Aug 4, 2009
The Clos Roche Blanche Domaine is located in the Touraine appellation of the Loire Valley in France. Located almost in the middle of France (see map just below), the Loire Valley is a very large wine region with over 70 appellations stretching from the Atlantic in the far West, to the famous appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the far East. It is the largest white wine region in France, but it also produces great reds which are unfortunately often overlooked.
The principal white grapes of the Loire Valley are:
- Melon de Bourgogne – used in making the light & fresh Muscadet wines in the far west
- Chenin Blanc – found in the dry wines of Vouvray and the sweet wines of Quarts de Chaume
- Sauvignon Blanc – in the racy wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the East
The principal red grapes of the Loire Valley are:
- Gamay – found towards the West primarily in Anjou and towards the East in Touraine
- Cabernet Franc – found in the earthy red wines of Anjou, Saumur, Chinon, Touraine and Bourgueil and some rosé wines as well
- Pineau d’Aunis – obscure and scarcely seen, yet making a comeback in the fruity red wines of Anjou and the Coteaux du Loire and the less seen Rosé wines of Touraine (such as the one tasted from Clos Roche Blanche)
- Côt – also known as Malbec seen mainly in Touraine
- Pinot Noir – found mostly in the East in the red wines of Reuilly and Sancerre
Domaine Clos Roche Blanche has 18 hectares in the Touraine A.O.C. The Domaine was created at the end of the 19th Century and is situated on the slopes of the valley of the Cher River, and has remained in the family ever since. Catherine Roussel took over the estate from her father in 1975 and was joined later by Didier Barrouillet who tends the vineyards and makes the wine. Both are enthusiastic proponents of non-interventionist wine making. After the 2009 harvest, they will lease out some of their vineyards to a young female wine grower, reducing their holdings to just 10 hectares.
The poor soil is mainly composed of clay with flint and hard sandstone (grès), over a calcareous sub soil. The wine cellar was carved out in the tuffeau in the same period; the extracted stones were then used to build the living house that overlooks the valley of Cher.
The balance between old vines (one 0,5 ha parcel planted with Côt is more than 100 years old I’m told) and young vines, short pruning and low yields, assures a production of high quality, which they always look to improve. The have been certified organic (Ecocert) since 1992. No plowing, they use grass and wild flowers between ranks.
The vinification is partly in the cellar, and partly in a cave carved out of the rock (see photo above) close to the vineyards, this helps them to deal with the harvest (done by hand, of course) without much of a delay. Only indigenous yeasts, no chaptalisation, no use of enzymes or other additives, only a modest use of sulfur when racking the wine (they use CO2 when they bottle) and no filtration. No oak barriques are used, only steel and large format used barrels for the Cuvée Côt. This is quite close to my definition of totally natural.
The main production is the Sauvignon Blanc (40% – which ironically I could not get a hold of) and the Gamay (20%), the Côt and the Cabernets – Franc and Sauvignon, the Pineau d’Aunis and Chardonnnay make up the last 40%.
I will be publishing a follow-up to this Clos Roche Blanche producer profile in the next few days with my tasting notes of the Cuvée Pineau d’Aunis Rosé, Cuvée Gamay, Cuvée Pif and Cuvée Côt. The bottles were opened at the same time and tasted over the course of many days. I often find that wines made more naturally improve tremendously after some days being open.
For more information on the Clos Roche Blanche Domain, visit: