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October 25, 2014

When you do this wine thing professionally every day, it's a good idea not to play favorites. You can drink the same wine every night as a consumer if you want to, but as a wine merchant, part of the fun is the variety. Besides, even the best labels don't necessarily hit it out of the park every year. Still with wine (as in life), it's okay to have a special place in your heart for certain producers, as long as you don't let it cloud your judgement.

Baumard will always be special here because the winery (and their diverse assortment of styles from compelling, minerally dry whites to zingy desserts) provided us with one of those "Aha!" moments many years ago. We credit them directly for opening our eyes to the world of Loire wines. They are not brilliant every year because it's a tightrope to fashion such diverse offerings from year to year when something as simple as a little change in acidity can render a major different outcome. Our collective chapeaux are off to these guys for being as consistent as they are.

Dry Chenin Blancs are particularly tricky, but in exceptional years like 2010, they can be alarmingly good. We've been waiting for these dry versions of Baumards to come along since we starting tasting from the vintage a couple of years ago.

First, a brief educational vignette. Savennières is the appellation producing dry Chenin Blanc, while Coteaux du Layon and the smaller Quarts de Chaume are dessert wine appellations. Savennières are bright, mineral-driven wines that can sometimes have an earthy notes as well. Lesser examples can be either too acidic (bad), or earthy and flabby (even worse). In the top examples like Baumard, however, there is a tension between the fruit and acidity, and a unique interplay between the quince/quinine fruit and the chalky minerality. They can be quite beguiling.

The 2010 Baumard Savennières is a classic rendition. The nose shows chalky minerality vying for attention with pear and honeyed notes. In the mouth, there is pear, quince, saline notes, and again, insistent minerality. The trick is to have both zip and enough flesh, and this one succeeds beautifully. These age in the intermediate term, and the wines relax to develop some earthy nuance. This is a pure, unfettered, bright wine with a Spectator 91 that sells for under $20.

We are particularly excited to have the 2010 Baumard Trie Spéciale Savennières. Even though these folks get huge press for their brilliant desserts, some of our fondest Baumard moments have involved the Trie, which they only make in exceptional vintages. "Trie" means "pass," referring to pickers passing through the vineyard with specific profiles in mind and harvesting only those grapes. This is clearly a laborious process, which explains the special nuance this wine possesses, as well as the higher price.

Wine Spectator scored the Trie with the same 91-point score as the regular. While some folks will take the numbers at face value and buy the $18 offering, we think there is quite a difference between the wines. The Trie has a little more length and intensity with an extra layer or two in the flavors. It's definitely a step up. We'll give the reviewer the benefit of the doubt based on the "on any given day" tasting scenario, and politely disagree with the assessment. However, no matter which Baumard you choose, you are getting something special.

As long as we were talking about Baumard, we included some bits of their riveting dessert wines. They are rich, honeyed, complex, lifted, and last a long time in the cellar.

score: WS 91

add to cart $17.99   add a case $215.88

From Wine Spectator:"A bright, engaging style, exhibiting fresh-cut Anjou pear, green almond, fig and brioche notes laced with a hint of butter. Offers a long, pure, honeysuckle-filled finish. Drink now through 2015. 1,200 cases imported." –JM read more
score: WS 92

add to cart $41.99   add a case $503.88

From Wine Spectator:"Salted butter, chamomile and quinine notes are followed by hints of Earl Grey tea, Anjou pear and green melon in this white, culminating with a fine, minerally finish. Should open steadily with mid-term cellaring. Drink now through 2020. 75 cases imported." –JM read more
score: WS 96
WA 91-92+

add to cart $64.99   add a case $779.88

Also available in half-bottle/375ml

James Molesworth writes in Wine Spectator: "Bold, lush and tropical in feel, with creamed papaya and mango notes seamlessly gliding together, while coconut, green plum, ginger, quince and white peach flavors fill in the background. Offers a succulent finish, but stays pure and steady thanks to perfectly embedded acidity. Best from 2015 through... read more

score: WS 94
WA 90-91+

add to cart $44.99   add a case $539.88

James Molesworth writes in Wine Spectator: "Plump, ripe and full, featuring a slightly exotic edge to the guava, mango and creamed peach flavors, before a racier side of green plum, honeysuckle and plantain moves in behind. Still youthfully raw, with the fruit bouncing rather than gliding for now. The finish is long, revealing an echo of green almond that bodes well for cellaring. Best from 2015 through 2026. 100 cases imported."
score: WA 94
WS 92

add to cart $44.99   add a case $539.88

David Schildknecht writes in The Wine Advocate: "The 2008 Coteaux du Layon Clos de Sainte Catherine – from a sandy (though schist-derived) site just beyond the perimeter of the winery in Rochefort-sur-Loire – mingles tangerine and lime sorbet, quince jelly, peach preserves, and salted caramel for results that are at once creamy-rich and refreshingly-cool. There is a more obviously honeyed overlay here than in the corresponding Carte d’Or bottli... read more

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