NOBILITY, FRAGILITY, INTEGRITY & POWER--ANJOU'S SPECTACULAR DOMAINE BELARGUS
“This is one of the most spectacular new entries in the history of The Wine Advocate. Domaine Belargus is a name that should soon populate the world’s finest wine lists, especially since the prices are-still?-affordable.”--Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
I felt the pressure leave my shoulders and that nervous little ball of, “Oh man, I hope I am doing the right thing” nervousness in my belly settled as I read the reviews for Domaine Belargus from leading wine publication, The Wine Advocate. I had tasted the wines first in December, where even in the middle of a pandemic-crazed holiday season they struck me to my core with their brilliance, and then again at the end of July after the wines had arrived here in California, where the whole staff were stunned into silence after tasting them as well.
Not sure you quite understand the magnitude of that, an entire herd of wine nerds so profoundly captivated by wines that we couldn’t find the words, or maybe we just didn’t want to distract from the seductive hold the wines had on us.
I looked around the room and ordered a pile of not inexpensive, Loire Valley Chenin Blancs that, I had assumed, no one had heard of.
I spent the following week wrestling with myself. Had I let myself commit the cardinal sin of wine buying, ordered something before knowing if I had an audience for them? Eek! I could feel Randy’s confused gaze upon me, and he wasn’t even in town.
I eventually hit the internet to flood myself with inspiration. I mean, surely a variety like Chenin Blanc, with its diversity, texture, variability and charm, there had to be article upon article championing Chenin Blanc, right?! Turns out, not so much.
Luckily, this non-score-reading buyer did stumble upon the article on Domaine Belargus in one of the world’s leading wine magazines, so I felt a little less like an irrational, impassioned, but irrational, jackass that had just spent too much money on an outfit for a date I wasn’t sure was even going to happen.
The press was already on this astounding winery and even in their inaugural vintage, which is sort of unheard of. Not alone in taking a deep swoon with these wines, and those of you that are already way hip to Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, take this leap because my prediction is these wines will be impossible to get in the coming vintages.
Those of you nervous about jumping into the Chenin Blanc worshiping pond, when thinking about Loire Valley Chenin Blanc think of it more like Chardonnay, with that level of richness but with more of a Sancerre-like freshness and lack of assertive oak. No lie, just thinking about them long enough to draft this little piece, made the skin on my arms tighten and the tiny hairs on the back of my neck tingle. Who needs a date when you have Domaine Belargus?
2018 was the first vintage for Domaine Belargus but this project has been decades in the making. Owner, winemaker, visionary, Ivan Massonnat has been a passionate student of wine that, to the point of obsessive some might say, knew the soils of the Loire Valley, specifically those in this little pocket of Anjou. He knew those soils would, could and should rival Burgundy for their complexity and strikingly distinct pockets of terroir.
Combine that with another visionary, the legendary Jo Pithon from Pithon-Paille, who helped lead the movement to organic and biodynamic farming in the region, and you have Domaine Belargus. Jo was looking to retire but wanted to be sure his decades of work and his vision would not only be honored but continued and even surpassed. He found that in Ivan Massonnat and sold him his vineyards, including the remarkable Coteau des Treilles, a patch of land over 4.5 billion years old that has never seen any commercial herbicides or pesticides. The richness of biodiversity in that one spot is so valued it is actually a regional national reserve, and Ivan even named the winery Belargus in honor of the indigenous, rare blue butterfly that is seen flittering about the vines in Coteau des Treilles.
These men, this young and enthusiastic team, are all truly dedicated to the nobility of Chenin Blanc and its ability to express the soul of the soils of Anjou. This is a rare opportunity to get in on the launching of what it to surely become a legendary producer. Very limited as only a few people in California were even offered a chance to carry them.
2019 Belargus Anjou Noir (Chenin Blanc), Loire Valley
Don't let the "noir" fool you—it’s an appellation. This is a spectacular Chenin Blanc from a producer that is already pulling down high scores for Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Get your hands on them while you can, in a vintage or two these wines will be gobbled up.
"Produced for the first time, the straw-yellow 2019 Anjou Noir blends different south and north facing schist vineyards in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay and opens with a finely intense, even complex, pure and coolish aromas. Aged on the lees for a year the 2019 also has white floral aromas and serious terroir expression. The stony notes become even more intense and pure with more aeration and I absolutely like that. Lush and round yet very elegant on the palate, with dense fruit, a fine acidity/tannin structure and a long and aromatic finish, this is a full bodied, concentrated and perhaps more textured yet also more tannic dry Chenin compared to the for now, lovely puristic and fresh 2020 successor. This is a serious terroir wine that I would cellar for a few years and serve for many years."-- Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
$39.99 per bottle
2018 Belargus Coteaux de Layon Layon, Loire Valley
The first vintage from a producer that is on the verge of exploding on the wine world. Demi-Sec Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Lightly Sweet. Only 2,000 cases made.
"The 2018 Coteaux du Layon shows a radiant orange color and brilliant, absolutely beautiful and elegant nose of perfectly ripe and stewed apricots intertwined with fresh, spicy-mineral and herbal notes as well as wax notes. Smooth and delicate on the palate, his is seamless, perfectly balanced moelleux and fine crystalline acidity and fully ripe and sweet, highly elegant and refined fruit. The finish is sensationally long and stimulating. This is a great Layon to have on its own, with cheese or with an apricot tart." --Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate.
$56.99 per bottle
2018 Belargus Anjou Blanc Ronceray, Loire Valley
Stunning dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley from a producer that is about to take the wine world by storm. Get in while you can, we suspect in a vintage or two the wines will be impossible to find.
"The 2018 Anjou Ronceray assembles all the plots of the Domaine on the Quarts-de-Chaume rump. Its name refers to the abbey of the same name, owner of the Chaume vineyards since the 11th century, reports Ivan Massonat, who stresses the complex geology of the terroir that combines schists and pudding sandstone. The bouquet of the golden yellow 2018 is noble, perfectly ripe and concentrated in its elegant stone fruit aromas that intermingle with precise and refreshing slate as well as lemony notes. Filigreed, finessed and perfectly round and intense on the palate, this is a gorgeous Chenin with intense fruit, lush fruit concentration, lots of extract, fine tannins but also finesse and balance. Grapefruit bitters on the finish. To me, this is a picture-book Anjou form Rochefort-sur-Loire, and it is characterized richness, finesse and elegance. Irresistible."--Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
$59.99 per bottle
2018 Belargus Savennières Gaudrets, Loire Valley
Domaine Belargus is on its way to near cult status in the Loire Valley and that is after the very first vintage. Get in now before the wines are impossible to find.
"The 2018 Savennieres Les Gaudrets opens with a clear, bright and lifted delicately fruity bouquet intermingled with notes of crushed stones, white flowers and citrus fruits. Also, the stony aromas and not the fruity ones intensify with aeration and intermingle with the delicare, rather bright fruit aromas, (mirabelles). The enveloping palate is silky, refined and very elegant, less less powerful and tannic than the Anjou Noir but carried by a beautiful acidity and refined and balanced, with an intense iodine and spectacularly long and also tannic-structured finish. This is a delicate and very elegant Savennieres that already drinks very well, but it can be aged fro up to two decades, maybe longer." --Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate
$74.99 per bottle