different the shape and structure is to Clos de la Hutte. Clos de Fremine is the most delicate, refined, lifted and floral with a structure of fine boned china. Like so many “lighter” whites, the persistence and depth of flavour belie the wine’s discreetness. There is great power here.

Vignes Cendrees lies in the village of Savennieres. The vineyard’s richer clay soils, southern exposure and the prevailing warmth of the village ensure the richest and most dense wine of the entire range. Tiny is an understatement here, only 0.5ha of wine for the entire world. As in the Clos de la Hutte, Vignes Cendrees will see an extra year in wood, interestingly in predominantly smaller vessels than the other wines. Malolactic is blocked, so the acidity here is quite marked, despite the wines greater amplitude. If there is Burgundy in the Loire, it is here in all its concentration, texture, flesh, flamboyance and vitality.

Clos de la Hutte is Thibaud’s ambition. A tiny heart of vines are planted on their own rootstocks, which will be released as separate wine in the future. Sand over schist, the vines planted only in 2011, which is remarkable considering this is one of the great white wines of France. It has reversed the order of greatness in Savenniere, as I believe it to be a more complete wine than Coulee de Serrant or Roche aux Moines. A great wine cannot just be refined, or muscled, long-lived, complex or balanced. Indeed, it must be all these things and in the Clos de la Hutte we see all the facets of Chenin Blanc crystalised in one bottle of perfection.

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