2021 Mary Taylor Sophie Siadou Valencay
Best known for its famous pyramid-shaped goat cheese, the Valençay area of France’s Loire valley also produces an equally singular (if much lesser known) array of wines. What they lack in name recognition, however, they more than make up for in terms of sheer deliciousness and everyday charm— which illustrates an important principle. More often than not, the hidden values of the world of wine are discovered along the road less traveled, far from the common crowd.
Geographically, Valençay is separated into two main areas, each straddling either side of the Modon, a winding tributary of the famous Cher river. The first, “Les Terrajots,” is characterized by stony, flinty clay soils known as “perruches,” which contribute structure and depth of fruit to the area’s wines. The second, located near the loge à Perin— a tiny hut constructed in the middle of the vineyards at the end of nineteenth century— is defined by “silex,” a mix of clay, limestone and silica, which imparts freshness and brisk minerality. Together, this unique geographic profile results in bright, flinty whites derived from Sauvignon Blanc, and— as evidenced by this exquisite example from the family-run Domaine Jourdain— mouthwatering reds, which are produced from the region’s three main varieties: Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Côt (the local name for Malbec).
Originally founded in 1960, the Jourdain estate has been run since 1990 by Sophie Siadou and her partner Francis Jourdain. Sophie originally came from Avignon to work on a goat farm, where she met Francis, and remained in Lye to raise a family and make wine. Together, they sustainably farm 28 hectares of vines, from which they craft their brilliant range of honest, regionally-expressive wines. The soil here is “Caillouteuse” (gunpowder flint / silex), and vines are Cordon Royat-trained.
Although the winery functions as a family affair, it was Sophie’s unique vision that informed this specific bottling, to which she has lent her name. Reflecting her holistic approach to the ecosystem of the vineyard and her careful attention to the nuances of her terroir, this wine was allowed to ferment naturally, using only the indigenous ambient yeasts present in the surrounding environment, the vineyard and cellar. The wine spends 18 months on its lees in older, neutral barrels.
In the glass, the decision to allow natural fermentation comes across as an almost electric vibrancy— not so much a beverage but a living, breathing thing. Expressing all the lightness and elegance of its high percentage of Pinot Noir, plus a wonderful floral quality, it also reveals its leaner, more structured “Malbec” side, expressed through a sturdy wash of tannins that balance its succulent flavors of raspberries, black currant, and spice. The archetypal “country wine,” intrinsically designed for drinkability, it would be ideal with roast chicken, any kind of barbecue— or, even better, a nice chalky slice of Valençay cheese.
France, Loire, Valençay
30% Pinot Noir, 35% Côt (Malbec), 35% Gamay
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