Savoir and Bugey / Savoir / Chignin / Domaine Jean-François Quénard
|Charles Neal Selections||
Domaine Jean-Francois QuÉnard
Charles Neal Selections © 2021
|Charles Neal Selections||
Domaine Jean-Francois QuÉnard
This small domaine lies in one of the most beautiful spots of Chignin, next to the Tour Villard (part of the ruined Château de Chignin). After many years of family winemaking history here (since 1644!), Jean-François Quénard took over responsibilities from his father Jean-Pierre in 1987. Having already studied at wine school in Dijon, Burgundy (incidentally, with Yves Chéron from Domaine du Grand Montmirail in Gigondas) Jean-Francois also later studied winemaking in Bordeaux and California. He was joined by his wife Catherine, and together they gradually grew the domaine from its original 5-hectare size. More recently one of their 4 children, Anne Sophie, got her viti-vinicultural degree from the prestigious Beaune wine school and joined her parents.
Today the domaine is comprised of 19 hectares sitting on the region’s typical limestone-clay, optimally exposed slopes. The family has a viicultural philosophy rarely found these days, believing that there is a “spiritual dimension to tending to the vines” that “humbles” them. They are well on their way to full organic conversion, and even before taking that step have always treated their vineyard land with the utmost respect. Yields are kept low, harvests are 90% by hand, and each parcel is vinified separately using indigenous yeasts. Most of the basic whites are vinified and aged in stainless steel, while a couple of the higher whites and the reds are aged (for 9-18 months depending on the cuvée) in 300-liter fûts. Reds are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Note that it is important to keep track of first names in Chignin, as there are a number of wine producers named Quénard, including Andre and Michel Quénard and Raymond Quénard. Seems like Quénard is the Smith and Jones of the Alps! But of course we think our Quénard is the most important one to know…
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Chignin
The Chignin is made with 100% Jacquère from 40-year-old vines planted on clay and limestone soils. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks, with partial malolactic fermentation.
It has wonderful texture for a mountain wine, and shows notes of dried apricot, a touch of nut, minerals and white pepper. A crisp, dry finish completes the package. Delicious good value summer white.
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Chignin “Anne de la Biguerne”
This cuvée is made from 1 hectare of 65-year-old Jacquere vines, grown on clay and limestone soils. After being harvested by hand, the grapes undergo a long fermentation with full malolactic. The lees are stirred in the tank for two months to give the wine additional richness and complexity. Production is just over 600 cases a year.
The wine shows mineraled notes (tonic) as well as higher-pitched floral notes. Something like a hypothetical cross of Grüner Veltliner and Muscadet. Excellent with grilled fish and the local Savoyard charcuterie.
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Chignin-Bergeron “Les Damoiselles”
Bergeron is the local name for Roussanne. The Damoiselles—or young ladies—cuvée (the Quenard's have 4 daughters) is made from 30-year-old Roussanne vines grown on the steep, chalk rich hillside slopes of Chignin. The grapes are hand-harvested parcel-by-parcel and undergo a long fermentation in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation helps give the wine additional richness on the palate.
The wine has lots of fruit on the nose, with creamy apricot and white peach rising from the glass. The medium-to-full body of this wine, along with its subtle minerality, makes it an ideal partner for fish in sauce, scallops, poached salmon or white meats.
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Roussette de Savoie “Anne Sophie”
Roussette de Savoie is the local name for Altesse. This cuvée, named after the Quenard’s daughter Anne Sophie, comes from 25-year old vines on clay-limestone soil. It is vinified and aged in 600-liter demi-muids for 12 months.
The wine has an expressive nose of white flowers and hazelnuts, and on the palate is round and mineral with a smooth finish. This wine could be an aperitif but can also pair perfectly with fish and hard cheeses.
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Chignin-Bergeron “Au Pied des Tours”
Bergeron is the local name for Roussanne. This wine is made from 40-year-old (and up) Roussanne vines grown on the steep, chalk- and limestone-rich hillside slopes of Chignin. The grapes are hand-harvested using 2 or 3 passes through the vineyards, and then the wine undergoes a long fermentation. Malolactic fermentation and sur lie aging help give the wine additional richness on the palate.
The full, flowery nose with notes of dried fruits is also ever so slightly smoky. With a complex, round palate and a long finish, this wine can stand up to foods like fish in sauce, foie gras and white meats.
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Persan “Les Deux Jean”
Persan is an ancient grape varietal indigenous to the Savoie region, with sadly only around 5 hectares planted these days. That makes this wine all the more important. Coming from 15-35-year old vines on limestone-rich soils, the grapes are hand-harvested and fermented using indigenous yeasts in stainless steel and cement-lined tanks. No sulfur is added. The wine is then aged ¾ in stainless steel and ¼ in 600-liter fûts. Only 3,000-4,000 bottles are made, depending on the vintage.
The nose of this highly unique wine positively bursts out of the glass with red fruits, rose petals, dried herbs and slight smoky notes. On the palate it has further flavors of flowers and red fruits like cranberries, and is delightfully fresh, medium body and low alcohol, almost like a meatier, fuller Gamay. All of this makes it a nice accompaniment to tapas or charcuterie, and to herby dishes like lamb or turkey (think Thanksgiving table wine).
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Mondeuse “Elisa”
Mondeuse being one of the two principal red grapes of the Savoie region, this wine is one of the domaine’s finest red wines. It is 100% Mondeuse from 40-year old vines with very low yields. It is a selection of the domaine’s best parcels that is then vinified and aged in demi-muids in order to smooth out its tannins.
Its color is an inviting dark purple, and it has deep aromas of red and black fruits. On the palate it is smooth and round, yet elegant, with velvety tannins. Excellent with veal dishes, many cheeses and chocolate desserts.
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Savoie Pinot Noir
Strangely one of the lesser grown reds in Savoie for all of its importance worldwide. It lends itself very well to the Alpine climate now that global warming has had a hand in the area. If you’re looking for a rather ethereal version of Burgundy at a fraction of the price, look no further.
Domaine Jean-François Quénard Crémant de Savoie
Made with 60% Jacquere, 20% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay from 30-year old vines, the “Entre Amis” (Between friends) cuvee spends nine months in tank on its fine lees before being bottled and resting en tirage for an additional 18 to 20 months. Bottled without any dosage, this delightful bubbly has a pale color, crisp notes of green and yellow apples, pear, citrus, and a touch of yeasty biscuit on the finish. A delightful surprise from this remote region!