91 Points Wine Spectator
"Silky, with great intensity and focus coming from the firm backbone of acidity, which stands behind the flavors of stone fruit, white raspberry, elderflower and lime. A vanilla bean note emerges on the inviting finish. Enjoyable now, but will show better in several years. Best from 2021 through 2029."
"100% Chenin Blanc. The main plots of the domaine are on limestone with some flint and clay; average vine age 30 years. The harvest was partly by hand and partly by machine with an average yield of 45 hl/ha. The grapes were sorted by hand and whole-bunch pressed, prior to a 24-hour cold settling. A long cool fermentation using indigenous yeast and very minimal sulphur additions took place in tanks and vats in the natural temperature of the underground cave. Following fermentation the wine was aged mainly in tank, with 25% going into 500-litre old (up to 5 years old) oak barrels. Bottling the following spring with a light filtration and minimal sulphur addition. TA 4.1 g/l, pH 3.4, RS 4.5 g/l.
Real tangy, meaty intensity. Really does taste like spring! Pure and so true. Great aperitif with undertow of honey and wild flowers and apple skins. Super-tangy! Long. The previous vintage was a Wine of the Week. GV [good value] 17/20 points."
Good festive buys 2019 – whites
"This really does taste like essence of spring. The 2017 was a wine of the week quite recently. Vincent got to grips with Chenin in South Africa and has slowly built up his own modest but superbly run domaine in his native Loire Valley. With its tangy acidity, meaty intensity and pure undertow of wild flowers and apple skins, it would make a lovely aperitif. Residual sugar (just 4.5 g/l) is negligible. Artisanal wine in a supermarket – a rare beast."
Vinous Reverie Notes:
Jancis Robinson - Previous Vintage Wine of the Week
"Vincent Carême is the son of arable farmers. His grandfather taught him to make wine and, bitten by the bug, he took himself off to the Lycée Viticole d’Amboise to study viticulture. Without family vines to inherit, he worked harvests in Sancerre, Champagne, Alsace, Thailand and South Africa. In 1997, working in South Africa, he met his future wife Tania. Two years later and back in the Loire, the couple set up their own estate with five hectares (12 acres).
Chenin is his gift to the world. He makes a stunning range of Vouvray wines from the 17 ha (42 acres) of vineyard they now own/rent: apple-scented sparkling, both dry and delicately off-dry méthode ancestrale; bone-dry racy still wines; tingling demi-secs; and powerful dessert wines. His own vineyards are certified organic, and their wines are made and aged in their cellar carved into the old tuffeau cliffs (pictured below) near the village of Vernou.
Spring, however, is his négociant wine and the only one that isn’t certified organic. The grapes come from vineyards of friends, with whom he works closely (Florent Cosme is one, pictured below second from left in the 2018 harvest photo, along with Vincent and Tania on the right and Eben Sadie's son Markus just in front of them). Some of them work organically or are in conversion, but for those that aren’t, Carême asks the growers not to spray fungicides or pesticides and encourages as many organic practices as possible.
The grapes are hand picked, whole-bunch pressed, cold settled for 24 hours and then fermented in stainless steel and fibreglass with indigenous yeasts. They work with very low sulphur on most of the juice and no sulphur for some of it, then bottle the wines with 20 ppm free sulphur, and around 60 ppm total sulphur – low, but enough to protect the wine against oxidation. They never chaptalise. The wine spends around eight months in tank on fine lees and a portion of the wine undergoes malolactic conversion.
This aptly named wine may not be the Carêmes' most complex offering and it’s not the one to lay down for 10 years. But for those of us in the northern hemisphere watching the blossoms explode around us and hoping for weather warm enough to sit outside, and for those in the southern hemisphere looking for something light enough to cool them down, this charming, unshowy wine that’s ready to be poured straight into a waiting glass may be exactly what we need right now.
It smells like uncooked quince, with just a light chalk dustiness. The palate is very pretty, packed with early apples and juicy nectarine. Mouth-wateringly crisp and zinging with acidity. And then there is a little stoniness, like rolling little shiny pebbles in your mouth, and in the finish, the shiny pebbles are still there, under a shaving of lemon zest.
Just 12.5% alcohol and, for those who love numbers, total acidity is 6 g/l and residual sugar is 6 g/l, so it’s not bone-achingly dry and it doesn’t have the piercing acidity that Loire Chenin sometimes carries. Despite this very slight ‘softness’, which is due in part to a very warm, dry summer in 2017, it still has the fresh edge of a cold breeze stiffening its backbone and putting length in its stride.
It was delicious with grilled prawns and a mango salsa, but would go equally well with a crabmeat sandwich; a pork, cider and apple casserole; a plate of melon and ham; or a spinach quiche.
Also worth looking out for is their Swartland project. I tasted their Terre Brûlée Le Blanc 2015: 100% Chenin, scrumptious and fantastically good value at £13.20 and $9.99. It’s fun to compare the two side by side
Jancis adds: I happen to be sitting in the wine bar on the ground floor of our son Will Lander's new, fourth restaurant, Emilia in Haunch of Venison Yard off Brook Street, in the premises of the old Bonham's restaurant. It's my first visit and what do I espy by the glass on the wine bar's wine list reproduced below? This very wine, which I must say I am much enjoying. (There is a much more comprehensive wine list with, for instance. Clos de Papes red 2004 by the glass at £21 and a bottle of Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico 2012 or 2013 at £77 a bottle.)"