“While Rougeard’s work draws comparisons to Bordeaux, it really is that more complicated Burgundian model—vinifying individual parcels of both red and white, and striving to understand the differences—that captivates Saumur’s current pioneers, who’ve seen the opportunity to follow in Rougeard’s wake. For Lambert, it’s a matter of delineating the clear line between his easygoing, citrusy Clos David, grown on a sandy northeast-facing plot in Brézé, and his intensely herbal, fleshy Clos de la Rue, grown just a few hundred yards away on clay.”
“Lambert is now bottling wines under his own name both from his family’s land (formerly under the Saint-Just label) and the plots he rents from nearby Château de Brézé. Both line-ups are fantastic, especially the red Clos du Tue-Loup and white Clos David.”
— Jon Bonne, PUNCH, "How Saumur became a Loire Valley POWERHOUSE"
Historically, Saumur or more precisely Brézé, has been a reference point for fine French wine as royalty exchanged these wines annually for Château d’Yquem Sauternes. Such has been the reknown for the magnificent hill of Brézé over the centuries, and once again attention is turning to this great hill as a source of incomparable whites that are often compared with Montrachet the greatest of white Burgundies. Brézé is a unique site due to its relatively high elevation and eminently nuanced geological profile with its limestone subsoil proving to be perfectly suited to Chenin blanc for much of the site. The significant presence of tuffeau, (a porous, chalky limestone also used in the construction of much of the Loire’s Renaissance architecture) results in finely mineral Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Clay and sand also lend themselves to the diversity of the terroirs, giving body to the reds and richness to the whites. Arnaud’s driving ambition is to truly understand and reveal the distinctions within this extraordinary appellation.
Arnaud Lambert is helping to discover the expression and diversity of soils and individual sites (terroirs) in the appellations of Saumur and Saumur-Champigny. The goal is to give expression to each individual terroir and realise each vineyard sites potential through organic viticulture (transitioning to bio-dynamic) and minimal intervention wine-making. Even though he works a total of 40 ha of vineyards in these 2 villages, the local cooperatives control nearly 70% of the surface area in Brézé and Saint Cyr and mass-produced crémants still dominate the region.
2017 marked an exciting transition for fans of Arnaud’s captivating wines when he united his cuvées from both Brézé (20ha) and Saint Cyr en Bourg (20ha) under one label: Domaine Arnaud Lambert. The Saint Cyr wines come from Domaine Saint-Just, which was founded by Arnaud’s father Yves in 1996 when Arnaud was still getting his viticulture and oenology degree. Arnaud studied wine-making in Dijon and has bought that Burgundian approach to his wine-making and to expressing each vineyard site. The father/son team began working together in 2005, and in 2009, they also became managers of the viticultural estate of the Château de Brézé signing a long-term lease which included land in 8 of the clos of Brézé, very old vineyards, each with different soil compositions and site expositions. (The château is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site, but also an historically important reference in French fine wine: royals used to exchange these wines annually for Château d’Yquem Sauternes.) The same year they began to work the Château vines, Yves and Arnaud also began converting all of their vineyards to organic, and were officially certified organic in 2012. In 2018 Arnaud has begun converting all vineyards to bio-dynamic viticulture after working in this way for some years.
Most significantly Arnaud feels that in the last few vintages he has really found the right balance and expression for the varieties planted in each site after working with these vineyards for 10-20 years. Our tasting certainly confirmed that the wines, both red and white, have also found their right expression and impressed us with the clarity and precision demonstrated in each wine from each site. There is most certainly a lightness of touch with no hand of the winemaker apparent in the style of the wines, rather a clarity and purity for all the wines that one finds only rarely amongst the very best wine growers. Most of the red wines are vinified with no SO2 and bottled with just the smallest amount to ensure stability. Here terroir speaks very clearly.
“Brézé is on the rise, today producing some of the most arrestingly mineral, intense Chenin Blanc on the planet. For at least 500 years, these vines produced some of the most profound wines of France. They were regularly exchanged, barrel for barrel, with Chateau d’Yquem, the nectar like sweet wine from Bordeaux that sells for thousands of dollars a bottle. They were a favourite at Versailles under the Sun King, Louis XIV. Today, out of 400 hectares (980 acres), only 4 producers are bottling wines as Brézé, accounting for about 10% of the vineyard area. Arnaud Lambert has 21 hectares, and makes stunning single vineyard whites from Clos du Midi, Clos David and Clos de la Rue. These are precise crystal sharp wines in their youth, with enough snap to shock the tongue, but still posses the weight and resonance to expand and slightly soften with age. The reds come from Clos de L’Etoile and Clos Mazurique. While differences in each vineyard lead to wines of distinctive character, Lambert’s style arcs toward grace. His wines are stripped down and elemental, ripped with acidity and verve. They plug into the electricity of Brézé’s limestone soils.” Rajat Parr, The Sommeliers Atlas of Taste
Saint Cyr en Bourg is the neighbouring village just north of Brézé which lies mid-way between the village of Chacé where Clos Rougeard has their famed Le Bourg vineyard. Typically Saint Cyr en Bourg has slightly richer red clay soils in some parts still with a limestone base. These soils are often better suited to Cabernet Franc with some exceptions which have more prominent limestone making those parcels more suitable to Chenin Blanc. The reds wines from Saint Cyr can be labelled Saumur-Champigny as this village lies within that appellation, however the hill of Breze is just outside of that appellation and so the wines carry the shorter Saumur name as do the whites of Saint Cyr en Bourg as the Saumur-Champagny appellation is just for red wines not white.
In 2019 Arnaud has also started work on a vineyard in Montsoreau near the Chateau of Montsoreau located high above the Loire river on a rocky outcrop in the far east of the appellation close to the border with Chinon. Arnaud is clearly dedicated to showcasing the great terroirs of Saumur and that journey is still very young. This is a journey well worth following - and getting on board now not only gives you a cheap ticket but access to some of the Loire’s most exciting Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc terroirs. The French wine press is well on-board for these wines having seen the progression every vintage and now the English and American press have also just “discovered” the wines so stay tuned.
2018 Les Perrieres Saumur St Cyr en Bourg (blanc)
From vines averaging 65 year old on silt soil over limestone. Vinified with indigenous yeast after separating free run and press juices and aged in a combination of older foudres and barrels. Bottled late March and shows very immediate lifted fruit on the aromas and palate. Very clear expression of fruit with building intensity and very good length and shape on the palate. Arnaud describes that he is looking for wines that show no oxidation that are clean and pure.
2018 Clos du Midi Saumur Brézé (blanc)
From his largest single holding of 3.5 ha of south-east facing vines planted in 1985 on light sandy clay soil over limestone. Vinification using no SO2 in stainless steel tank with indigenous yeast and no malolactic. Bottled in March 2019 with alcohol of 13.7% this shows excellent freshness and precision in a pure fruit-forward expression of chenin in its most pure state. Very attractive and approachable right away.
2017 Clos David Saumur Brézé (blanc)
From a 1.3 ha north-east facing site planted in 1965 on light sandy soil over limestone. Vinified with indigenous yeast and vinified 50% in aged foudres and 50% in barrel (15% new) and aged on fine lees. Fine and discrete on the aromas yet a notable step up in complexity and depth. Very long and intense with great precision on the palate, not at all fat or soft this shows lively citric acid giving great length and shape to the palate.
2016 Clos de la Rue Saumur Brézé (blanc) - VERY LIMITED
From a 2 ha south facing site planted half 1965 and half 1990 on sandy soil over clay with a limestone base. Vinified with indigenous yeast 50% in aged foudres and 50% in barrel (35% new) and aged for 2 years on fine lees. Here the wine shows virtually no impact from the extended oak ageing or the new oak, such is the strength of the fruit it shows excellent integration and comfortably rides above the elevage. This shows notable acid freshness giving great length and shape on the palate. Very long with terrific complexity and ageing potential.
+ a tiny quantity of the rarely made sweet white in 500ml
2009 Or de Brézé Coteaux de Saumur (sweet white) 500ml - VERY LIMITED
Tiny production of this golden, vibrant, yet intensely sweet (127 gm/ltr residual sugar) late harvest Chenin b;anc from 30 year old vines giving a yield of just 10 hl/ha. Aged for 24 months in new oak and then a further 12 months in stainless steel. Carried by very good acidity and shows lots of life and ageing potential this is also drinking exceptionally well now. A very rare and intense sweet wine which Saumur is capable of producing in the very best vintages.
2018 Clos Mazurique Saumur Brézé (rouge)
From a 3.7 ha west facing site on light silty sand over limestone on the southern side of Brézé. 100% destemmed and fermented with partial whole berries with indigenous yeast in concrete tank with a very gentle maceration using infusion and no pump overs. Very expressive and perfumed and made in pure juicy and early drinking style. Very fresh and fine with lovely light texture and very little tannin this is a perfect wine for spring and summer and early drinking. Super attractive and smashable.
2016 Clos Tue Loup Saumur Brézé (rouge)
From a 2 ha site planted 1995 on sand over limestone soil. 100% destemmed and fermented with indigenous yeast this has a very gentle vinification using maceration with no pump overs. Aged 50% in tank and 50% in older barrels and blended together back in tank for another 6 months of ageing before bottling and ageing another 12 months in bottle before release. Very fresh fine and expressive yet also quite restrained. Would benefit from decanting to show its best, this has obvious ageing potential.
2018 Terres Rouges Saumur Champigny St Cyr en Bourg (rouge)
From vines averaging 45 years old planted in red silty clay soil over limestone base with a warmer west facing exposition. 100% destemmed and fermented with partial whole berries with indigenous yeast in tank after separating free run and press juices with no SO2 for ageing and just 1 mg SO2 at bottling after 8 months in tank. Very fleshy and perfumed yet fine. Gives immediate pleasure with ripe expressive red fruits showing very good depth and complexity. Pure pleasure and a joy to drink young.
2017 Montees des Roches Saumur Champigny St Cyr en Bourg (rouge) - VERY LIMITED
From vines averaging 35 years old facing east on red silty clay soil over limestone bedrock. 100% destemmed and fermented with indigenous yeast in tank after separating free run and press juices with no SO2 for ageing and just 1 mg SO2 at bottling after 12 months ageing in older barrels before blending in tank and ageing for another 6 months. Arnaud feels with this vintage he has understood the site to get the best expression and this shows very fine with beautiful pure aromas. Very fine and pure on the palate with a big step up in expression and complexity this shows real finesse of tannins and structure and is a very beautiful expression of variety and site. A serious and stunning Saumur rouge.