The Clos du Papillon vineyard of Domaine des Baumards in the Loire Valley produces (in my opinion) one of the great white wines of the world--at least in some vintages. Savennieres, a dry Chenin Blanc that ages beautifully over many years, has never been very well known even among wine enthusiasts, and Clos du Papillon was cheap enough for me to buy in quantity during the 1980s. I enjoyed far too many at that time, when they were young, but held back a few bottles from the 1981 and 1985 vintages that are now showing the wine's full potential (see my post of February 17, 2008).
As more wine drinkers have discovered Savennieres, the price of Clos du Papillon has climbed to about $35 a bottle--still cheap for a wine of this quality but beyond my budget. So when I saw the 2003 Clos du Papillon offered for $17.99, I jumped at the opportunity. There was a reason for the discounted price, of course. The 2003 vintage was one of warmest on record, even for the usually cool Loire Valley. As a result, acidity was lower than usual and even though the Wine Spectator gave this wine high marks, it was downgraded somewhat by the WineDoctor, Chris Kissack (thewinedoctor.com). Kissack, one of my most reliable sources for information and tasting notes of Loire wines, had this to say: "Although it shows some early promise it becomes clear that this wine is less vibrant and precise than I would really like. And the acidity is unsurprisingly low, which lessens its appeal. A difficult vintage it seems. 14+?/20 (July 2007)" That review was enough to keep me from buying more than two bottles, a decision I now regret.
Now seven years from the vintage, the wine is a medium deep yellow. The Chenin Blanc nose is immediately apparent--peaches, melons and spring flowers. Has the elegance and finesse of a fine wine. Yes, it is riper than I'd expect from a Savennieres, but that's not all bad, at least at this stage. It's very ripe up front, then shows some reductive tannic notes that suggest it still has some development ahead of it. After the wine has been open for several hours, the flavors open and become riper all the way through the finish--honey, melons, minerals and hint of petrol. This wine may never become as good as the 1985 (February 18, 2008), but I now wish I had bought more than two bottles.