They slightly disminished the surface of their vineyard do do a better work. They do organic viticulture since 1991 (Ecocert) and this of course means hard work everywhere in the vineyard.
Catherine Roussel begins the visit for us, in the cellar and the chai, leading us to the deep caves and galleries under the chalk hill on the back of the house. The hills along the Cher river are mined with galleries, caves and tunnels from which the chalk was extracted centuries ago to build the houses and chateaus of the region
Then comes Didier Barrouillet, as Catherine has to do elsewhere. He will let us discover the domaine's wines, tasting from bottles and casks in the low-lit cellar. Previously to his activity in the wine world, he was a mathematician, and he brought methodology as well as intuition in the chai.
It is raining outside and the dogs (mother and her young one) come and go to ask silently for attention, a play or a stroke ...
__1 . Chardonnay "Terre Blanche" 2003 . 100% Chardonnay-only not being allowed, there is 2% of something else. Nose is quite like new wine still in vinification. Vinified in new casks. Very nice wine. turbid. Non filtered. 7 Euro. And 5,3 Euro for the filtered one.
__2. Sauvignon 2003. This white is vinified in 12-hectoliter tronconic vats (wooden vats). Nice nose. Freshness. 13,8°, this is 2003 for sure. Rich in the mouth. But very mineral at the same time. 2003 has not produced the classical Touraine Sauvignon wines, and this is true all over the region. In other places around here, there is the temptation to add enzymes, and it makes a gap between the nose and the mouth. This wine costs 7,5 Euro. Very small production this year .
__3 . A red. Gamay 2003. Strong nose. Jam. Quite a deep colour. Gamay is a difficult grape variety to work on (in the vineyard), which is a reason of the small surface of it in the world. The grape skin is very thin on Gamay and it makes it more likely to suffer from disease and external threats. Stricter pruning is necessary. In the Domaine, 3 persons work : The two of them, and a third person. Plus 20 people hired for harvest time. This Gamay is priced 5,3 Euro.
__4 . Cabernet 2003. This red is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice nose. 6,1 Euro. Telling about organic viticulture, Didier Barrouillet explains that they practice the "biodiversity", which means that they do everything to keep wild plants as well as weeds, because they help build the diversity of the ecosystem. They stopped using any kind of insecticides, even "organic" ones, since they implemented this plant diversity between the rows. They could afford to, because insects stopped to threaten the vineyard after they multiplied the plants and weeds. They also stopped biodynamy a few years ago. The problem is, a vineyard is a sort of monoculture which attracts pests. And if you just put grass between the rows, that's not enough, as you just add, sort of, another monoculture to the vineyard. It is better to have a real diversity in this grass cover, with selected weeds and honey plants that attract tiny hymenoptera (bee-like small insects) that parasite pests' eggs. A few sunflowers are good at it too. "Organic" insecticides are even less selective than the "chemical" ones, and don't detail . That is paradoxal. Here they use sometimes nettle purée.
__5 . Cot 2003 . This red grape variety, also known as Malbec, is vinified here in 50-hectoliter wooden tronconic-vats. Tannic. Ideally wait 4-5 years for this wine. 7,3 Euro. Partially destemmed. Depends of the year. This year (2004) it was entirely destemmed. In 2003 only partially. Keeping the stems allows to better aerate, to have air ventilated during fermentation. Some of the vines are very old. 3 generations ago, someone here wanted to show that after the Phyloxera disaster, something new could come to life again. He planted 15 hectares at the end of the 19th century. That was a big surface at this time. Some of the original Cot vines are still there ( 110 years old...).
__6 . La Closerie 2002. A red blend of the three varieties, Cot, Cabernet, Gamay. 1/3 each. 1 year in new casks. La Closerie means"the house with vineyards nearby". Not the same as Clos, which means "vineyard surrounded by walls". Long in the mouth. 7,1 Euro. The red wines are not filtered here, but the use of thermoregulated vats allows to decant tartar during one week before bottling.
After this visit, and after we bought a few bottles, we both walk uphill see the vineyard by our own. The house is backed to a woody hill, with the cellar and its galleries under the hill, and on the side, a dirt road goes through the 100-meter-deep wood to the other side of this hill, to the vineyards. Typical mild winter weather. Grey, not too cold, and drizzle. Careful with the camera lens. Some of the vines do look very old . Nice green carpet. And a huge ventilator in the middle of it in the distance. Didier Barrouillet told us about this antifreeze ventilator, with its heating system underneath. It can be very useful for the second half of april. Same before the harvest to dissipate humidity at this crucial phase. The first one we saw was at Didier Dagueneau, in Pouilly-Fumé, on the eastern wing of the Loire Valley. Very impressive.
Some importers in the US : Triage Wines ( Seattle, WA ), Estate Wines Ltd ( San Rafael, CA ) , Douglas Polaner Selections ( Mount Kisco, NY ) . And Dressner selections