Have you ever had a wine that haunts you? More explicitly, did you ever taste a wine where its form and impression continually manifest themselves long after the wine is gone? Maybe it stayed in your presence days and weeks after the bottle was killed; so much so that you suspect its afterlife form will never leave you alone again? If this sounds strange to you, give the ****1/2 $25 2011 Couly Dutheil Les Chanteaux Chinon Blanc a try.
2011 Couly Dutheil Les Chanteaux
100% Chenin Blanc from a Loire Valley region better known for its Cabernet Franc production, this rarer Chinon Blanc stands apart from any other Chenin Blanc I have tasted when it comes to style and quality. While so many of the delicious Chenins from Vouvray and Mont Louis are off dry with residual sugars yet enough acidity to drink with savory dishes, the 2011 Couly replaces the quince-like sweetness with soft melon richness. It gives a waxy impression while managing to hold onto its inherent Chenin Blanc acidity; in such keen balance to never dominate the wine’s voluptuous mouthfeel. Working my way through my fascination with the Loire’s Chenin Blancs, they mostly boast citric aromatics and flavors, yet this wine offers a more subtle layer of grapefruit intertwined with lemon merengue aromas. The wine is so classy and well construed that it could masquerade as a Côte de Beaune Grand Cru Burgundy.
The complexity that Couly has wrangled out of this Chenin fruit and into a bottle drives its haunting quality. Sitting with the bottle over time, original impressions of richness and balance never disappear, yet new layers of flavor and aromatics appear and change in combination with each other. Another Loire Chenin Blanc that stands alone for me in style and quality, Clos Rougeard Brézé, combines grand texture with a funkier, herbal point of differentiation. While it’s a fascinating wine that I can never get enough of, the Couly is even more regal in nature; a wine of world class status for the most discerning fans of premier white wines.
Couly is imported by Cynthia Hurley French Wines. While Cynthia Hurley succumbed to her cancer battle in 2012, her husband and daughter are carrying forward this importer’s penchant for finding artisan French producers of “terroir driven wines…who use minimal intervention to create wines that are outstanding representatives of their individual appellations.” I was first introduced to the Couly wines in 2009 when I tasted their 2005 Couly Dutheil Clos de L’Echo Crescendo Cabernet Franc.
A new friend of mine told me he just had the 2008, and that the Couly Chenins benefit from age. So, I got in touch with Margot Hurley today and asked about the progress on the 2013. She told me, “I just heard from Couly Dutheil this morning that the 2013 is going in bottle at the end of April…then of course they have to label it and pack it up and we have to get it over here on a boat but it’s almost time to raise a glass of Chanteaux!” That’s something to look forward to, but this time I plan on buying enough to drink now and lay away for a long time so I am not solely reliant on the wine’s haunting spirit for palate recall. I swear, this wine is the most special $25 bottle of white wine I can imagine drinking. Give it a try if you are not afraid of ghosts.