This article is the third in the series, Loire Valley Wines: Hiding in Plain Sight.
Who cared if it rained (and rained some more) the day of our visit to Langlois-Chateau in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, a short meander from Saumur? Certainly not me. Our wine loving group of four (my husband, the two proprietors of Chateau de Jalesnes, et moi) was treated to one of the most interesting and enlightening winery visits that culminated in tastes of their iconic sparkling, still, and dessert wines. Clearly, they were the pours I preferred!
Hosted by Michel Launay, Langlois-Chateau team member responsible for all visits and on-site sales, we appreciated his expertise and the backdrop, a stunning location that boasted sweeping vineyard views towards the Domaine and hillside and cellar views towards the magnificent Château de Saumur and the winding Loire River.
I was in the Loire Valley to experience whatever it wanted to share and Langlois-Chateau had plenty. During each moment of our visit, I admired the understated, genuine characteristics of the wines and property and Launay’s restrained confidence in knowing that he represented one of the best sparkling wine houses in the region.
We entered the casual tasting room and were greeted by Launay who commented that when we return for another visit, a new tasting room across the square courtyard will be in operation. Yet, I loved the old-school classroom effect of chairs in front of a whiteboard, the long, age-worn harvest table for wine tasting, and the shelves and cases of Langlois-Chateau wines. Life-long learners all, the four of us sat comfortably and listened attentively to Launay’s insights as to the history of the winery, basics of winemaking, and the differences among their wine styles: whites, roses, reds, sweet, and sparkling wines. At Langlois-Chateau there is “a wine for every taste”, he noted.
The History of Langlois-Chateau
Launay explained that the winery originated in 1912. Edouard Langlois, a Saumur native turned winemaker and cellarman at Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent and his wife, Jeanne Chateau from Vendée, founded Maison Langlois-Chateau with the assistance of Baron de Bodman, owner of Château de St-Florent and the adjoining vineyard. The Baron brought his cellars, land, and buildings to the fledgling winery which had also purchased nearby Maison Delandes, founded in 1885.
Business boomed as Langlois-Chateau specialized in the production of sparkling wines. However, Edouard Langlois was killed in World War I, at just 42 years old in 1915. His wife, Jeanne Chateau, took the reins, later assisted by her son Alexis and son-in-law, Maurice Leroux. The family enterprise, through the years producing outstanding wines, continued.
By 1973, Maison Bollinger of Aÿ-Champagne fame, acquired a majority ownership, allowing Langlois-Chateau to benefit from increased financial resources and international export and distribution agencies (now 45% of the wines remain in France, 55% are exported). Continuing a family tradition, Michel Villedey, a son-in-law of the Bollinger family and from Saumur, became President of the firm; Jean Leroux, son of Maurice Leroux was his assistant at the time.
The vineyard holdings of Langlois-Chateau accrued. Launay admitted that after each generation, more vineyards throughout the region were acquired due to marriage. Currently, Langlois-Chateau owns property in Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, and Sancerre (as well as commercial investments). By 2007, the firm expanded its original site at Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent. Here, the entire production from presses to storage to cellars to distribution to administration to reception is located at the historic property. And with the new tasting room (now open and ready for visitors), Langlois-Chateau is the winery to visit when you crave Crémant de Loire and world class still wines from the region.
It was time to tour. Under umbrellas, we walked from the tasting room, across the courtyard, and up the steep steps to the production facilities. Along the way, Launay reminded us of the area’s diverse soils, mostly limestone (known as “tuffeau”), the moderate oceanic climate, and the signature grapes of Anjou-Saumur: Chenin Blanc, used for white and sparkling wines, and Cabernet Franc, for red wines.
All wines from Langlois-Chateau are produced from estate, organically grown, hand harvested grapes; there are approximately 75 hectares of vineyards. The team is proactive in wine research and biodiversity and sustainability are at the forefront of production, especially relating to pest management.
At the production facility itself, we noted state-of-the-art pneumatic presses and thermo-regulated vats, a bow to new technology and the traditional art of winemaking. The blending process takes time, care, and specific measures of quality control in order to produce an exceptional wine. Each bottle has a lot number to guarantee just that; during the blending process, team members are able to locate that bottle in their records.
The Wines of Langlois-Chateau
Upon returning to the tasting room, the wine and conversation flowed during our comparative tasting experience. A few highlights follow…
The first wine was the Crémant de Loire Blanc Brut 2012, a flavorful blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc cultivated from six distinctive terroirs – I couldn’t get enough of this elegant sparkling. Its dancing bubbles were mesmerizing…they never stopped! On the nose and palate, I found flavors of stone fruit, citrus, and grapefruit that were both delicate and balanced. Everyone in our group considered this a favorite (and I purchased a bottle for later enjoyment, of course).
Chenin Blanc 2015 from Saumur was sophisticated, fresh, and easy drinking. From 100% Chenin Blanc grapes. intense aromas of white flowers, mango, and persimmon led to flavors replete with rich citrus notes and a sharp, crisp finish. As Michel Launay stated, this balanced wine with plenty of body is just perfect to “drink what you want when you want” especially with just-caught fish, crabcakes, and hard cheeses. A serious food wine (think fish with under a blanket of buerre blanc, roast chicken with your favorite sauce, or a rich risotto) was Vieilles Vignes du Domaine Langlois-Chateau 2014, from Chenin Blanc grapes grown on vines over 35 years old in Saint Florent. I discovered dried fruit aromas leading to powerful ripe and candied fruit flavors in this full-bodied wine. Fermented in French oak and matured on the lees for up to 12 months, this distinctive wine can be cellared up to 10 years.
Cheers to the beautiful wines of Langlois-Chateau, those that exude restrained confidence in knowing that they are some of the best. ~ Cindy