Pierre Menard, “La Varenne de Chanze” Anjou Chenin Blanc
Pierre Menard, “La Varenne de Chanze” Anjou Chenin Blanc

Pierre Menard, “La Varenne de Chanze” Anjou Chenin Blanc

Loire Valley, France 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$40.00
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Pierre Menard, “La Varenne de Chanze” Anjou Chenin Blanc

A few years back, we dubbed Pierre Menard the Loire Valley’s next superstar. It seems you all agreed, as every subsequent offer was quickly gobbled up. And while I thought the Menard wines had a very “insider” following, it appears the wider world has caught on: Thanks to their microscopic production and mind-bending complexity, Pierre’s wines are now some of the most tightly allocated in the Loire. 

Today, we’re featuring two of his wines, not only to give subscribers first dibs on some new-generation cult bottlings but to showcase the breadth of Menard’s talent. We kick it off with Pierre’s Anjou Chenin Blanc, “La Varenne de Chanze.” This mesmerizing, biodynamically-farmed bottling is a master class on Chenin’s chameleonic complexity. It combines generous, ripe orchard fruit with vivacious freshness and minerality, overlain with the gentlest nuttiness. It is, in short, a simply extraordinary white wine to be cellared alongside the finest white Burgundy or Champagne. Repeat buyers of Pierre’s wines already know the deal. Those of you new to the Menard magic, however, listen up: Stock up now, because wines this astoundingly good at this price don’t come along often, and we may never be able to offer it again!

Pierre’s family farms about 20 hectares in some of the best Chenin Blanc terroir on the planet—the heart of the Coteaux du Layon appellation. For more than 300 years, these slopes overlooking the Layon River, a tributary of the Loire, have been celebrated for producing some of the finest botrytis-affected sweet wines in the world. But upon taking over a portion of his family’s vines in 2013, Pierre felt the region’s distinctiveness could best be conveyed through bone-dry whites. In his words, “Chenin with botrytis is a very good signature of a vintage, but dry Chenin is much more expressive of the place it comes from.” No doubt he’s onto something; Pierre is part of a movement in this little corner of the Loire – known as the “Anjou Noir” for its dark schist soils—where a cadre of legends-in-the-making focus primarily on dry wines. Much is made in the wine business of the painstaking labor exerted to select, berry-by-berry, fruit for great botrytized wines, but for Pierre it’s actually the opposite. He literally inspects every single bunch and removes the individual botrytis berries. (Don’t worry, they do end up in a magical sweet wine called “Cosmos,” which we’ve highlighted here.)

Pierre took over the “La Varenne de Chanze” plot when he returned home, immediately converting farming to biodynamics. This steeply sloped vineyard was willed to him by his father’s uncle, and dark schist soils imbue the Chenin grown here with thrumming mineral freshness. Pierre harvests entirely by hand before a whole-cluster pressing, then racks the juice into neutral oak barrels purchased from one Château Haut-Brion. Over the course of one year, the wine naturally ferments and ages on its lees before it’s bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The 2019 “La Varenne de Chanze” is an enthralling case study in the multifaceted complexities of Chenin Blanc. Blasted schist and quartzite rock, gorgeous panoplies of ripe fruit, and subtle earthy, nutty tones are all here. It pours a glimmering pale gold, the nose booming with an entire orchard’s worth of fruit: ripe green apple, Asian pear, apricot flesh, quince, pear skin, and Meyer lemon zest. Underlying it all are intoxicating spice tones, delicate cinnamon, and a sheer lightning bolt of pulverized rock minerality. The palate is ample and broad, akin to Premier Cru Chablis, with a cut of enlivening acidity lifting into more crushed stones on the finish. We’ve left opened bottles alone for a day or two and somehow it only became more complex, taking on more Savennieres-like nuttiness and a touch of exoticism, and pointing to an extremely bright future ahead in your cellar. Few producers make Chenin this utterly beguiling, and that Pierre has done it before he’s even reached 30 is proof positive that he’s the real deal. His future is bright, and once you stock up on this, so is yours!

Pierre Menard, “La Varenne de Chanze” Anjou Chenin Blanc




Enjoying the greatest wines of Beaujolais starts, as it usually does, with the lay of the land. In Beaujolais, 10 localities have been given their own AOC (Appellation of Controlled Origin) designation. They are: Saint Amour; Juliénas; Chénas; Moulin-à Vent; Fleurie; Chiroubles; Morgon; Régnié; Côte de Brouilly; and Brouilly.

Southwestern France


Bordeaux surrounds two rivers, the Dordogne and Garonne, which intersect north of the city of Bordeaux to form the Gironde Estuary, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The region is at the 45th parallel (California’s Napa Valley is at the38th), with a mild, Atlantic-influenced climate enabling the maturation of late-ripening varieties.

Central France

Loire Valley

The Loire is France’s longest river (634 miles), originating in the southerly Cévennes Mountains, flowing north towards Paris, then curving westward and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes. The Loire and its tributaries cover a huge swath of central France, with most of the wine appellations on an east-west stretch at47 degrees north (the same latitude as Burgundy).

Northeastern France


Alsace, in Northeastern France, is one of the most geologically diverse wine regions in the world, with vineyards running from the foothills of theVosges Mountains down to the Rhine River Valley below.

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