Vincent Carême, Le Peu Morier 2020 Vouvray

Vincent and Tania Carême

Loire Chenin Blanc at its classiest, delicious now but well worth cellaring, too. From €24.80, £24, $38.95. Above, Chenin shamans Vincent and Tania Carême.

I’ve been a fan of Vincent and Tania Carême’s expressive Chenins since I first tasted them more than 15 years ago. Carême is a first-generation vigneron (his father was an arable farmer) who came back to his home region of Vouvray after two years of making wine in South Africa, where he met Tania, his wife.

Outside Domaine Carême – getting barrels ready for harvest
Outside Domaine Carême – getting barrels ready for harvest

He is widely acknowledged as one of the pioneering ‘revivalists’ who brought fresh ideas, international perspective, enthusiasm and conscientiously high-quality winegrowing and winemaking to a region that had become increasingly old-fashioned and was beginning to look as if it might get left behind. The couple have farmed organically since they began in 1999 and have always adopted a hands-off approach in the winery, working with spontaneous fermentation and no chemical intervention or additions beyond necessary and absolutely minimal sulphite additions. The quietly smiling and reflective Vincent is not only a Chenin shaman, but he has persistently encouraged, mentored and taught many young and up-and-coming vignerons, raising a generation of modern talent and proving to be as generous with his time and knowledge as his wines are with the pleasure they give.

Tania and Vincent Carême in their Vouvray vineyards
Tania and Vincent Carême in their Vouvray vineyards

I chose their entry-level wine Spring, made from bought-in grapes, as my wine of the week in 2019, but this time I’m highlighting Le Peu Morier, one of their single-vineyard wines, which comes from a parcel of 70-year-old vines on clay and flint. After fermentation, the wine is aged in oak barrels for a year. Soil and old vines, viticulture and winemaking come together into a dry wine that delivers full-bodied richness on a carriage of uncompromising smoky stoniness. The nose has burnish, hinting at buckwheat honey and roasted spelt, grilled pear skin and brown butter. There is weight on the palate, the fruit sweetness leaning towards candied citrus peel, poached quince and late-harvest apples. And then, towards the edges, it gets more savoury – pecan nuttiness and lanolin and the light, sweet, salty-sour bitterness of young purslane leaves. Acidity hums through the length and breadth of the wine with bright, lime-green fragrance. At 14.5% and thanks to oak and flint, it has power, but it is also understated and unshowy, true to its maker.

Its delicious despite being very, very young (which you can feel in the tension), but you could forget about this for another 10 years and it wouldn’t be a problem – it will evolve beautifully in bottle. Classic, classy, top-drawer Vouvray.

One of the best things you can eat with a Chenin like this is roast pork – the more crackling and crunchy the crackling, the better. Or roast a chicken with heart-stopping amounts of butter stuffed under the skin (and, if it’s a special occasion, make it truffle butter). Slow-baked butternut or (even better) Crown Prince squash stuffed with sweet roasted carrots, melting garlic, cavolo nero and topped with a nutty cheese would also be a good option.

Domaine Vincent Carême Le Peu Morier Vouvray bottle shot

As well as being available in France and Belgium, it’s sold by Berry Bros & Rudd in the UK for £24 a bottle. In the US, it’s imported by Cape Classics, and it’s available retail at Crush Wine & Spirits in New York for $38.95.

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All photos are copyright Domaine Vincent Carême.

For more on Vincent Carême and other top producers of Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, see James Lawther MW's Loire Chenin Blanc – better than ever?