Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume (Loire Valley, France) 2017

($87, Vintus):  Quarts de Chaume, a tiny appellation of barely 75 acres, is the only Grand Cru in the Loire Valley.  It is arguably the “Montrachet of the Loire,” only it produces spectacular sweet wines from the Chenin Blanc grape.  What makes these wines so special is their elegance and lightness juxtaposed to their presence and persistence.  Like Sauternes, the wines are made from grapes that have been attacked by botrytis cinera, or the noble rot.   Unlike Sauternes, Quarts de Chaume are racy and riveting thanks to the inherent acidity of Chenin Blanc.  Baumard, certainly one of the appellation’s top producers, eschews any oak fermentation or aging, preferring to focus on the terroir by using only stainless steel.  Their delicate and vibrant 2017 wows with its gracefulness and purity.  Apricot skin nuances add to its luxuriousness. At this stage there’s lots of minerality showing and less botrytis character, which reinforces its racy character.  The ying/yang of sweetness and electricity is captivating. In my experience, Baumard’s Quarts de Chaume develop magnificent complexity with decades of bottle age without losing any vibrancy, so there’s no rush to drink this one now.  Indeed, I would cellar it for a few years, while searching for older ones that are still on the retail market.  A standard 750-ml bottle will serve 8 to 12 people easily.  If you have fewer, there’s no problem because the wine is practically bullet proof and remains in fine condition if kept in the fridge, opened, for at least a week.  Quarts de Chaume is an ideal choice for a cheese course, rich patés, or by itself, as dessert.  Although frequently called a dessert wine, I find that it, as with all sweet wines, lose their allure when matched with dessert because the sweetness of the two fights with one another.
96 Michael Apstein May 3, 2022