Les Montils, Touraine (Loire)
Each time I visit the Puzelats south of the Loire river near Blois I feel like being so well received in spite of their busy schedule : here are people who are taking care of countless parcels (and organic farming needs lot of work), managing an import business to help other artisan producers from abroad distribute their wines in Europe, setting up special tasting events open to other winegrowers and so many more things including taking care of their family, and still keep some room for annoying outsiders like us.
Thierry was busy cleaning or fixing something in the open if I remember although this was a saturday, the weather was bright and sunny and we walked into the new warehouse which offers more stable and cool temperatures and with more room to turn around. Inside the chai and storage building there the usual pallets and wooden open-top fermenters and we saw also big-size bottles that were obviously a little bigger than "regular" magnums : these were 6-liter (see the different types of volume) Mathusalems, Asked about the wine here Thierry says thay had some Gravotte, some Petit Blanc, some Frileuse and a few other cuvées. This is a special order from Japan by a young whoman who did the harvest here 15 years ago and who opened a wine bar/restaurant in Fukuoka (Kyushu) named Coquines (you can find her Facebook page here). She had heard this French word often here while picking the grapes and she took the name for her wine bar.
I understand the Japanese have parties where such a large bottle can be had, just imagine, 6 liters, I already feel I'm daring when I buy a magnum.... This is a lot of work for the Puzelats because you don't have a bottling line for these mathusalems, you have to wax them properly, plus the empty bottle costs already 35 €.
In case you wonder if the village of Les Montils has a special atmosphere that could have brought us these inspired winegrowers, just look at the street names there, I begin to understand now...
A big and good surprise during this visit was to taste and enjoy this atypical wine :
__ La Guerrerie 2014, a Cheverny red made with Côt and Gamay which was vinified on the skins the Georgian way in an amphora. The Qvevri which is tall like a man is buried to the neck, providing a stable temperature, nothing is moved and the shape of the vessel helping you get wines that are quite different in there. Here you only have the wine now, they devatted the whole thing from this amphora the previous month and filled the amphora again with the juice alone. This is the 2nd year they made this cuvée in Qvevri. They're still experimenting, last year they made pinot noir in there and this year like in 2013 they'll make one white and one red. Céline (Thierry former wife) designed the new label, she dropped by with a few friends when we visited and tasted the wines too.
You may know that thierry Puzelat has been actively involved in helping Georgian artisan winemakers show and sell then wines abroad, he travelled twice there and organizes regularly Georgian tasting events in Paris. He has been twice in Georgia and like now several winemakers he works on the amphora/Georgian vinification.
Just delicious, it's everything I love in a wine, it's fresh, smooth and you drink that like you eat good food. I understand why people in the antiquity praised wine, it was made this ancient way and somehow made you feel divinely well, something not so many "modern" wines achieve in spite of the carefully-designed vinifications and the sophisticated additives, all taught by clever enologists in the wine schools. If the wine industry can make such a delicious, easy-drinking wine with its usual shortcuts, additives, designer yeast and tricks, I promise I'll tell it frankly, but I doubt it may happen anytime soon, they've been frantically researching with no result of I know.
Remember this label, if you come across this red (I cross my finger the wine doesn't change from now), buy a bottle.
We tasted a few wines in barrels :
__ Guerrerie 2014, a côr-gamay red from a 500-liter barrel. Very nice wine, such a fruit. Céline loves it too.
__ Brin de Chêvre 2014, a Touraine white from a cask. Old vines, from 70 to 80. 100 % Menu Pineau, that's why it has a bit of color. They use casks of different age, this one is from 2010 and there are a few older ones plus a demi-muids. This is not woody, but there's a bit of reduction, says Jean-Marie, he adds that when the wine is in its reduction phase it doesn't take wood in, but as soon as it's in in an oxidation phase it takes wood aromas, that's why, Thierry says putting wines to ferment in wood brings no imprint on the wine while putting finished wines (that have fermented in stainless steel) does.
Menu Pineau is a cousin of Chenin and you have a good acidity which means the wine ages well. It is a late-ripening variety that doesn't stand well the poor vintages, in the case of a cold summer it will not ripe properly and will remain green, and you need also to keep yields low to get the proper maturity.
Thierry adds that 2014 was a year with lots of natural yeast and the wines fermented swiftly, almost all the wines were finished in november, except Buisson Pouilleux and Brin de Chêvre. Because of this quick fermentation the wine got an early decantation and openness compared to usual.
__ Romorantin 2014. Part of the vineyard for this cuvée is 10 years old and the rest is ungrafted and 40 years old. the casks have been in reduction most of the winter, Thierry says. This wine has a strange, unusual nose at this stage. Tastes good but the nose is tricky. they may rack these 3 casks that have been reductive all winter and pump them back on their lees.
We taste the same Romorantin from a new 400-liter barrel, the only new cask in this cuvée (from the Tonnellerie du Val de Loire).
On the side of this room I spotted two small red tanks (10 hectoliters each) stacked on each other, they're made by Scheiber. They purchased them second hand, they're very convenient when you have small volumes to handle.
__ Le Petit Blanc 2014, 100 % Sauvignon, the entry cuvée of the domaine. Filtered. I remember having had some at the Repaire de cartouche and noticed that something was missing, I immediately thought then about the filtration issue.gg
__ Cheverny white Frileuse 2014. In a Cheverny AOC you must have a blend, here it's roughly 60 % Sauvignon and 40 % Chardonnay, the Sauvignon part being 2/3 of Sauvignon Fié Gris and 1/3 of Sauvignon Blanc. It's more here a ratio of planting than of grape. Bottled about a month before. Elevage in 500-liter barrels and regular ones. In 2014 they didn't make high yields because of the bad summer and mildew.
__ Buisson Pouilleux 2014, old vines of Sauvignon. Bottled the previous day. Delicious wine, tastes very well. Jean-Marie says that maybe a week after it will close for some time as an after-shock following the bottling. Vines aged from 50 to 60.
__ Cuvée Vin Rosé 2014, table wine, the one with a nice label with a 1930s' design. Bottled 2 or 3 months before. Initially it was an accident from what I understand and they made this batch of rosé with some of their wine, but now they make it with purchased grapes which they go pick themselves. Grolleau, Côt and Gamay. They didn't really intend initially to repeat this cuvée but they had a good demand for it in the U.S. and in Japan. Lazst year's wine was a typical thirst wine with only 10 % in alcohol, that certainly plays a part in the success, these simple, etheral wines being so easy to drink. This year it's 12 % but still delicious. They made 60 hectoliters of this and it's already sold out.
__ Vin Rouge 2014, table wine, great 1930s' label too, they found these labels somewhere and had the great idea to bring them back to life. Like in their previous life these no-fuss labels adorn bottles of table wine, or Vin de France under the modern wine-administration rules. I'd be curious to taste the ordinary wine that was labelled this way in the 1930s'. Certainly not a great wine, probably making only 10 % or 11 %t but who knows, tasted blind we might put it above than many AOC wines.
This wine is made with Gamay, it is unfiltered. Sold out too (probably already split by allocations on the pallets ready for shipping), Jean-Marie says that for this reason he opens rarely a bottle, it's all gone.
Nose : so gourmand and appealing, man, I understand it's sold out especially that it is a cheap cuvée on their wine list (costs around 8 € tax included at the domaine if I'm right). Delicious, a treat to drink, no spitting, just pure fruit. Jean-Marie says that they bottled a bach in november as primeur wine and it made a killing (a tuerie in French) when it came out. Also made with purchased grapes, organic parcels from Bruno Allion and Joël Courtault, hand picked, whole-clustered carbonic maceration in vats without pumping over as they don't look for extraction. Jean-Marie says that 2014 was a great year for primeur wines, the wines tasted so good in november. They made about 40 hectoliters of this wine.
On the issue of filtering, Jean-Marie shows us a bottling of the Cuvée "Amphore" Brin de Chêvre (a small part of the cuvée), this bottling makes 8 hectoliters in total and the buyers are people who know and can accept a cloudy color. The wine looks indeed turbid in the bottle but it's more of a niche market, they sell 6 bottles here and 24 bottles there and the turbidity is not a problem for these customers, but for an entry cuvée like Le Petit Blanc they don't have the same customers and they have to filter.
__ Cheverny Rouge Rouillon 2014, half gamay half pinot noir, planted on the same, well-exposed slope. Not very extracted too, here. With the yields they have (around 25 ho/ha), if they heated their juices they'd have very dark wines.
Their fermentation is about 20 ° C or 68 ° F on the reds, which is actually more or less temperatures for the whites. Jean-Marie says that winegrowers often think the darker the wine the better the satisfaction for the customer. Even in Burgundy you recognize the real, unheated pinot noir through its naturally light color, and this even on great terroirs like the ones of Pacalet or Prieuré-Roch for example, he says. I also think that the most prestigious domaines don't feel the need to use tricks to correct the color of their wines while the mid-tier domaines do because they presume (and they may be right) that their customers want a dark, "serious" wine when they pay 15 € or 20 € otherwise they feel cheated. We in France think we know wine but there's still lots of education to do. I am afraid the mass-market players and even the AOC bureaucracy don't want to deal with this, the former because business is doing fine the way things are, the latter because more knowledge among average consumers would certainly undermine the prestige of the appellation system (more people would switch to Vin de France).
Thierry Puzelat says that regarding 2014 they're more happy with the whites than the reds, the latter could have had more body, these will be lighter reds than the 2009. After tasting the delicious reds we had here I wondfer what a "good" year for reds would be if this one is so-so...
Asked about the Suzukii drosophilia thierry says
that they had some here and there but they didn't loose much fruit because of that. He says he attended a
conference about the issue recently at Vinicircus (a natural-wine fair) and a winegrower from Pomerol (also farming organic) said that he lost 70 % of his fruit to this drosophilia. This winegrower said that a factor for the extent of the problem was that in Bordeaux it's often monocultural with vineyards everywhere. Thierry says that what may have save them on their domaine is that they have woods, fallow land etc all around their parcels, they're not grouped in one block, which slows down the breeding of these insects and may put predators on their path. Anjou and Bourgueil had also damages with it but it's often monocultural there too.
Thierry says that here the vintage was very easy, no rot, nice healthy ripening, except with the yields that were low (25 hectoliter/hectare) because of flowering problems and mildew at the end of july.
__ Cheverny La Gravotte 2014, mostly pinot noir with a bit of gamay. Bottled the previous day. Very light color, a bit turbid. They made 19 hectoliters of this, from a one-hectare group of three parcels on a slope. I can't believe it's just been bottled, usually it's a shock for the wine and here it tastes so divinely good. Thierry says that it's maybe like for the wines they ship in their van, it's often beautiful just out of the van on destination and then it may close for a while before recovering.Makes 12 % in alcohol, tastes like 11 %.
We also tasted a couple of wines, experimental if I'm correct :
__ Brin de Chêvre on long maceration on the skins (5 months) in a Qvevri. Same grapes than the regular cuvée but with long skin contact in amphora. No tasting notes sorry.
__ Frileuse 2014, vinified in amphora but without skin contact. Everything was the same than the cask part including the bottling but the vessel was an amphora. The only other difference is that the "regular" batch (vinified in casks) had 1,5 grams of so2 and the amphora part had nothing.
Lightly turbid white. Tastes very well. Very rich aromas with notes of coffee, moka or both. Delicious.
When we left we drove a couple kilometers on a side road to see Michel (I think it's his name, not sure) working at the end of the afternoon to "finish" a parcel. He is one of permanent staff at Clos du Tue-Boeuf. This straddle tractor is probably several-decades old. I love watching these venerable machines work, looks like a thin, frail insect foraging on the ground.
For those of you who remember the old street sign signaling the facility, here it is (pic shot a couple years ago). The sign is now gone and there's this new warehouse in its place. I hope they salvaged it somewhere and that it'll be back one morning.