A Visit to Charles Joguet in Chinon

Charles Joguet had no knowledge about wine when he took over his family estate and turned it into one of Chinon’s top produers of red wine. The estate was originally a farm, before Charles converted it exclusively to viticulture when he came back to Sazilly from art studies in Paris in 1959 following the death of his father. “My father left me some vines, some debts, and zero ideas about vinification,” he recollected, Following the model of Burgundy, he decided to see what effect terroir would have in Chinon, and introduced cuvées from different vineyards. “I experimented, it was only that which interested me,” he said. Charles retired in 1997, and since then the domain has been owned by the Genet family. “He was quite an innovator, some things worked, some didn’t,” recalls winemaker Kevin Fontaine. Joguet had the first stainless steel tanks in the Loire: today they are the standard.

The old winery at Charles Joguet

The focus remains on cuvées from different terroirs, although there have been some changes in the vineyard holdings. “We’ve slowly got rid of some alluvial terroirs to get more limestone terroir,” says Anne-Charlotte Genet. “W bought 6 ha in Les Charmes (west of Sazilly just south of the Vienne river), but we didn’t want to get bigger , so we got rid of some other areas.” 

The style here tends to freshness, with increasing fruit density and structure going up the scale; the wines are never aggressive or heavy. There’ve been some changes in vinification to increase precision, moving to malolactic fermentation in barrique for the lower-level cuvées, and adding some aging in cuve after the barriques for the top cuvées. “I’m concerned that people who can’t store wine should be able to enjoy it when they buy it, and (for the three top wines) I advise them to decant the wine first,” Anne-Charlotte says.

The entry-level red Chinon, Silènes, comes from a sandy area on the other side of Chinon in Beaumont-en-Veron. “It should be fruity and easy drinking.” It gives a crisp impression of light red fruits. Les Petites Roches is a blend from several parcels on gravelly terroir, aged in stainless steel, and makes a rounder impression than Silènes, but still overall very fresh. Le Cure comes from a single vineyard of clay on heavy gravel. MLF is done in old barriques and then the wine moves soon into stainless steel for 8 months. It’s rounder, blacker, and more aromatic, but still has that trademark freshness. It’s a fine example of the typicity of Cabernet Franc from stainless steel. The red Les Charmes cuvée comes from 1.5 ha of the vineyard; more elegant and more focused, it the effects of limestone terroir. Aging is similar to Le Cure.

Cuvées from the top three vineyards age in barrique. Clos La Dioterie is immediately outside the house and is north-facing. Wasn’t that a problem, at least before climate change? “No, because the terroir is so special. It’s limestone, with yellow tufa at the bottom and pure white mother rock at the top.”  Les Varennes du Grand Clos is more or less adjacent with similar exposure, and slightly sandier soil. The third of the top vineyards, Chêne Vert (which takes its name from a green oak at the top of the slope) is a  warm spot on the other side of the Vienne, facing southwest. Clos de la Dioterie shows in tastings as more complex than Les Varennes du Grand Clos, with a more finely textured backbone and more smoke and tobacco on the finish. Previously I had always placed it above Chêne Vert in tastings, but more recently Chêne Vert has seemed to be a bit more generous and approachable, rounder and deeper

The white Clos de la Plante Martin used to be one of the finest white Chinons, but the vineyard was leased, and now has reverted to the owners. The new top white comes from Les Charmes, offering nutty impressions of ripe Chenin Blanc. It ages for 8 months in barrique followed by 8 months in tank. There is also now another white. “We want to have two levels of quality in whites, and we added a more accessible cuvée,” Anne-Charlotte explains. This is Les Petites Roches, first vintage 2020, from a gravelly part of Les Charmes. It ages half in oak and half in stainless steel, and MLF is blocked, giving an impression of white stone fruits in a relatively soft style.

Tasting Notes

Chinon AOP Red

Silènes, 2018

Quite a light nose, tending more to red than black fruits. Good acidity gives a crisp impression.    87 Drink now-2025.

Les Petites Roches, 2018

A rounder imprssion than Silenes, moving more towards black fruits on the nose. Following to the palate, black fruits are tart and elegant. This maintains nice freshness.    88 Drink now-2026.

Cuvée de la Cure, 2018

Rounder, blacker, slightly more aromatic than Silenes or Les Petites Roches. Simultaneously more supple and brighter, still with that trademark freshness. A fine example of the typicity of Cabernet Franc from stainless steel. Some herbal impressions on the finish.    88 Drink now-2028.

Les Charmes, 2018

Greater aromatic variety on the nose than Le Cure, more elegant, more focused, with black fruits on the palate. Good sense of precision.    89 Drink now-2028.

Les Varennes du Grand Clos, 2018

More sense of variety to nose than the mid level cuvees. Trademark freshness has overlay of chocolate texture, giving an impression of furry tannins. There’s a faintly piquant edge to the black fruit palate (bottle was opened previously,. Still a bit tight, but nice balance in a fresh style.    89 Drink 2024-2032.

Les Varennes du Grand Clos, 2017

Nose shows influences poised between herbal and spicy. Very elegant impression showing the cooler conditions of the vintage. “This is a more typical year,” Anne-Charlotte says. Quie bright impression palate poised between red and black fruits. A very good result for the year.    89 Drink now-2028.

Clos de la Dioterie, 2017

Nose is rounder and more complex than Varenne, but also has some faint herbal impressions in background. Not so finely textured as Dioterie 2018. Still a little taut, waiting to release its fruits. Fugitive sense of smoky tobacco on finish.    89 Drink now-2028.

Clos du Chene Vert, 2017

Faint impression of smoky tobacco. Smoother than Dioterie, a little softer and more approachable, slightly furry tannins on finish, almost a touch spicy. Lovelyprecise impression of a cooler vintage.    90 Drink now-2029.

Chinon AOP White

Les Petites Roches, 2020

Nice balance on palate inclined to white stone fruits, giving relatively soft impression for Chenin Blanc, with acidity well tamed, but with a tang at the very end.    88 Drink now-2025.

Les Charmes, 2018

Faintly nutty nose sugests typicity of ripe Chenin Blanc. Follows to relatively soft palate, with quite pronounced nutty aftertaste.    90 Drink now-2026.

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