This is a very unusual wine--one for connoisseurs of Loire Chenin Blanc. The color is a very deep old gold--almost like a 20- to 30-year-old Sauternes. But while the wine may look dead, it very definitely is not. Pungent smells, very hard to pin down and describe. Minerals, honey, botrytis but no oxidation as you would expect from the color. And on the palate, it shines. Smooth and rich like a Vouvray but much drier. Botrytis tones and some pleasant bitterness on the finish. This Savennieres requires your full attention--definitely not for casual drinking as an aperitif. And it drinks better when the bottle has been open, aerated for several hours and warmed. At room temperature, the bitterness fades into a rich, ripe Vouvray taste. I'm not sure I've ever encountered such strong skin tannins in a white wine, and that's one reason it is unusual.
1998 was not a good vintage for Savennieres or at least for Clos de Coulaine. I'm looking forward to trying the 1997, 1999 and 2000. But I feel I have learned something about Chenin Blanc and about Clos de Coulaine for having this wine at this stage of its maturity. If you search for my previous notes, you will probably find they were not this positive.