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Loire Valley
page 2  Adele Rouze Quincy, Henri Bourgeois,  Pichot Vouvray

ADÈLE ROUZÉ
We're always interested in finding new and interesting Sauvignon Blanc wines.

The appellation of Quincy (it's pronounced Can-See, not Kwin-see) is not very well known to most wine drinkers.  Even French people have little experience with Quincy wines, since those of nearby Sancerre tend to dominate wine lists in the Sauvignon "section."

But Quincy has a very long history, being the first area to gain appellation status in the Centre-Loire way back in 1936.  There are even references to Quincy and its wine  as far back as the year 1120, well before the world had Robert Parker to tell it what wines to drink!


Young Adèle Rouzé's father is one of the leading lights of the appellation.  Adèle now has about one hectare's worth of vines to work with when she's not doing her "day job" as a certified agricultural appraiser.

The photo above shows Adèle standing in front of her one 'tank' of wine and she's smiling because the notion of sending some bottles half-way around the world to be consumed by savvy, wine-drinking San Franciscans is almost a fantasy.


But in reality, we now have our eleventh vintage of her terrific Quincy.  The appellation, by the way, is devoted solely to Sauvignon.

 


 
The 2021 vintage is the current offering.  We like its crisp character and unmistakable Sauvignon fragrances and flavors. It has a nicely intense Sauvignon aroma.   The wine is at home with oysters, fresh crab, a salad with goat cheese, etc.  When you make one hectare's worth of wine, you can make it the way you like, not having to worry about "marketing" and the like.  As a result, this is not a wine appealing to those who prefer oak or residual sugar. 

Sorry...this is for adults.
 

Currently in stock:  2021 QUINCY $18.99



Adele in the winter of 2008...



Adele in the Spring of 2011

 

 

CHÂTEAU DE FOSSE-SÉCHE

This little estate is located about 10 miles southwest from the town of Saumur in the Loire Valley.  

They have a terroir that's different from most Saumur vineyard sites in that theirs is silex with iron oxides.  Most of the vineyards are limestone.  As a result we found something distinctive in the Cabernet Franc wine from Fosse-Sèche, but it may be a bit too subtle for some people to detect.  But that's okay...this is a really good Loire Valley red and it does share some characteristics of other Cabernet-Franc reds from this region.


There's a good look at their soil.

 
The Pire brothers own this little domaine that's surrounded by a national bird sanctuary and some woodlands.


If we've understood their history, they are born in Belgium and had been living in Madagascar before returning to Europe to further their education.

Guillaume Pire studied viticulture and enology in Switzerland, while his twin brother Adrien learned agronomy in Belgium before the two teamed up to run this modest domaine.

They farm about 15 hectares of vineyards, more than half being Cabernet Franc with a modest planting of Chenin Blanc.  There's an acre of Chardonnay and two of Cabernet Sauvignon.  
 


Another interesting dynamic of the wine from Fosse-Sèche is their Saumur-Champigny is matured predominantly, if not exclusively, in special "concrete eggs" which are made of clay, lime and sand.  They find these special aging vessels allow the wine to develop as they would in an oak tank or barrel, except there is no fragrance or flavor from wood.  
 


Is this noticeable in the wine?  Well, you'll have to buy a bottle to taste it, but we can tell you the Cabernet Franc is in the spotlight.   We have the 2017 vintage and it's a delightful red.  There's red berry fruit on the nose and palate with medium+ body.  There's good acidity and a touch of tannin, so the wine can likely be cellared for some years.  They'll tell you this can go a decade or two, but we view it as being drinkable immediately and over the next five to ten years.  

The vineyards are 10 to 60 years of age and the yields are rather low which helps account for the special character of this wine.  It's Cabernet Franc, of course, with a few drops of Cabernet Sauvignon.  As mentioned earlier, you won't find oak in this wine.
We have seen some notations of this wine as a "Vin de France," while others call it a Saumur-Champigny.
The bottles we have are labeled simply as "Saumur."
Whatever you want to call it, it's delicious!


Currently in stock:  2017 FOSSE-SÈCHE SAUMUR "EOLITHE"  $33.99

 

They're quite proud of the wildflowers and birds, insects, etc. that populate their estate.

They have quite a bird population there, too.

This fellow, they say, loves the property not so much for the wine but for the fish and amphibians he finds in the area.

 

 

 


DOMAINE DE REUILLY

Denis Jamain is "Monsieur Reuilly" to us, the owner and winemaker of the benchmark wines from  this somewhat obscure Loire Valley appellation.

Reuilly is due south of Orleans and south-west of Sancerre, Pouilly Fume and Menetou Salon.  They tell us their harvest typically starts a week, or so, before wineries in Sancerre begin to pick their grapes.

The soil is limestone and you really get a stony/minerally quality of the Sauvignon Blanc grown there.  We find an almost salty note to the wine and it's stone, bone dry. 

The vineyard for this special wine comes from a two hectare site which is now farmed biodynamically.  The vines are something like 23 years of age and the grapes are hand-harvested each vintage.

If you're a fan of cured or smoked salmon, this is a terrific match.  But fresh crab pairs well, as do prawns, scallops and white fish.



Another interesting wine made by Jamain is Pinot Gris.  He gives the wine a bit of skin contact and produces a light pink wine that we refer to as "good orange wine."  In an era when some producers make orange-colored wines which are oxidized or worse, this is fresh, nicely fruity and rather dry without being too austere.   We have not yet tasted the 2017, so it is not presently in stock.

 

Currently in stock:  2016 DOMAINE DE REUILLY "REUILLY BLANC"  Sold Out

 

GERARD FIOU

 
The Fiou family ran this estate for a number of generations and we are not sure if they are still on the property, as it seems the wine from these vineyards is being vinified by the famous winery of Henri Bourgeois, a leading Loire Valley producer and ambassador.

The soils in the Saint Satur region, just a few kilometers northeast of downtown Sancerre, are quite flinty (silex) and produce a distinctive Sauvignon Blanc.  This sort of terroir is a bit rare within the Sancerre appellation, but it's more commonly found across the river where they make Pouilly-Fumé.

The 2019 is exceptional, having been vinified in stainless steel and matured for a few months on the spent yeast.

It's crisp, bone dry, light, yet flavorful.  The aromas are nicely intense, too.

Wonderful wine...

 

 

Currently in Stock:  GERARD FIOU 2019 SANCERRE Blanc "Silex" $29.99

 

 

DOMAINE DE BEAUSEJOUR

This is a modest little estate owned by the Chauveau family.  The property was first purchased in 1951 by a doctor named Chauveau.   His son Gerard, who was an architect, took over the estate in 1968 and decided to take the plunge and plant a few grape vines.

Today the estate comprises about 93 hectares, but only 27 are devoted to vineyards.  They make a fair bit of wine, all of it made of Cabernet Franc.  Some wine is sold in bulk and they bottle the equivalent of about 10,000 cases.

This wine is not one intended for wine geeks or collectors.  It's not a trophy wine and it's not going to knock your socks off.  I doubt the Chauveau's intend to make such wines.

Instead, this is the sort of classic, old-fashioned, old-school, typical bottle of Chinon that is served in French restaurants around the world.  It's a wine which transports me back to Paris and it's nothing hugely compelling.  It's merely well-made and typical.  

I find the Cabernet Franc aromas to be reminiscent of red fruits and there's a faint suggestion of a woodsy, smoky note without the wine being overtly oaky.

It's medium bodied, not heavy, but not watery.  We suggest serving this at cool cellar temperature and you can pair it with lighter fare:  roasted chicken, roasted pork, mild beef or lamb...rabbit?  It's a fairly versatile wine and it's affordably-priced since it doesn't get 95 point scores.

It does get a thumbs up from us, however.
 

Currently in stock:  DOMAINE DE BEAUSEJOUR 2017 CHINON $18.99


Chinon cameras do not run on Chinon wine.

 

 



DOMAINE DE LA FONTAINERIE


This 6 hectare Vouvray domaine started in about 1712 and was taken over in 1990 by Catherine Dhoye-Deruet.  She produces about 25,000 bottles of wine annually, making dry, off-dry, sweet and sparkling wines.






 

The vineyard property features chalky slopes in the Valle Coquette.  

Sparkling Vouvray is certainly known in the Loire Valley, but outside the region, few people have ever tasted such a wine.  Catherine makes a non-vintaged bottling as well as a vintage-dated wine.  We find many wines of Vouvray to have a fragrance reminiscent of dried mushrooms.  The sparkling wine here displays that aroma when first opened, for example.
Yet as the wine airs, this blows off.  Please don't judge it based on the first sniff!  (I should note that a Champagne winemaker told us he liked to decant his young sparkling wines...he felt the oxygenation helped open up the wine.  After enjoying Fontainerie's bubbly, I have to say I agree that giving the wine some air is a good idea!)
As the sparkling wine from this region is not thought to be the equal of Champagne, it remains a price-worthy alternative to its famous cousin.  Twelve dollars and change will get you a bottle of Fontainerie's Brut Sparkler from the 1997 vintage.

 
 
 
 


Samples for INAO, the French Bureaucracy.



Samples for Wine-Tasting Customers.



We tasted many wines on our visit.


Lunch with Vouvray.
The "Rillettes" (in the little 'tub') from the artisan charcutier "Hardouin" are even prepared with Vouvray!  Needless to say, the combination is quite good!
 

 


The 2007 Vouvray Sec is a nice example of Chenin Blanc from the Loire vinified in a dry style.  Mildly fruity on the nose but with an "edge" to it.

Currently in stock:  
2007 Vouvray Sec  Sold Out





 

 

 

CHAUMEAU

Called "La Maison d'Anaïs," this 14 hectare domaine is run by Sylvie Chaumeau and her cousin Jean-Jacques Auchère.  It's located in the prime terroir of Bué, an ideal site for Sauvignon Blanc.
 
 
It's all about the farming of the vineyards...nothing fancy here apart from stainless steel, temperature-controlled tanks to vinify the Sauvignon Blanc.  

We currently have the 2020, a bone dry, lip-smackingly crisp dry white with tones reminiscent of citrus in a minerally sort of way.

Best chilled and paired with seafood.
 

Currently in stock:  CHAUMEAU 2020 SANCERRE  $22.99

 
 





CHÂTEAU de SURONDE

Once owned by a guy whose college training was as a language interpreter, this family used to own about a half the appellation of Quarts-de-Chaume at one time.  

 We visited the property in March of 2002 and found an amazing cellar and vineyard.  Organic farming. In fact, the then-winemaker/wine grower Francis Poirel does biologique farming.   Tiny yields, as he makes just 5,000 to 10,000 bottles annually from his 7.5 hectares.  Amazing wines.
The property was purchased in 2016 by some Belgian ladies who own a nearby estate.
Kathleen Van Den Berghe and Sigurd Mareels now own this winery.

The vineyards are farmed biodynamically...Poirel started that and the new proprietors are continuing with those protocols.



This is one of those "serious" winemakers who understands how to coax the best from the vineyards and how to capture that special quality in the bottle.
Poirel made wonderfully expressive, soulful wines.
 



When we visited him, ages ago, we tasted a terrific dry white wine which he explained could "only" be designated as a Vin de Table.  That's because the Appellation Contrôllée laws required the wine be fermented with a commercial yeast, not the wild yeast that's part of the grape skins!  I can't quite recall precisely the rest of the silly, appallingly lame requirements, but the fruit was harvested too ripe and did not require Francis add sugar to the juice. This was another strike against the wine from the legal standpoint, but a positive factor from a wine quality perspective.
 






His 2002 Quarts-de-Chaume is a delicious Chenin Blanc.  One of those wines which displays this magnificent and relatively unheralded grape.  It's got lots of honeyed notes and yet retains a fine 'edge' of minerality and acidity.

We had a bottle of an earlier vintage with Bob's sautéed foie gras...
Quarts-de-Chaume

It was a magnificent combination!!!
 
 
Currently available: 
 2002 Quarts-de-Chaume  $64.99  (750ml)  (Last bottles)



 


 

 
HENRI BOURGEOIS
I've sensed from my few visits to the Sancerre area that this firm is highly respected by the smaller, independent growers in the area.  While there are a number of fairly large firms doing business in this part of the Loire, none is as highly regarded as Bourgeois.  And if you taste their wines, you'll understand they do strive for a quality product.  


Plus Monsieur Bourgeois travels the world, playing the role of an ambassador for Loire Valley wines.  The last time we saw him here in California, his pockets were full of rocks!  He wanted to show everyone the sort of terrain his wines come from!



        
The various soils in the Sancerre region.


Located in the famous village of Chavignol, they have a modest-sized facility towards the top of the hill.  They bottle quite a range of wines, featuring a number of bottlings of Sancerre.  



 
We have their special bottling from the famous Monts Damnés hillside.  It's the 2019 vintage.  
This comes from Kimmeridgian soils...fossilized sea shells and clay.  The site is south and southwest facing and only about a dozen estates own a patch of vines there.

The grapes are pressed and they allow the juice to rest in tank for a few days to clear a bit.  Then it is fermented in stainless steel tanks with fairly mild temperatures.  After the fermentation they leave the wine on its spent yeast for 9 or 10 months and then it's bottled...

Some old-timers routinely watch the lunar cycles before deciding when to rack the wine from the barrel and Bourgeois does this, too.

Seafood is an especially good pairing for this.  Dungeness Crab is ideal, but sea scallops, prawns or even a lemon-scented chicken work well with this. 
 






Currently in stock:  2019 HENRI BOURGEOIS SANCERRE "La Côte des Monts Damnés"  $39.99
2018 HENRI BOURGEOIS "Petit Bourgeois" Sauvignon Blanc  Sold Out


 










DOMAINE PICHOT

This is a father and son enterprise, with son Christophe owning the Le Peu de la Moriette property and dad taking care of the Coteau de la Biche.  Together there are about 27 hectares of vines.

Typically the "Le Peu de la Moriette" label features wines of some level of residual sugar, while the Coteau de la Biche wines are in the dry to demi-sec range.  

A number of producers of Chenin Blanc wines in the Loire take pride in the ability of their wines to cellar well.  We visited a fellow who makes a small amount of Chenin for his own amusement and he showed us a bottle of a fifty year old wine which tasted far younger than it was.  

The Pichot's make a range of wines, but it's their "Moelleux" wine we've had in the shop the past few years.  A relatively unknown wine, we were distressed to see a favorable review of this wine in The Wine Spectator.  Never mind that few wine drinkers are interested in sweet Chenin Blanc, but those fixated on numerical scores stampede when some journal raves about a wine.  It's some sort of religious thing, apparently.

The 2003 is quite good.  Still a bit young, but very nice.  The acidity balances the sweetness.  The fragrance is rather typical of many Vouvray wines and it's not a bright, fruity character but has a note which reminds me of many of the underground chalk cellars in the region.  If you don't mind this "earthy" tone to the wine, you might enjoy trying a bottle.

The 2018 is much like its predecessors...there's ample acidity to balance the sweetness, so the wine is quite good as both an aperitif and a 'table wine.'  It's delicious now and should remain in fine shape for two or three years.  Bright melon and a tangy, citrusy tone are the themes of this Vouvray.  Good wine and good value.
 
Currently in stock:  2003 Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette Vouvray "Moelleux"  $23.99
2018 Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette Vouvray  $15.99

 

 

 
 


 


DOMAINE WILFRID ROUSSE  (La Halbardiere)

 
Wilfrid Rousse has built up a nice little domaine in Chinon, having started in 1987 with a mere one hectare parcel.  Today he cultivates 19.5 hectares of vineyards and the domaine is certified as being famed biodynamically.
 


They're located about a 45 minute drive west of Tours (add another 15 minutes if you're in Vouvray or Montlouis), while

Nineteen of those hectares are devoted to Cabernet Franc, but Rousse also farms a half hectare plot of Chenin Blanc.

The symbol of the domaine is a weathervane featuring a mermaid holding a fish.   A nearby chateau was once owned by a prominent admiral and governor and the weathervane of this mermaid adorned the house.  He was said to have hosted all sorts of prominent dignitaries, including King Charles VII.  
 

The domaine is a partnership between Wilfrid Rousse and his wife Annie.  He's up to his elbows in grapevines and in the cellar and she handles administrative and marketing issues.

We tasted a couple of good wines from this property.  

The 2016 Les Galuches Chinon is a nice example of Cabernet Franc.  It's a medium bodied red wine, bigger than a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir, but a bit lighter than a Cabernet or Merlot.  It's not intended to be a big bruiser, but instead a more gentle sort of red wine.  It's dry and there's a faintly smoky tone in the background with nice red fruit up front.  
Serving it with roasted chicken, a savory pork roast, sausages, mild lamb or beef dishes, etc.  Cool cellar temp will show it off nicely.

The local importer tells us she hopes to have a new vintage in early 2022, or so.  Stay tuned.

 

Currently in stock:  2013 WILFRID ROUSSE CHINON ROSÉ Sold Out
2016 WILFRID ROUSSE CHINON ROUGE  Sold Out


 
 


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