fournier-longchamp DOMAINE FL SAVENNIÈRES LE PARC 2018 – organic and biodynamic
Loire Chenin Blanc is often overlooked in many wine circles. Sweet or dry, it can offer profound, honeyed depth, and typically ages very well. Domaine FL for some time combines classic dry Chenin Blanc notes with a strong Burgundian character.
Savennieres sits on a rich area of volcanic rock and Domaine FL’s vineyards are largely rhyolite, a granite-like form. Chenin Blanc is the perfect match and produces pure and vibrant wines from these organic plots, which in 2014 were converted to biodynamics. Domaine FL is a relative newcomer but is formed out of two historical estates and founded on the twin principles of craft and graft – but utterly reliant on fabulous terroir.
Founded in 2007, Domaine FL encompasses 75 acres in five appellations of the Loire. The Domaine was named after the parents of owner/winemaker Philip Fournier, whose surnames (Fournier and Longchamp) form the initials. Philip and his son, Julien, share winemaking responsibilities over certified organic farming and production. The Domaine sits on land that has produced wine for over eight hundred years and the wines pay specific attention and homage to the terroir.
Both father and son follow the philosophy of minimally invasive winemaking techniques, creating a balanced environment for vine growth followed with multiple passes of hand harvesting. They employ organic dry farming and precise vine management to grow wines that express the true terroir and offer great complexity.
Wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks and oak vats with strict temperature control. Wines are matured on the lees without racking for a varied amount of time and malolactic fermentation is avoided in the Chenin Blanc to preserve natural acidity and allow for long-term aging in bottle. Most wines use a mixture of neutral and new oak barrel to maintain a balanced complexity while staying true to characteristics infused from the terroir. Winemaker Kyriakos Kynigopoulos, a well-known Burgundy consultant, has been working with the family since 2014.
‘Savennières is one of the great ageable white styles of France, a conjunction of energy and minerality’ says Julien. So how do the wines evolve? ‘Like Alsace, our wines become less acidic and more mineral with time. You won’t find oxidation, you won’t find buttery notes, and you won’t usually find petrol notes. It’s more a candied citrus fruit character, perhaps a hint of white truffle.’
The shallower the soils, the more mineral the wines. The typical characteristic of Savennières is flintiness. But you’ll also find vintage character coming through. ‘Riper vintages such as 2009 might display botrytis aromas, while 2011 would be more about white flowers, and 2012 more aromatic,’ says Julien. ‘In general, you’ll find bright fruit and lemon citrus in riper years, with a confit character in warm vintages and a more electric aspect in fresher years. Acidity and minerality will always dominate, but the exposure of the vineyards also gives the wines a body that balances this.’
The milder conditions in 2018 were welcome after the severe frosts and tiny yields of 2017 (repeated this year when the estate lost around 80% of production). ‘2018 was a vintner’s vintage,’ says Julien. ‘We had a cold winter followed by a damp spring, then a nice summer; so as long as you avoided problems in the spring, then you could enjoy the long ripening period. It ended up being a good balance between quality and yields.’
95 Decanter: “Formerly the ornamental gardens of the Château de Chamboureau, this 5-acre walled plot has the same geological formation as the top part of the Coulée de Serrant, shallow, sandy loam soils with hard rhyolite (volcanic rock), that retain the heat. Like a baby Roche aux Moines in character, this has an attractive coolness on the nose, huge mineral concentration, and vinosity. Herbs, lemon citrus, and quince, elegant and powerful at once. You could happily cellar this for a decade or more.
95 James Suckling “So ripe, yet so fresh, this has a stunning sliced-pear, lemon and fresh-herb nose that reveals new nuances with each swirl of the glass! At once concentrated, yet so elegant, it shows why this small appellation has become a cult. And you really can’t taste the 14% alcohol at the very long, focused finish. Rather, the delicate mineral and herb notes dominate. From organically grown grapes. Drink or hold.”