In another life, Florence Veilex, a trained mathematician, was living near Paris and working for a non-wine-related big company. From her child years she had the dream of having her own farm and living in the countryside and she ultimately quit her job to realize that dream. It all started with the discovery through her husband Eric Yung of this region on the far side of Touraine, a beautiful area with quiet villages, woods and vineyards at the south of Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher. Eric Yung had also an atypical carrer : A high-ranking cop in Paris in the 1970s', he joined the Antigang (an elite police force), then quit, wrote a book about these shaky years in the force and became a journalist on the printed media and the radio.
Chateauvieux is indeed a beautiful village as you can see on the picture on the left. You just have to photoshop away this very ugly cement pole in your mind though to enjoy the scene, as the State utility EDF needlessly puts these horrors everywhere in the place of the former, more discreet wooden poles. Chateauvieux has its Chateau (in the far on the hill), which has been turned into a retirement home, and its old church dominating the village, and many houses have their own underground tuff cellar like the ones you can see on the left. This is a very nice village off the beaten path. Touraine is still an affordable region to start a winery : As the market prices of the wines here are often between 4 and 5 Euro a bottle, the vineyards are accordingly good-valued, with very interesting terroirs, beginning with Sauvignon but also for Gamay and Côt.
Florence Veilex looked around, visited many vineyards and wineries on sale before choosing this particular estate. She was helped in her initial research by Thierry Michaud, who manages the same-name estate in Noyers near Saint Aignan sur Cher.
They both live in an old renovated country house where they also set up a nice tasting room and the office. The winery itself, the chai, which sits just along the house, is modern, and they don't have any of these beautiful tuff cellars underneath although they're so common around here.
Florence Veilex is quite energetic and even though her winery has two permanent staff, she seems to be able to do quite a lot. Her husband Eric kept his job at France Bleu, the local network of the French State radio, which is safe and wise when you're in the early years of developping a winery. They bought this winery in 2003. After quitting her former job, she had at the same time to begin to work on her new winery, supervise the repairs and to follow viticulture courses, a BTS de Viticulture - Oenologie for adults in Amboise, which lasted nearly two years. It was the hardest part of this adventure because there were about 35 hours of courses per week, plus the time on the road to go there and back, the home work and the winery to run... And she was not from a rural family, so she probabluy needed more effort to learn everything from scratch, compared with youngsters who study in these agricultural schools and who often have parents in the trade.
The estate lies one or two kilometers outside Chateauvieux on the plateau. The vineyards, which are at a close distance of the facility make up about 13 hectares, mostly Sauvignon (7 hectares), plus 3 hectares of Gamay, 2 hectares of Cöt and 1 hectare of Cabernet Franc. The vineyards are crucial when you choose a winery, the respective quality of the vines and of the terroir can't be changed, that's why they needed the help of an experienced vigneron to select the right available estate to purchase. Thierry Michaud of La Martinière helped them a lot in that regard. Asked if the Touraine is really affordable to buy an existing winery, she says yes, and she adds that this part of the Loire offers good deals when an old vigneron retires and sells. There aere even young, aspiring vignerons who settle down here and buy wine properties because the real estate is still cheap. Now, of course, she says, the prices of the wines around here are also quite low (often about 5 Euro public price for a Sauvignon or a red), which is why the estates are cheap.
This year they had a first late harvest and this one was entirely manual.
Otherwise, each vintage brings its own imprint on the wine, and she doesn't force it to express the same way year after year, even if her customers find a regularity in her cuvées. The acidity for example is varying, and she doesn't re-acidify, adding that it is forbidden in the region by the way. She says that the Gamay 2009 which are still in the vats are extraordinary, and that's the vintage effect. The yields were less than 30 hectoliter/hectare for Gamay in 2009 because of the hailstorm. The yields for the Sauvignon this year was a bit more than 40 ho/ha. The Côt was so low that she prefers not give a figure. Asked if this year she will still sell also bibs, she says yes. The wine of the bibs, she says, is the same than the one of the bottles, she doesn't have a less qualitative vat that she would sell in bibs. She says that it is important for her customers who like to have a glass of Sauvignon for the apéritif, or have to receive many friends, to have the bibs, it is more economical and she herself liked to use them before she set up this winery for her apéritifs. Her Sauvignon cost 4,95 € while the 5-liter bib costs 17 € and the 10-liter bib 31 €.
__ La Chapinière Rosé Frais d'Eté 2008. Fresh, balanced, nice attack. Cabernet Franc & Gamay. She wanted to name it "L'Eté Sera Chaud" (summer will be hot). The mouth has a nice gliding feel. She has us taste it before the Sauvignon because the latter has more substance. 3,9 € public price per bottle (5-liter bib : 15 €).
__ La Chapinière Touraine Sauvignon 2008. Sauvignon nose. The mouth reveals a nice richness with minerality. Perly side on the tongue. 4,95 € (bibs : 17 € / 31 €). No malolactic fermentation here, she stops it. She says that the malo brings the acidity further down and that's not what she looks for. A Sauvignon, she adds, must have some complexity so it must be picked ripe, and have the proper substance developped through the right vinification.
__ La Chapinière Touraine Gamay 2008. Gentle wine like Gamay can be. Nose with the cherry, morelo cherry, cherry pie notes. Interesting intensity when swallowed. 4,2 € (bibs : 14,5 € / 26,5 €). Malo-ferm made here, like for all the reds. She makes sure that the atmosphere of the vatroom keeps warm enough and the malo usually start in october/november.
__ La Chapinière Touraine Côt Gardon 2006. Legs on the glass, relatively dark color. Nice substance in the mouth with balance. Thin tannins, cooked fruits aromas. Named from an old vigneron of Chateauvieux, Hugues Gardon, who played a role in the massal selection of the Côt in the 1970s'. Lovely wine. She says that this wine is worked on the reduction side and the concentration. I opened recently one of this Côt again with friends, it was a hit. This wine goes through a one-year elevage in its resin vat. 6,25 €, a steal.
__ La Chapinière Cuvée Intime 2006. This is a vintage with a superb maturity here she says. And in 2006, an usual thing happened : all the reds reached the correct ripeness together. She remembered having heard old vignerons speaking about their vinification of different varieties together and she decided to try that. So this wine is made with Côt, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. Nice nose with a light reduction. Mouth with more tannins. 7,8 €.
Florence Veilex created with three other vignerons of Touraine VBBL Export, a wine dealership intended to sell wine in common under a brand name. For this brand, she makes an alcohol-free sparkling named Les Bulles du Roy, which is priced 4,2 €.
On the yeasts question, she uses lab yeasts, she says that she chooses the most neutral yeasts not to alter the variety. This said, she adds, she made a try this year in a very small vat (300 liters) with letting some of her Sauvignon grapes ferment with their wild yeasts. It's still fermenting [as of december 21st] and has no deviant aromas, no volatile rise whatsoever. It is very interesting for her because that's one of the only things she still doesn't dare to do, letting the fermentation to the indigenous yeasts. She knows some vignerons who do that but she would need to have more vat capacity because of the longer fermentation time for some of these fermentations. But overall she may vinify some cuvées of whites with this method in the future. She likes to begin with small volumes before acquiring confidence and experience, and she adds that there are some vignerons around here who are very keen of sharing their own experience on the matter.
But this magic little train (le Blanc-Argent) that winds through the woods of Sologne was great, with this snow and the wild life.