A New Touraine

Touraine Sheriff

What is it about the wines from the Touraine region of the Loire?  I find them lively and fresh, depending on the winemaker of course, but in general my palate seems to be really attracted to wines from this area.  First we had Pascal Pibaleau in Azay-le-Rideau, then Thierry Landry in Chinon and Laurent Herlin in Bourgeuil.  Now it looks like there’s a new sheriff in Touraine…

I’m always a bit flattered when my winemakers refer me to their winemaking friends.  I was at a La Levee de la Loire Organic/Biodynamic/Natural show when one of our producers pointed out his friend, a bearded, loud, opinionated young  man who was holding court at another table.   His name was Olivier Bellanger and he was showing some crazy good stuff, juice that got me very excited.  And best of all, he wanted to work with us.

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Olivier apprenticed under some of the best names in the Loire, including Philippe Tessier, and in 2008 managed to pick up a small plot of land in his hometown of Monthou-sur-Cher.  He immediately began converting the vineyards to Organic practices.  As of this writing in 2015 he farms 10 hectares (24.71 acres) of densely planted vines where the average age is around 25 years old.  Despite his small holdings, he manages to harvest many different and interesting varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Orbois (Menu Pineau), Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis, Côt and Cabernet Franc.  The terroir here is somewhat varied as well, with chalky limestone and sandy, flinty soils.  All the vineyards are on slopes facing South and Southwest for better exposure.

Winemaking here is pretty natural.  Grapes are manually harvested to ensure healthy bunches, and only wild yeasts are used to ferment.  In the cellar, he uses only fiberglass or big old wooden casks, no new oak here (yay!).  Speaking of the cellar, it is underground, built into the side of a hill long before he came along.  The whites are allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation if they want to, but he doesn’t encourage it if they don’t.  Finally, while he doesn’t fine his wines, he does do a very very light filtering and adds a drop of SO2 for stability.  The resulting wines are bright and vivacious, lively expressions of their terroir.

Sauvignon Front

Olivier’s Pif Sauvignon is a beautiful, light but expressive Sauvignon Blanc. It’s grown on sandy, flinty soils and manually harvested. Olivier lets the wine sit on its fermentation lees and after 3 months in 500-liter casks and tanks bottles it without fining and just a light filtering. With very few tropical notes (unlike most Sancerre/Pouilly Fumés these days), it reminds one of what wines from those regions used to be. Bone dry, with bright fruit and lovely acidity to whet the palate for more, ending in a long finish.Mon Tout Rouge Front

His Pif Mon Tout Rouge is a blend of 60% Côt and 40% Gamay.  The vines grow on sandy, flinty soils and are manually harvested.  Indigenous yeasts are used to ferment after the grapes are destemmed, and there’s a short 10-day maceration.  The Côt sees 11 months in 2-year old wooden barrels, while the Gamay stays in fiberglass to retain its freshness.  Unfined, it is lightly filtered.  The result is a lovely medium-bodied red-fruited wine that is refreshing despite its weight.  The fruit notes are balanced by striking acidity and minerals, making this a perfect year-round quaffer.

I am thrilled to say these beautifully crafted wines will be arriving to the US in early July.  So stay thirsty my friends…

Cheers!

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