The Savennières appellation, including its ‘Grand Cru’ sub-appellations of Roche Aux Moines and Coulée de Serrant, is planted to just 156 hectares of vineyard (100% Chenin Blanc) and produces some of the most noble and age-worthy dry white wines of France. And today after just 20 years of winemaking and not having been born into or inheriting any vineyards, Damien Laureau is widely acclaimed as one of Savennières’ top producers.
Although he is often referred to as one of the appellation’s ‘new’ superstars, Damien now has nearly 20 vintages of experience behind him. Coming from a family farming background, he started out working with his uncle at a small vineyard in Anjou in the mid 1990s. By 1999 he had acquired his first vines in Savennières and in 2006 he abandoned the Anjou appellation to focus specifically on Savennières. Since then has gradually increased his vineyard sources through both acquisition and leasing, to the still very boutique total of 8.5 hectares.
Damien works organically in the vineyard and was certified organic in 2012. All harvesting is done by hand in successive tries throughout each vineyard to ensure the highest quality fruit, albeit at the expense of volume. The wines are vinified with natural yeasts and given extended lees contact without batonnage, to build texture but without excessive richness. The wines all go through malolactic conversion allowing a very low sulphur regime, whilst maintaining the freshness and minerality that Savennières is famous for. Maturation takes place in both tank and barrel depending on the wine, however new oak influence is not a part of the style.
2018 Damien Laureau Savennières La Petite Roche
From a young schist-based vineyard located between Savennières and La Possonnière.
’This is a young-vines cuvée, and this sample was drawn from cuve, where the wine currently rests. It should be bottled in April 2019. The nose is very expressive, and very pure, reminiscent of citrus fruits rubbed on stone, with a particular touch of bitter lime. The palate starts off cool and lean, with some light and sandy fruit. Pure and lightly smoky, stony, with a little weight and a bitter grip in the finish. This is a charming, entry-level Savennières.’ 90-92 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, June 2019.
2016 Damien Laureau Savennières La Petite Roche
‘From young vines planted in 2010 and 2012, on sandy soils over schist, in two adjacent southeast- and southwest-facing parcels close to the river. I first tasted this in February last year, from cuve, so it is good to return to it after bottling. It presents a nose of hay and straw, with a little oaky, wild-flower scent, aromas which have replaced the primary fruit seen last time. There follows a quite softly textural palate, with some candied fruits, rounded off with a soft and grippy finish. All in all it has a charming and quite confident style, true to the appellation and the terroir, full and broad, with attractive acidity.’ 92 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2018.
2015 Damien Laureau Savennières Les Genêts
From a selection of the sandier soil terroirs, mostly from around the Moulin de Beaupréau. Tank fermented, then matured in barrel for 12 months, followed by a final elevage in tank for another 4-6 months.
‘This cuvée comes from older vines, at least 25-years old, planted on soils of sand, schist and slate. It was vinified in 400-litre barrels, using a 5% sliver of new minimal-toast oak, with a one-year élevage in barrel, followed by four months in stainless steel cuve. The aromatics here are very pure, with very confidently perfumed fruits, apple, mirabelle and peach, with a trace of wildflowers, minerals and oak. This is followed by a succulent palate, tense and minerally, with great substance too. It feels so bright and balanced. Very fine, just a notch behind the splendid 2014 vintage.’ 94 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2018.
2015 Damien Laureau Savennières Le Bel Ouvrage
From a selection of the rockier terroirs, including a rhyolite based plot in the Chambourcier lieu-dit. Tank fermented, then matured in barrel for 12 months, followed by a final elevage in tank for another 11 months.
‘Here the vines are planted on 'green rocks', says Damien, in other words rhyolite and schist. This was vinified in 400-litre barrels, with a small percentage of new oak used. This was followed by a one-year élevage, followed by eleven months in stainless steel cuve. It has a simply beautiful nose, all white-peach finesse and purity, with a fine mineral and salty expression. A superb poise on the palate, precise, showing freshness and energy but also substance and depth. It is finely polished and yet it is the intertwined tension and grip that really carries it along. This is absolutely top class, showing an unanticipated linearity for the riper 2015 vintage. Well done, Damien.’ 96 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2018.
”From vines planted on schist, and vinified in barrel. This has superb purity on the nose, and such focus, with intertwined seams of honeyed beeswax and fine minerals. The palate continues in very much the same vein, showing a very finely defined and polished layer of fruits, full and grippy, but it has an elegant poise as well. This is quite stunning, with a long and finessed finish. This is a very accomplished wine.” 96 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, June 2019.
2015 Damien Laureau Savennières Roche Aux Moines
From a small 0.25 ha parcel rented from the Baron Brincard holdings in this famous vineyard, adjacent to Coulée de Serrant. Fermented and matured in 400l barrels.
‘This flagship cuvée originates from a 0.25-hectare parcel of vines, aged between eight and sixteen years. It is quite slow to start on the nose, but it is worth the wait, as it slowly unfolds to reveal notes of ripe orchard fruit drizzled with a honeyed sweetness. Don't let this rich description fool you though, there is no sugar lingering here, as this is clearly tense and drily defined, as we see on the mid-palate which shows incredible substance and structure, being both bold and broad, but also taut and energetic. This is all cushioned by a great pithy confidence, which lies comfortably intertwined with a citrus-acid freshness. An incredibly long, tense and direct wine. All in all, superb. I challenge any Savennières-deniers to taste this and not be completely enchanted.’ 97 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2018.
2014 Damien Laureau Savennières Les Genêts
‘A lovely floral purity to the aromatics of this cuvée, with citrus fruits, orange blossom, pear skin and elderflower. The palate has great purity to match this aromatic impact, a nicely tangible texture, with convincing freshness, great acid-driven energy, great vigour too, with a broad array of pure and bright flavours. This is a very fine, energetic, poised and serious wine. An impressive result, even in such a strong vintage.’ 95 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2017.
2014 Damien Laureau Savennières Le Bel Ouvrage
‘The nose here is reminiscent of preserved lemons and orange pith, with a minerally confidence, very bright and convincing. The palate feels pure, fresh and bright, almost ethereal with its lifted fruit and pithy bitterness dancing along atop a bed of gentle mineral nuances and a streak of fresh acidity that feels so typical of the vintage. This is so succulent and composed, and yet there is such energy too. Absolutely delicious. A superb wine.’ 96 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2017.
2014 Damien Laureau Savennières Roche Aux Moines
‘This was bottled in December 2015. Fresh, very pure, with crushed white rocks, energetic and defined, with wonderful confidence. The palate is just so convincing, with such profound purity, lifting the white-peach fruit. It has an incisive acid frame, beautiful tension and yet there is a blanket of relaxed fruit draped between them. Splendid substance, elegant and unforced, but with beautiful precision of energy and minerality. The finish is composed, harmonious and correct. Nice length too. A breathtaking wine which shows why I consider Damien Laureau to be top tier in the appellation.’ 97 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2016.
2013 Damien Laureau Savennières Le Bel Ouvrage
'This has seen out one year in barrique, then ten months in cuve, then it was bottled. A beautiful definition to it, wonderfully polished yellow plum substance, with a broad texture, and piles of grip. Quite pure, defined, but with very expressive fruit, precise, minerally and bright. It culminates in a long and grippy finish. This is very impressive. Fine potential here.' 95 points, Chris Kissack, thewinedoctor.com, February 2016.