Château Soucherie “Les Rangs de Long”
2021 Anjou Blanc
Anjou, Loire, FR
Brought to us by: Rosenthal Wine Merchant | Potomac Selections
Regular: $29.99 | TWS Sale: $23.99

The 629 mile long Loire River is France’s longest, and the Loire Valley, lovingly referred to as the “Garden of France”, pushes the northern limit for grape growing in France. While there is a wide variety of climate, soil, and winemaking technique within the region, there is a consistent thread of bright acidity and vibrancy in these wines that ties them together. Thus, in my opinion, Chenin Blanc is the perfect cultivar to reflect the meandering banks of the Loire.
The Middle Loire is the cradle of Chenin Blanc, and Anjou is the introduction to the area coming upriver from Muscadet. The warmer summers in this mostly continental climate help grapes to ripen where they would otherwise struggle. Schist and slate meet clay and limestone in the slopes south of Angers, and one such slope near Rochefort-sur-Loire is home to Chateau Soucherie’s Les Rangs de Long vineyard site.

This site’s south-south-western facing aspect accommodates plenty of sunlight and drying winds from the Atlantic, allowing Chenin's naturally high acidity to reach comfortable ripeness and retain fruit. The average age of these Chenin vines is 35 years, and they are Gobelet-trained, meaning they are closer to ground to allow for heat retention that further encourages ripening. Heavy winter pruning and green harvesting (removing extra grape bunches from the vine) keep yields under control so that the grapes can develop concentration and complexity.

The "Les Rangs de Long” Anjou Blanc is a dry expression of Chenin Blanc from Château Soucherie that is pressed whole cluster, vinified in stainless steel, and spends 8-9 months on the fine lees before bottling. This wine is an orchard in the glass – ripe yellow apple, pear, pawpaw, quince jam, green plums, and white lilies show on the nose, and the palate reveals white cherries and invigorating acidity, finishing with some stony minerality. Chenin is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – try it paired with anything from Belgian waffles, to a spicy fried chicken sandwich, to rosemary-mustard pork with peaches. 

-Lauren Loeffler
Bodega Garzón
2020 Reserva Cabernet Franc
Maldonado, Uruguay
Brought to us by: Pacific Highway | Opici Family Distributing
Regular: $16.99 | TWS Sale: $12.99

The news over the last few years has been anxiety-inducing, so it is more important than ever to periodically take a moment to appreciate all the ways in which we are pretty darn lucky. It is incredible to live at a time when we have access to so much from so many different places. Would you like some cheese from Australia? Beer from Thailand? Even with the current shipping woes, there is a staggering amount of diversity in quality products available to us. 
Though Cabernet Franc is associated with Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, it is grown all over the world – even in Uruguay. While we love representing as many wine regions as possible, we don’t carry Cabernet Franc from Uruguay merely for the sake of having Uruguayan wine. Garzón et al. have earned a place on our shelves because they are delicious, a better value than the majority of similar wines (looking at you, Bordeaux), and unique to their place of origin. 
Tucked down between the bottom of Brazil and Argentina: Uruguay has a unique place in the wine world, not just geographically but culturally as well. With a 250 year old winemaking tradition initiated by Spanish and Italian immigrants, it is also the only major South American wine region to border the Atlantic’s tempering influence.  The intersection of these two factors lead to Uruguayan wine sharing much in common with European wine, while still maintaining a new world intensity.   
Bodega Garzon is the leading ambassador, and their Cab Franc is excellent. This grape is produced in host of different styles, but the Uruguayan stands alone. It shows none of the earthiness or funk found in the Loire Valley, and rather than the classic green bell pepper, the Garzon gives fascinating hints of roasted poblano. 

The palate is soft, dark and juicy, but still fresh, light, and well-balanced: poblano peppers mix with dark chocolate, coffee, dried blackberries, cassis, fresh & dried cranberries, redcurrants, and a faint smoke/leather/meatiness. Try this wine if you’re looking for a thrifty Bordeaux alternative, or if you are simply curious to taste an emblematic synthesis of European and South American winemaking. 

-Kasimir Bujak
Domaine Huet 'Le Mont' Sec
2020 Vouvray
Vouvray, Loire Valley, FR
Brought to us by: Rare Wine Co. | Roanoke Valley Wine Co.
Regular: $49.99 | TWS Sale: $39.99

Vouvray is to Chenin Blanc what Champagne is to sparkling wine: the regional standard by which all others are judged. While there are plenty of great Chenin Blancs the world over, no single region seems to come close to the dizzying heights achieved within Vouvray. Among Vouvray, few-if-any come close to commanding the kind of clout and prestige afforded to Domaine Huet. Don’t believe me? A Domaine Huet bottle of 1947 Vouvray is the highest rated (non-dessert) white wine on Decanter’s 100 Wines to Try before You Die at #6, narrowly beating out legendary Domaine de la Romanee Conti’s Montrachet (a bottle of a current vintage of DRC Montrachet could easily cost $5,000-$10,000 if you are lucky enough to find one!). Then, even amongst Huet itself, Le Mont vineyard is arguably the single best plot of land at their command (the sole contender being the equally famed Clos de Bourg). So, you will believe me when I say that if you want to talk about world class Chenin Blanc with a pronounced sense of place, that Huet Le Mont Sec is practically peerless.
One of the best locations on the Première Côte, Le Mont is unquestionably equivalent to Grand Cru Burgundy in terms of pedigree and quality. The soil here is comprised primarily of pebbles, silex, and a silica-rich topsoil (green mica). The pebbles help with drainage lower in the soil, and silica in the topsoil helps to make plants heartier in the face of drought or frost and promotes root depth. The true star of the show is the silex, which imbues Le Mont Vouvray’s with their characteristic intense & linear minerality. The south facing slopes of Le Mont vineyard give the vines a little more heat and sun exposure throughout the day. This daytime sun promotes sugar production, while the diurnal swing helps maintain acidity.
Huet was an early adopter of biodynamic winemaking, and maintains strict adherence to these guidelines. When it comes time to harvest, Huet picks by hand in multiple passes, ensuring only clusters that have achieved perfect ripeness are harvested. Once harvested, the grapes are fermented in a mix of old oak demi-muids as well as stainless steel vats. With no encouragement of malolactic fermentation, these wines retain a rich malic acid content, thus ensuring brightness and longevity in the cellar. The wine is finally matured in 600L demi-muid French oak barrels before bottling.
The confluence of all these factors lead to Domaine Huet Le Mont Vouvray’s characteristic vibrancy and precision. The nose has beautifully lifted notes of chalk, flint, white flowers, and apple skins. The palate is angular and exciting, with exotic notes of citrus zest, white peach, fennel, and honeydew melon rind. The finish is stony, refreshing, and dry as a bone with a lingering, evolving florality. Truly, this is about as good as dry Vouvray can get! A bottling that cries out to be enjoyed and discussed with friends and family, and one that presents plenty of potential for ageing and evolving down the line.
96-97 Points – Vinous
95 Points – Robert Parker 

-Andrew Sayers
Le Fief Noir Cocagne
Cocagne, Loire Valley, FR
Brought to us by: Bon Homie Wine Imports | Comete Wines
Regular: $24.99 | TWS Sale: $19.99

Imagine if world famous wine critic Robert Parker Jr. told you that the grape you grew was so bad that it was better to rip up all the vines in your vineyard and plant something else. Would you do it? If you answered no, that’s great, because neither did Alexis Soulis and Dominique Sirot of Le Fief Noir! Le Fief Noir is a winery located in Anjou Noir in the Loire Valley and the grape Robert Parker (as well as other critics) disliked so much was Grolleau. 

Grolleau was better known for making semi-sweet and innocuous rosés in the mid to late 20th century, and it was rarely seen outside of Gamay blends. Although unfairly lambasted by critics, Grolleau has recently entered a renaissance. Suddenly, we're seeing varietal Grolleau wines coming out of the Loire that are being praised for their great acidity and easy-drinking, glou-glou character. 

Cocagne (pronounced co-ca-NEE) is an easy wine. Fresh, juicy, fun, earthy, with notes of black cherry and balsamic, Cocagne is a no brainer. This wine performs well with a slight chill and pairs well with anything grilled, picnics, and late night porch sessions.

-Andrew Thorp
Three by Wade Cellars
2020 Chenin Blanc
Clarksburg, Sacramento County, CA
Brought to us by: Free Run Wine Merchants
Regular: $22.99 | TWS Sale: $17.99

Chenin Blanc is incredibly versatile. Where it is grown and its winemaking practices have a dramatic effect on the final product. You can have two wines next to each other that taste very dissimilar: one lean, steely, with racy acidity, the other velvety smooth, honeyed, and slightly sweet. Yet, both are made with the Chenin Blanc grape. This propensity to reflect its environment in the final wine makes understanding the terroir of your glass even more important for Chenin Blanc.

Wade Cellars is still in its fledgling stages. This passion project of NBA superstar Dwane Wade upon his retirement in 2019, and the 2020 Chenin Blanc has quickly become one of my favorites in that very short time. The grapes are grown in Clarksburg, California; an area famed for its uniquely fertile, mineral-rich soils that have been washed down from the Sierras. A nightly fog rolls in from the San Francisco Bay that cools the grapes from the sunbaked days. The vineyards are planted with mostly Chenin Blanc, as these factors suit the grape more so than other noble varietals. The grapes for Three by Wade are fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. They then undergo full malolactic fermentation, converting the sharp malic acid into more round, softer-tasting lactic acid.

The Three by Wade Chenin Blanc pours a pale gold color. The aromas burst from the glass as you swirl; on the nose, you’ll find teddy grahams, fresh squeezed lemonade and ripe pineapple. As you move the pleasantly mouth-filling palate, the flavors transition to honey tossed crisp green apple and zesty lime backed up by a mouthwatering acidity. Simply put, Wade Cellar's Chenin Blanc is a slam dunk when it comes to value and quality. Enjoy this wine paired with summer salads and grilled chicken, or solo as a simple summer refresher.

-Jake Groenke
Domaine R de la Grange 'Brin'
2020 Muscadet Sévre et Main
Muscadet, Loire Valley, FR
Brought to us by: Alain Junguenet Selections | Passion Distributing Co.
Regular: $16.99 | TWS Sale: $12.99

The geology of the Loire Valley can be broken up into 3 sections: the Massif Central, the Bassin Parisien, and the Massif Amoricain. The Bassin Parisien is home to Sancerre, Touraine, Quincy, Reuilly, Anjou, Saumur, Pouilly-Fume, Vouvray and Montlouis. During the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (approximately 137 million years ago), this area was a shallow sea, of which the seabed compressed overtime to form limestone. This chalky bedrock has great influence over the wines grown there today. The Massif Central and the Massif Armoricain have a geology that is quite different. These areas were also once a seabed, but an ancient pre-Pangea Paleozoic (541 million years ago) seabed. This seabed became caught between shifting tectonic plates during the formation of Pangea over millions of years. Some of these sediments were forced into the earth, creating metamorphic rock and other sediments were forced upward into new mountain ranges. The metamorphic rock that was made became schist, gneiss, orthogneiss, while some pockets became molten and crystallized into granite. It is in the Massif Armoricain that that we can find Muscadet.

In the large span of the Loire Valley, Muscadet can be found to the west in the lower Loire. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean creates a maritime climate that is cool and temperate with relatively mild summers and winters. The Loire, Sevre, and Maine rivers maintain a constant supply of water to the region and higher humidity than more inland regions. Despite being a flat region, the rocky and sandy soils of schist, gneiss, and mica drain well and impart minerality and lighter body to the wines. These crisp, sea spray wines can have the sharp edges rounded off by aging on the lees (dead yeast cells from the fermentation). While this is a decision that can made in winemaking, one might also consider it part of the terroir since it is common in the region. Brin R de la Grange from Domaine Raphael Luneau is a classic Muscadet de Serve et Main sur lie. The wine is grown sustainably and aged on the lees for several months. The lemon/lime custard nose hints at the roundness in the beginning of the palate. The plump mouthfeel leans out to a minerally citrus finish with a kiss of salt.

-Sheena Callage
Domaine Vincent Careme 'Spring'
2019 Vouvray
Alsace, France
Brought to us by: Cape Classics | Winebow
Regular: $21.99 | TWS Sale: $16.99

For our Loire Valley varietal segment of The Wine Source's Terroir Series, I have chosen the "Spring" Vouvray by Vincent and Tania Careme. While Melon de Bourgogne dominates white grape varieties planted in the Western Loire Valley (Muscadet) and Sauvignon Blanc in the East (Sancerre), the dominant gape varietal of the cental Loire Valley is Chenin Blanc. From Chenin, the French make a variety of wine styles: from still to sparkling, and from bone-dry to sweet. Perhaps the best known of these Chenin Blanc dominated regions is Vouvray. Vouvray is made from Chenin Blanc plantings along the Loire Valley in the Touraine region of France.

The Careme Vouvray "Spring" falls into the dry and still category. Crisp, fresh and fruity, this crowd-pleasing, yet complex Vouvray offers traces of apple, pear, peach, honeysuckle and citrus. A vibrant acidity complements an abundance of minerality keeping the wine beautifully balanced. This wine is a perfect accompaniment to a variety of foods from fish or chicken dishes, to quiches, soups and veggie dishes.

-Dan Zetlmeisl