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Eric Morgat Savennieres Fides 2012

Eric Morgat Savennieres Fides 2012

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"Bright yellow. Charming, fragrant yellow apple and delicate floral nuances on the nose are almost reminiscent of Chablis. Tantalizingly spicy and juicy, with a firm texture at the core of this chenin blanc’s herbal richness. Apricot, white peach and white pepper rise at the back of the palate of this still austere but very persistent wine. This is potentially the finest Savennières that I tasted for this article. 92+? points

Few people have spent as much time thinking about how to make a great dry chenin blanc in Savennières as Eric Morgat, a gentleman some might call a very hands-on intellectual. He came here in 1995 from across the river in Layon with almost nothing and was finally able to buy the Clos Ferrand in 2007, but he still makes his wines in a rented cellar, prefering to invest his time and money in the just over five hectares of vineyards that he now owns. All are certified organic, but he does not much care. Nor will he follow the mantra of some of his biodynamic neighbors. “I have all of the preparations for the teas,” he told me in early August, “but I just don’t quite understand why I should use them.” “It is not easy to make dry wines on schist,” he explained, “and the ocean climate only makes it more difficult. Schist does not hold water and suffers from hydric stress. While there is a lot of humidity in the air, it rains only half as much here as it does in Burgundy.” In a sense, he feels closer to his colleagues in Roussillon than to those farther east along the Loire. In passing, he mentioned Olivier Pithon, the scion of a Loire family who is making fine wines from grenache gris in the hills that rise to the Pyrénées. Further, noted Morgat, “chenin blanc does not have much aroma and what it has is in its thick skins, which are also tannic, a structual element augmented by the schist. For that reason, we must mature our wines as if they were reds. The architecture of chenin blanc is different from that of chardonnay or riesling.I sometimes say that pinot noir is a white wine with color; chenin blanc is a red wine without color.” A good chenin blanc here is never light or ostentatiously fruity, nor can it be cheap. At 13% potential alcohol the grapes are not phenolically ripe. In his early years, Morgat began with a touch of botrytis on his grapes. “Just violet skins,” he clarified, “not the noble rot, but now I want crystaline purity.” To manage that, he spends a lot more time in the vineyard, has reduced his yields even further, and has discovered that “the way you work the vineyard has an influence on the natural yeasts prevailing there, sometimes more than the vineyard itself.” Researchers have confirmed his observations, finding that neighboring parcels in the same site can have different flora depending on who is cultivating them. That, of course, means that he wants those wild yeasts expressing themselves in his wines. He ferments principally in 600-liter casks from Taransaud with no sulfur, but none of his wines show any sign of oxidation. Quite the contrary, his 2012 Fidès is the purest expression of Savennières that I tasted from this vintage."

Joel Payne, Vinous (12/14)