If you combine the cuvées of the Puzelat-Bonhomme (the négoce) and the ones of Thierry & Jean-Marie Puzelat (the family winery), you end up with so many wines that you have to make a choice, especially if, like me, you end up swallowing some of the wine. I don't know how Thierry Puzelat does to manage all the things he's doing, but he still has the time to enjoy life and have fun. There was already for example his involvment in an effort to save small family plots, often made up of a handful of rows. With the help of a non-profit group, he saved this way scattered mini-parcels of Pinot Meunier located near Orléans to help preserve them (they're often uprooted and merged into larger fields when their aging owners stop using them). The resulting wine is a gem of a micro cuvée (Le Rouge est Mis) which must be a lot of work for just a few bottles every year.
But this time I learnt that Thierry also made the step recently to help open a wine bar/caviste in Orléans, taking shares in this venture. The place is named Les Becs à Vin, which means "wine beaks". This is from what it looks a friendly place in a pedestrian street where of course you'll find wines made with the similar philosophy of artisanship and non-corrected wines. You can see the venue on the left (courtesy of Google street view again). They have 100 to 120 different wines in shop, all made without additives and from organic vineyards, and you can both take the bottles to go or drink them there with a 7 € cork fee, whatever the initial shelf price. You can just drop for a glass (they have the bar license) or eat. They have different dishes for lunch, prepared with fresh organic produces, it's not a formula, you just choose what you want to eat. And in the evening they serve charcuterie plates and the likes to go with the wine. This is the first such venue in Orléans, which is now a major French town along the Loire. Here is their Facebook page and their contact info. Man, it's really a landslide thing, I've got to stop in Orléans one of these days on my way back to Paris...
What I find amazing at the Puzelats, it's like even though they produce such a wide range of small cuvées, they still find the room for all the vats, and the élevage tools, notwithstanding the bottle laying down which is important for some of the wines. so you walk through a maze of rooms and cellars to get access to all the wines, and even though the facility is not very old, there's a feel of a real place, where for example you can stumble upon a saucisson hanging near mountains of bottles, waiting for its time...
__ Puzelat, le Petit Blanc du Tue-Boeuf 2011. Grapes purchased from an organic grower in ther Cher valley in Faverolles, Jean-Luc Tessier. This is a generic wine of Sauvignon, to be drank young. Bigger yields here, like 60 ho/ha. The wine is raised in vats (metal) and is not expensive. Bottled in march/april. Not a long mouth but fruity. Still a bit turbid right now. Thierry says that it's the problem with metal vats, the decantation of the wines is not ideal in these containers, because of the shape and the nature of this type of container. So they usually filter the wine for this generic cuvée.
__ Puzelat, Petit Buisson 2011, from a cask. Relatively small volume, 25 hectoliters or 9 casks. Sauvignon, part from the young vines of Buisson Pouilleux (will go in the Buisson-Pouilleux cuvée when they'll be older), part from purchased grapes (Bruno Allion, Thésée, along the Cher valley). Will stay in casks another couple of months, bottled also in march or april. Less turbid. Tastes good already. Very aromatic nose, I find a good minerality here too. Thierry says this Sauvignon has more of everything compared with the first one : more maturity, more acidity, it's less variety centered, it has more tension, even though it doesn't reach the quality of the Buisson Pouilleux.
__ Puzelat, Buisson Pouilleux 2011, from a cask too. Sauvignon, vines aged from 48 to 62 years. Very nice mouth, excellent. Thierry says that aromatically, it's not reay yet though, the wine is still in the making in that regard. Half of the vines within the parcel are younger because they replanted the missing vines which died from Esca. An interesting thing to note is that on Buisson Pouilleux and on Petit Buisson, half of the replanted vines are non-grafted (franc de pied), meaning that they're not grafted on American rootstock (the usual procedure to prevent phylloxera). They could do this because these parcels are made of gravel on which (like for sand) the phylloxera can't encroach. These non-grafted vines are now 15 and haven't been affected by the disease.
__ Puzelat Fié Gris, part of the future Cheverny Blanc 2011 (white). Very clear wine, green reflections. Also a cask, a 500-liter cask, we call this type of cask a tonne. Thierry says that it's because these are young vines and the wine hasn't yet the depth to stand smaller-volume casks, and it's also a relatively old tonne, so as to be soft on wood. In general anyway, they're wary of avoiding casks which give a woody taste, even on two-wines-old barrels, it may happen and they're careful about it. This Sauvignon Fié Gris tastes well as far as I can tell.
-- Puzelat, other part of the white Cheverny, Frileuse (parcel), from a 300-liter cask. In there you have 2/3 of Chardonnay and 1/3 of Sauvignon Blanc. A bit buttery, maybe bacause the cask is only 2 years old (my comment).
__ Puzelat, old vines of Chardonnay 2011 (48 years), 10 hectoliters of this (two 500-liter barrels). May go in the Cheverny Blanc or in another cuvée, depends how it tastes in the coming weeks and months. I like that. Thierry says that after 40 years of age for the vines, you see a change in the wine, there's a turning point, at least for their type of soils and terroirs. That's why over 40 is old vines here, he thinks. The vine is making less foliage and volume after 40, he noticed.
__ Puzelat, le Brin de Chêvre 2011, from a 228-liter cask. Menu Pineau, with a small percentage of Meslier Saint-François, a rare variety that you can find here and there on old parcels. This particular parcel is 85 years old. And Menu Pineau is one of these local varieties which have been alas discouraged by the appellation system in favor of mainstream white varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon, leading the growers to neglect and/or uproot the rows they still happened to own. Here like often, the Meslier vines are complanted here and there in the Menu Pineau and they just keep the whole harvest together. Very aromatic, nice richness in the mouth. Thierry says there's lots of everything in this wine too. He adsthat this wine was less marked by the rain compared with the other varieties, because these are later-ripening grapes, and the grapes had enough time to re-concentrate after the rain. That's why more depth and length. 11 casks of this wine. Bottled before the harvest. Very good wine, Menu Pineau rocks... No SO2 at all at this stage, they anyway never add any sulfur except if any, before bottling.
Thierry says 100 years ago, Menu Pineau was the main variety in the region of Blois, but when Sauvignon settled here after the phylloxera in the 1920s', it was suddenly very easy to make big volumes of wines, and growers let the Menu Pineau down. They just kept some Menu Pineau on the side to make sparkling. It couldn't compete on yields, Menu Pineau making a maximum of 30/40 hectoliter/hectare. Just to compare with what the appellation system allows in Touraine, if you include the PLC (Plafond Limite de Classement : a complicated administrative counting which allows to go around the maximum yields on appellations) you can produce between 68 to 72 hectoliters per hectare. So, in a productivist mindset, there's no way Menu Pineau has a chance. Plus, the AOC Touraine took off Menu Pineau from the secondary allowed grapes, letting the growers until 2016 to get rid of their Menu Pineau plots. Can you believe that ?? Thierry says that it's a disaster because this variety is part of the local heritage, but this is the way it is. He ads that 10 winemakers are interested by this variety in the area. They do that with Sancerre in mind, thinking that Touraine could follow its step. Crazy.
Speaking of this PLC thing, it's one of those dirty little secrets of the appellation system which makes a farce of the yield control they're supposed to encourage. There would be a need to write more about the subject. From what I understand, the scheme with the PLC is that a given grower/vigneron will make, say 70 ho/ha of grapes, then he'll label just the right proportion of this huge yield under the Appellation (say, 40 ho/ha), and the rest will go into a lesser labelling, table wine or something like that. The whole scheme allows a maximum profitability, shared between the maximum allowed yield on the AOC and the rest being some sort of safety buffer thanks to which the vigneron always has the exact maximun yied on AOC. You don't see that sort of winemaking on this site, the artisan vignerons pruning the vineyard precisely to have limited yields in order to have the best quality, it's not a question of being technically in the legal frame of authorized yields. Plus, without the PLC trick, it's almost impossible to get exactly the maximum authorized yield (not more, not less), there are too many other parameters beyond the sole pruning. We're here in two different worlds here, definitely...
__ Puzelat, Cheverny Rouge 2011, tronconic vat. Mostly Pinot Noir with a bit of Gamay. Also some purchased grapes as they recently uprooted some of their Pinot Noir. Very tasty already, very enjoyable. They'll bottle it in spring, Thierry says, because it's like a nice primeur wine.
__ Puzelat la Butte, Gamay 2011. From a 40-hectoliter tronconic vat. Vinification : like for all their reds, half-carbonic maceration, everything wholeclustered on CM, and after 10 days they start crushing the grapes with the feet, and it turns into a traditional maceration. Tastes well too already. This vintage is a bit more precise than 2010 aromaticly, Thierry says, more maturity and less acidity, this isq a wine to drink early (compared to 2010 at the same period). Also on the 2010 they had some doubt after the élevage about some meaty notes in the wine, maybe resulting to the half gram of residual sugar having refermented. Here in 2011, it's neat and straight.
__ Puzelat Pinot Noir 2011 from the parcel named Rouillon (from a 500-liter cask, in the cellar). They have a problem of rom shortage and they're considering changing the configuration of this cellar to make more room. This Pinot Noir will be blended with the other Gamay. Great nose, with acidulous candy notes, very nice mouth too, a pleasure. they made several pickings, like for example using the grapes that were so-so for the rosé. The yields on this vineyard are about 50 ho/ha.
__ Puzelat Gamay 2011, from the Rouillon parcel. This year there will be more gamay in the Pinot-Noir/gamay blend, because some of the Pinot-Noir was either vinified as rosé, or the bad grapes were just cut off. The Gamay were healthier (it's a massal selection which behaves well) and were also harvested later. I prefer this gamay compared to the other one that we tasted upstairs. Thierry says that the other, planted on clay, gives more rustic wines, while this particular terroir gives more refined wines, with also some minerality.
__ Puzelat, la Cailllère, Pinot Noir from a 228-liter cask. Thierry says that La Caillère has always more depth, more structure, but it opens later, it's too early to notice it. But it's already to feel it's fat, rich side. The soil is on the top of the slope, with a mix of clay, sand and small stones, while Gravotte is on the slope with thick, sticky clay and big flintstones (silex). Bottled at the start of the summer probably.
__ Puzelat, La Guerrerie, 2/3 Côt and 1/3 Gamay, from a tonne, vinified together because the blend was made in the vineyard, sort of, (the 2 varieties are side by side in the parcel). A bit perly at this stage. Bottled before the harvest, probably. Will be a Touraine label.
There's another rosé, the Cheverny rosé which is made with damaged pinot-noir grapes of Les Rouillons, which they couldn't use for the "regular" cuvée. In the past they used to put all the damaged grapes on the ground and they realized that it was a waste because they ended up with ruinously low yields and there was still some valuable wine to do with these grapes. They made a try last year with 40 hectoliters of rosé like that, very cheap, like less than 4 € wholesale, and the Japanese market for example loved this wine and asked for more. So now, they use their "waisted grapes" of pinot noir on this vein. This wine is indeed an easy drink, makes only 11,5 ° in alcohol, there's no sulphur yet and all this wine will be consumed during the summer. To be precise, it's a first picking where they select the clusters that begin to rot, the pickers takes it, puts off the faulty grapes and puts the rest of the clster in a box for this rosé. The rest of the grapes are left on the vine until days or weeks later, for the regular red cuvée. They also pass a 3rd time in the vineyard, and when they come across an unmatured (or partly matured) grape, then they put these also on the side for rosé.
__ Puzelat Brin de Chêvre 2010. Menu Pineau. Thierry says that Menu Pineau ages well thanks to its acidity.
We wrent later to taste a flight of wines from the négoce part, but I didn't take notes and I just enjoyed the experience (my tasting abilities were beginning to reach their peak...). The Puzelat-Bonhomme négoce makes samely a wide range of small cuvées from purchased grapes with the same philosophy : organic farming and sulfur-free vinification.
The conversation drifted on another venture into which Thierry Puzelat embarked : believe it or not, he set up a small import business to distribute the wines of a handful of winemakers from Catalonia, beginning with Juan Ramon Escoda who works on 6 hectares in Conca de Barbera DO near Priorat. Then he visited this guy in Spain and he met there Laureano Serres, who he decided to import too, and later he also added Jordi Saneliu who is the 3rd Catalonia guy of the gang, as he says. He added Ariana Occhipinti and Franscesca Padovani whom he met through Joe Dressner. He also added Louis Antoine Luyt who was working in the past at Marcel Lapierre and has been making wine fror a while in Chile. He loves the wines of these guys and he helps them find a market for their wines. Several of the group met recently in Paris at Café de la Nouvelle Mairie for a tasting, but I missed that (see Jim's page). He says in a laugh that he doesn't make money with that but that it's a lot of fun. What is referred usually under the name of the natural-wine movement is just beginning now in Spain, with the equivalent of the AVN gathering 10 or 12 producers only. There are way more people involved in Italy right now.
Thierry is also (amazing creative activity...) involved in an other project (should begin next month) : producing traditional apéritifs in Italy with real wine, plants and other ingredients, Nadia Verrua who makes nice natural wines in Italy, has an uncle has begun making apéritifs using natural wine as basee, he sums up the result as having for example Martini as it should be, the drink is gorgeous. JHe also makes an Americano and a Vermouth (white martini) and a few more sophisticated drinks.
The 40-are block is made of 2/3 of Cabernet Franc and 1/3 of Romorantin (6 rows of Cab F. and 3 rows of Romorantin), these are young vines planted in 2000. They use the Cab Franc for the rosé, blending them wih Pierre-Olivier own Cab Franc, the wine is part of the négoce branch. The Romorantin vines are older. Terroir is clay and silex, interesting terroirs. There used to be more vineyard in this particular area because the land was only good for that. Since then, much has been uprooted and replaced by prairie for cows. He had to fence the block because there are hundreds of roe deers in the large forest and the wild animals would eat everything before the harvest. For example in 2010 they forgot to recharge the battery for the electric fence and the roe deers came just to eat all the Romorantin grapes which were ripe but didn't even touch the Cab Franc which was fully ripe yet. These enfoirés had snobbed the unmature grapes to concentrate on the best harvest, if only humans could be that wise...
Profile of Domaine Puzelat (Clos du Tue-Boeuf)