When Unconventional Becomes Popular
A trailblazer forges the path ahead without tools for guidance, the way being illuminated by their own vision. That is Jacky Blot through and through—the trailblazer of the Loire Valley. In the midst of a wine growing mecca, Jacky has decidedly done what is unpopular. In the appellation of Montlouis, consistently overshadowed by Vouvray, he produces Chenin here that is just as exhilarating as its more famous cousin. He brought a wine spotlight to extraordinary vineyards in the Loire, highlighting old vineyard sites in Montlouis, Vouvray, and Bourgueil.
It took the mind of Jacky Blot to realize the full capability of Chenin, and that is just where this story begins. While working as a wine broker in the Loire, Blot came into contact with a winemaking family no longer capable of caring for their land. Believing the site had opportunity and needed to be shown to the world, his inner voice urged him out of the office and into the vineyards. It comes as no surprise that he’s a risk taker, being as he was a professional parachute jumper in his younger years. From his perspective, Chenin was being produced in a conventional, lackluster way—he sought to change that, and did. Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups was born.
Considered completely revolutionary at the time of the late 80’s and early 90’s, his dynamic approach evolved in various ways. He brought an influence of Burgundy to his winemaking. In both Vouvray and Montlouis, single vineyard wine making was almost unheard of, His wines are actually site specific, coming from old vineyards averaging 50 years old. He has also brought an invigorating style of dry Chenin to a world where sweet and off-dry was custom. In the 1993 vintage, grapes weren’t ripening nor was the weather changing—he knew he must try another way. So he set out making a dry white wine; while it was not a hit, it did catch on after a couple years. In fact, Jacky believes that sugar masks the Chenin’s true capabilities. He has pulled the mask off Chenin, presenting it in its raw unadulterated form. Later on, he made a zero dosage expression of sparkling wine made from dry Chenin called Triple Zero, one to rightfully rival Champagne.
In addition to all the obstacles nature has to offer, Jacky also has gone through his own struggles. Back in 2009, he approached INAO—the government agency that oversees appellations—to request permission to vinify his Vouvray grapes at his Montlouis cellar across the river, a mere 5 kilometers away. INAO granted him permission indefinitely to do this, until the winter of 2013 when he was notified that this would no longer be the case. Since then he had purchased several more acres in Vouvray and now would have to name it a Vin de France instead of its proper classification. Some speculate that the INAO purposefully did this because they were jealous of Jacky’s talents; it remains unknown.
The future of the Loire Valley was formulated almost single handedly by Jacky Blot. While exercising his unique style of single-site and bone dry Chenin, Jacky purposefully implemented organic farming and hand harvesting methods. This may be standard now, but at a time when conventional winemaking reigned supreme, an organic approach was unsensible.
Jacky Blot’s extra efforts were without a doubt worth the struggles. Though many describe the wines of Taille Aux Loup to be Burgundian in style, Jacky likes to call it “the school of Montlouis,” a reflection of his efforts to further the intelligence of winemaking in the Loire. Yes, his wines are Burgundian in more ways than one. If you enjoy white Burgundy to any extent, you will be entranced by these wines. The style of these Chenins is complex, textural, and austere, upholding their sense of terroir. The most subtle use of oak sourced from top producers in Burgundy is implemented to give the wine more coherence. Ultimately, these Taille Aux Loups Chenins were made to age, and they do so beautifully.
Jacky Blot writes another chapter in this epic Loire Valley tale when inspiration comes knocking again. This time, it was in the form of Cabernet Franc, the surprise child that no one saw coming! Cabernet Franc in the Loire is either made into plonk wine—or it sings. With Jacky’s skilled hands at the helm, it sings indeed. He purchased the Domaine de la Butte plot in Bourgueil, (pronounced “bor-guh’y”) in 2002, just down the river from Montlouis and Vouvray. The property encompasses one large hillside of 14 hectares, which is where it derives its name; each wine is named for the section of the hill from which it grows. Yet again, this is an area of the Loire where conventional winemaking is historically the norm. Jacky took the same rigorous viticultural practices he used with his Chenin and applied them to the new Domaine de la Butte property—another trailblazing feat.
If you have been following these wine reads over the years, take note of the significance of this producer. Jacky Blot is among the best, if not the best winemaker in the Loire Valley. With Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc as his weapons, he matches and surpasses the quality of other winemakers there. If you currently drink Chardonnay, you need to explore these astonishing Chenins from Montlouis and Vouvray immediately. If you enjoy Burgundy Pinot Noir, you’ll enjoy these Cabernet Francs. Regarding food and wine pairing, these are no brainers. Usually it’s the wine that needs food, but food really needs this wine!
Jacky Blot is a producer that should grace your dinner table and your cellar. His wine reminds us that wine is not just a beverage, but a subject to be expanded upon. That’s why we encourage what you’re doing at this very moment—reading this story, hopefully with a glass of wine in hand. Challenge yourself to embrace the potential of these whites and reds of the Loire, just as Jacky Blot once challenged himself to make better wine.
DOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS, MONTLOUIS-SUR-LOIRE CLOS DE MOSNY
“Clos de Mosny” is the Montlouis equivalent to his Vouvray-bottled “Venise.” The site is a monopole one, meaning simply that Jacky Blot owns and farms the site as a solo operation. The vines are 40-50 years in age. The soils here are most ideal for Chenin with sandy clay above pure limestone. The wine ages in a mix of barrels, 20% of which are new.
DOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS, MONTLOUIS SUR LOIRE MOELLEUX
Made from Chenin Blanc, this bottle is made as a Moelleux, a purposefully sweet style of Chenin Blanc, often made in the Loire Valley. This wine goes through partial botrytis of 10-20% and is slightly sweet. The vines are about 50 years old.
DOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS, MONTLOUIS-SUR-LOIRE REMUS
Like many of Jacky Blot’s other vineyards, “Remus” hails from the Montlouis appellation from multiple parcels of 50-80 year vines. The wine is aged in barrel, 20% of which is new.
DOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS, BRUT TRADITION NV
This is a Chenin Blanc made in the traditional method coming from vines that are 40 years old. It is a 2014 vintage, but not advertised as such. The dosage is low at just 3 grams per liter. The wine ages in barrels that are 9-10 years old.
DOMAINE DE LA BUTTE, BOURGUEIL MI-PENTE
"Mi-Pente" is considered a Grand Cru of Bourgueil. The vines are over 70 years old with naturally lower yields. This wine ages in 20% new oak.
DOMAINE DE LA BUTTE, BOURGUEIL LE PIED DE LA BUTTE
Coming from the “foot of the mound,” this Cabernet Franc hails from Jacky Blot’s other estate winery, Domaine de La Butte in the Bourgueil appellation. The vines are roughly 35 years planted to clay and silex soil over limestone. The wine spends time in a mix of cement and older barrels.