Grapes - Sauvignon Blanc
Region - Loire Valley, France
What it tastes like - Slightly fuller fruited than Sancerre, with ripe gooseberry and citrus, some lovely herbal touches and a bright lifted acidity making it truly refreshing.
Having spent 15 years working for a very powerful French Union, the equivalent of our NFU - Lionel decided he’d like to go back to the family tradition of wine-making. His brother had already taken over the family domaine from his father. So he bought a small domaine for himself, very close to the family's plots in the Oisly appellation of Touraine. And so was started Domaine de Pierre in 2007 - with 9 Hectares. He was wary of getting ahead of himself and building a winery straight away, so he used the family cellars for the first few years until he built his own winery in 2014. He now has 28 hectares under vine and - this will soon be 30 as he continues to plant more. (Also he is considering buying another domaine - 25km away - in the AC of Touraine Chenonceaux which is another 20 HA)
The recently built winery is very understated. From the outside this could be any agricultural shed with a scruffy yard around it. When we visited in September, mid-harvest it resembled a sort of ‘Mad Max like’ outpost with old fermentation tanks lying around the yard like beached whales - a run of old cement tanks gracefully crumbling, their moment has passed - and a mobile home as the site’s office and lab. This make sense when you chat to Lionel - there is no grandeur or fuss - his old Peugeot 106 has no rear windscreen! And yet inside the new shell of his winery it is pristine like a laboratory - the small shed is insulated and was operating at 5 degrees when we went in to taste the fresh juice (it was 25 outside!). Furthermore the juice in the tanks was being held at a steady 2 degrees to delay fermentation and allow for some cold stabilising of the solid matter that has got through the press. He keeps this juice cool for 2 or three weeks before allowing the natural yeast to take over and fermentation will begin.
Lionel’s thoughtful approach, clear plan and organised, precise way of working is translated to his wines very clearly. The Sauvignon de Touraine ‘Les Sauterelles’ is a clean-cut, joyous wine that bounces out of the glass with ‘just enough’ exuberance to satisfy all palates. When talking to Lionel it became clear why his wines stand out from the crowd:- he is a very conscientious vigneron, pruning hard and keeping yields low. This attention to detail continues in the cellar, where he works on the lees of the Sauvignon to give the wine a more ample feel and greater length. The result is a wine with superb Sauvignon character, but thanks to the cool terroir here and the careful work - it remains very Loire in feel. A real bargain from this part of the world.